Understanding the Copyright of Quotes

Understanding the Copyright of Quotes

Can Quotes Be Copyrighted?

If you want to include quotes from famous people in your work, it’s important to understand whether or not they are copyrighted. General speech cannot be copyrighted, but a quote used as a slogan or brand name can be protected with trademark laws.

The length of the quotation is also key. The shorter it is, the less likely you are to be considered infringing on copyright.

Copyright

Copyright protects intellectual property that has been fixed in a tangible form, such as a book or painting. It’s important to know how to use quotes properly so you don’t run into intellectual property issues that could cause a lot of stress and money.

The good news is that if the quote was said by a long dead historical figure, it is likely in the public domain. This is because the copyright protection expired approximately 70 years after the author died (the duration of copyright protection may slightly vary from country to country).

A short quote used for a specific purpose in a critique or commentary does not infringe on the author’s copyright if it is attributed with their name and is not used for commercial purposes. However, there is a fine line between fair use and an infringement, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Whenever in doubt, consult with an intellectual property attorney for guidance.

Fair Use

Many of the quotes that small businesses use can’t be copyrighted because they are in the public domain. For example, quotes that were said before 1923 are in the public domain and can be used without copyright concern. However, you should check the TESS database to make sure that someone hasn’t come along and trademarked it.

A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of words you quote from a work. Each publisher sets its own threshold for requiring permissions, but 25 words or less from any one source is generally acceptable.

You can also quote short amounts of copyrighted material if you are using it for criticism or commentary. However, if you’re creating a book or product that is solely composed of quotes, you will probably need permission from the author in order to do so. Lengthy quotes, especially ones that include gratuitous verbiage, are not usually fair use and require permission.

Attribution

Generally speaking, you don’t need to have permission to quote someone else’s words as long as you are not violating their copyright. However, it’s important to cite the source of the quotes (in text, in a footnote or in a bibliography).

It may be possible to use quotes from poets, authors or long-dead historical figures that have passed into public domain without violating their copyright. However, it’s best to check the TESS database or the website of the author to make sure that someone hasn’t come along and trademarked their work since it entered public domain.

You may also be able to use excerpts from works that have been fixed in tangible form, such as books, articles and songs, without the owner’s permission if your purpose is for commentary, education, news or parody. In any case, you must cite the author in order to avoid charges of plagiarism. Attribution helps you protect yourself against charges of unfair competition and misappropriation as well as intellectual property infringement.

Permission

Frequently, we hear from writers wanting to know whether it’s legal to quote or excerpt works such as books, poems, songs, movies or scriptures in the products they are creating. Copyright law is something every writer should have a basic familiarity with in order to protect themselves from future problems.

When it comes to quoting others, the best approach is always to seek their permission. This can be done by looking for a copyright notice or seeking out the author, or by using one of the many services on the internet that can locate authors and offer permission.

Some quotes may be in the public domain, which means they have passed out of copyright protection and can be used without permission. However, if the quote is a trademarked phrase that can be used to identify a business, it will require permission under trade mark law. In addition, it is good practice to cite the original speaker or author of the quote to respect their moral rights.

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Can Quotes Be Copyrighted? If you want to include quotes from famous people in your work, it’s important to understand whether or not they are copyrighted. General speech cannot be copyrighted, but a quote used as a slogan or brand name can be protected with trademark laws. The length of the quotation is also key.…

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