Fair Use for Short Quotes, Written and Otherwise
- January 20, 2006 @ 9:48amzoyd1962 says:Greetings,
I am curious about a seemingly grey area about fair use for quoted material. I am looking to start a for-profit venture making t-shirts with short quotes by authors and other celebrities. All quotes are very short (one-liners) by contemporary, famous people, both authors and film personalities from printed and other non-print sources. Would these kinds of quotes fall under fair use of using short quotes, or will I need to gain permission from the source. Also, would the quote need to be attributed to the author on the shirt?
Thank you for any help regarding my questions!
- January 20, 2006 @ 10:46amRDavis says:Hello,
Slogans and phrases typically are covered by trademark law, not copyright. I'd be sure to confirm that the quote hasn't been trademarked before proceeding.
However, it sounds as though you're really talking about quoted excerpts from literary works, interviews, etc. If this is the case, I'd do a fair use analysis along the following lines:
1. Purpose of the use - For-profit, commercial, which weighs against.
2. Nature of the work - Not clear from your question, but if the source is something creative, like a novel or screenplay, then that would weigh against .
3. Amount of the work used - A short quote of course qualifies as a small portion, but you also have to consider the qualitative aspect (i.e., could it be considered the "heart" of the work). MLK Jr.'s "I have a dream" quote is a good example of a short quote from a longer work that would be considered the "heart" of the work. If the quotes you're considering using are similar in nature to the MLK quote, then I'd say this also weighs against.
4. Market effect - Most likely weighs against, since the copyright owner could create their own t-shirts using the quote and your product infringes on this potential market for them.
I'm no lawyer, but unless these quotes come from works that are old enough to be in the public domain, I wouldn't suggest claiming fair use in this case.
- January 24, 2006 @ 1:57pmGClement says:"All quotes are very short (one-liners) by contemporary, famous people, both authors and film personalities from printed and other non-print sources....Would these kinds of quotes fall under fair use of using short quotes, or will I need to gain permission from the source."
Response: In making your fair use analysis, be sure to consider that the third factor "looks not only to how much of the copyrighted work is used, but also to how central that portion is to the original work." [Heins, Marjorie and Beckles, Tricia, "Will Fair Use Survive?", Brennan Center for Justice, 2005, p. 3]. This source further explains that courts have found *against* fair use for a quote of 300 words out of a full-length book, yet have found *for* fair use in a case where 7000 words were quoted for purposes of commentary.
"...would the quote need to be attributed to the author on the shirt?..."
Response: Not providing attribution would amount to plagiarism, would it not?
- April 14, 2006 @ 5:31amPlayingItSafe says:RDavis - in the above you state "...but unless these quotes come from works that are old enough to be in the public domain, I wouldn't suggest claiming fair use in this case."
How old do works need to be in order to become public domain?
- April 14, 2006 @ 6:05amCOvalle says:It depends on what the law said when the work was created or published. There's a handy chart:
- April 17, 2006 @ 7:20amRDavis says:Hi,
Sorry I missed your question while I was away from the forum these last few days -- and thank you, COvalle, for stepping into the breach!
The public domain chart is also provided as a link on the CAN home page, under the heading "Quick Links."
- October 18, 2006 @ 5:37pmRondi says:On this same subject: I am starting a greeting card company and want to use some one-liners by comedians like Groucho Marx and Dave Barry that I found on the Net. Fair use? How to get permission if not?
- October 19, 2006 @ 5:47amEarth says:RDavis/GClement: He wouldn't, in terms of copyright law, be allowed to put famous sayings like: "I am the greatest" or "fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee" on t-shirts? He would have to get permission from Muhammod Ali himself if using those quotes weigh against fair use?
What about using a quote from Daffy Duck on t-shirt saying, "You're despicable!" or maybe more like ""You're deth-picable!" of course with out any drawing or photo of daffy duck? Could he or anyone be sued for doing something like that?
- October 19, 2006 @ 9:52amCOvalle says:Anyone can be sued for just about anything, whether or not the suit has merit.
The questions are: Is a lawsuit likely? Is my use legal? Even if my use is legal, is the threat of paying to defend myself from a lawsuit enough to stop me from using it? (That's one of the bad things about the way the system works, in my opinion.)
If use of the quotes weighs against fair use, then he'd have to analyze the risk of a lawsuit. If he was just making it for himself, then he might be okay. The use may even be fair. If he wanted to commercially distribute them, the chances of it being fair use go down and the risks of a lawsuit go up.
We can probably safely say that using images and quotes from Daffy Duck in that manner is a very risky thing to do, and would probably violate more than copyright law since similar authorized products already exist.
- October 19, 2006 @ 10:23amEarth says:COvalle: That two word quote of Daffy Duck would violate copyright law? Let's say he didn't attribute it to Daffy Duck and spelled it properly as "You're despicable." Who is to say, he is quoting Daffy Duck or came up with it himself. I mean lots of people call each other despicable not necessarily quoting the Duck.
In the other case, lets say he wanted to use the quote from Ali, "I am the greatest." Fearing copyright violations, how would he go about getting permission to use a quote like that if Mahmmod Ali is the legal copyright holder?
Finally, this may be a very strange and ridiculous question but what if someone designed a shirt that broke all sorts of copyright and trademark laws, do you think it is technically possible to get sucessfully sued just for wearing it?
- October 19, 2006 @ 1:27pmRondi says:I have heard that Disney is rabid about ANY commercial product that relates to their stuff; I'd leave it alone (but really doubt you'd get sued for wearing a shirt you made yourself).
However, I'm still wondering about the use of quotes that are spoken aloud in a public area, e.g., Groucho Marx?
- October 20, 2006 @ 4:55amGClement says:Copyright protection is available only to works that have been fixed in a tangible medium . For Groucho's spoken comments to be copyrightable, they would have to have been written down or recorded with his authorization. I am not a lawyer, but I'd bet that the burden of discovering whether or not Groucho's remarks were recorded would rest with the user of the quotes.
- October 20, 2006 @ 8:38amRondi says:Thanks; I would guess you're right. Not easy to track that down!
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