How to Copyright a Quotation

By Brenna Davis

Quotations are not typically copyrighted; rather, the work of which the quotation is a part of is the copyrighted work. It can be difficult to ensure that a quotation receives copyright protection because "fair use" permits excerpts of a copyrighted work to be used for limited scholarly and educational purposes. However, there are several steps authors can take to protect their quotations and, depending on the length of quotation and how it is published, they may be able to enforce their copyrights.

Quotations are not typically copyrighted; rather, the work of which the quotation is a part of is the copyrighted work. It can be difficult to ensure that a quotation receives copyright protection because "fair use" permits excerpts of a copyrighted work to be used for limited scholarly and educational purposes. However, there are several steps authors can take to protect their quotations and, depending on the length of quotation and how it is published, they may be able to enforce their copyrights.

Copyright Basics

Copyright protects intellectual property fixed in tangible form, such as a book, video or painting. Thus, a quote can only be copyrighted if it is fixed in one of these forms. Copyright is automatic for all items published after 1978. You do not need to register the item with the U.S. Copyright Office or put a copyright notice on the item to receive copyright protection. However, to sue for a copyright violation, your item must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office; you may register the item and sue even after the violation has taken place.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Fair Use Exception

The fair use doctrine poses a major hurdle to the copyright of quotations. Copyrighted items may be excerpted for scholarly and educational purposes. For example, a reviewer may publish a quote from a book in a review. The law provides no specific guidelines about how long a republished quote must be to constitute copyright infringement. If your quotation is a long one, you will have a better chance of enforcing the copyright.

Registering Copyrights

To copyright your quotation, it must be in a fixed medium, such as a book or video. You may then assert your copyright immediately. You may register copyrights on the U.S. Copyright Office web page by providing information about the copyrighted item and paying a fee.

Trademark Alternative

If the quotation you wish to protect is short and you intend to use it in commerce -- such as for a business motto or similar use -- trademark protection may be a better alternative. Trademarks protect unique marks used in commerce, so incorporating your quotation as a part of your business logo or name may offer it protection from being reused for profit by other businesses. However, others will still be permitted to quote the line.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Is an Original Work Without a Copyright Label or Disclaimer Still Protected by Copyright Laws?

References

Resources

Related articles

Can You Use Copyrighted Material in Advertising?

Copyright laws protect a creator's right to his original work -- and limit others from using that work. Copyrighted material that you may want to use in advertising include photographs, song recordings, art and pieces of literature. However, copyright laws generally prohibit profiting from a work when someone else owns the rights. If you violate someone's copyright, you may be sued and could have to pay damages and attorney's fees.

Copyright Issues With Playing Published Music in Public

The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 creates a monopoly for authors of original musical works. This means that only the copyright holder is allowed to profit from her creation. Included in this monopoly is the right to perform the work in public. As long as you hold the copyright, you can sing your songs as often as you like, in front of as many people as you want. On the other hand, if someone else performs your work in public without permission or paying a royalty, he may have infringed your copyright.

Are College Lectures Copyrighted?

Copyright laws protect creators of original works by giving them the exclusive right to profit from their work for a specified length of time. College lectures can be copyrighted, but only to the extent they meet the copyright law requirements for originality and tangibility. The copyright for a college lecture may be held by the professor or college, depending on the terms of the professor's employment agreement.

Related articles

Can Therapeutic Techniques Be Copyrighted?

The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 guarantees the ability of creators to profit from their original work. However, the act ...

Trademark of Recipes

A trademark is used to identify a symbol -- like a logo -- word or phrase unique to your business and prevent others ...

How Long Is a Book Copyright in Force?

Any tangible, creative item may be copyrighted, and this includes most books. Others may not use the book except for ...

DVD Copyright Rules

United States copyright law is designed to protect the rights of people who create artistic work and those who purchase ...

Browse by category