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Can anyone point me in the direction of information on what the do's and dont's of using quotes from famous people in a book would be? Each quote would be attributed to the person who said it, but I am wondering what the restrictions are in use.

It would not be a book of quotes, but rather having a dozen or so sprinkled throughout the book.

Thank you
Kathleen Gage

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I always thought you could use famous quotes , especially if the person is
deceased like the one I used : Marilyn Monroe: " Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand
dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." 1950's . Go to website and put " FAMOUS QUOTES " and
see if it states anything on using them ? Let me know, Good Luck...

Will do. Thanks Joe. I have heard that too, but need to be 100% sure on this. :-)

One thing I would suggest is be sure you get the quote and the source of the quote correct. Dont trust internet sites. Use a book like the Oxford Book of Quotes for example. Almost every quote has at one time been attributed to Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln whether they said it or not.
Outstanding recommendation. Thank you David.

It depends on when the quote was said or "fixed in a tangible medium". If it is older than say 1922, the quote is most likely in the public domain and not subject to copyright. However, if you are quoting a translation, it is the translation date that applied, not when the quote was actually said/fixed. So, quotes from say Cesear are in the public domain, but if the translation of the quote was done after 1922, then it is NOT in the public domain (the translator holds the copyright). You can get away with using quotes if you follow the "fair use" doctrine, which basically states that if you are using the quote for certain purposes it is ok. Certain quotes from famous people of the 20th century are not in the public domain, despite the fact that the sayer has moved on - in these cases the estate owns the copyright and you must get pemission from them. One example is Martin Luther King speeches (all of which are now owned by the estate). However, under fair use you can still quote his speeches if you do it right.

Here is the fair use doctrine.

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

the nature of the copyrighted work;

amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of “fair use” would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered “fair” nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.

FL-102, Revised July 2006
Peter - this is incredible information. Thank you so much. I wonder, may I share this information on my blog and in other locations (giving you full credit for writing the piece)?

Sure feel free to share this information. Glad that it was of use.


Thanks Joseph, David and Peter for the good information. I often like to begin my column with a quote to get the attention of the reader. I have wondered about the legality of this. Based on what I have read I understand that it is OK to quote something short that I find interesting for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting. It is considered “fair use”. It is my understanding that the quote should involve only a small portion of the work, and it should not replicate the main idea of the material. Basically it depends on our intent in reproducing the work; how much of the work we use and whether or not any damage to the commercial value of the work occurs. Kathleen--much success to you on your book and thanks for your great blog.

I posted your response in my blog at

Thanks so much

I currently use quotes by various individuals and have them posted on my site under interesting quotes. I believe that as long as you are using the quotes and giving the proper credit I believe it would be acceptable. I feel this would come under the fair use requirements. The quotes that I have posted I have received from Brian Tracy. You may contact him and get his opinion about using quotes of various individuals in a book. He may know more particulars of using such things in a book format. Give him the information and let him know how the quotes would be used and he may be able to help you. The other comments in the replies are also good information.

Hope this helps.

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My second novel is now audio – like old time radio. All you have to do is listen. It’ll make you laff. Go to www.NewFiction,com

Choose ‘Senate Parking’

Skeeze Whitlow


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