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Copyright for quotes used on a commercial website

Posted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:59 pm
by toseiwe
Hello everyone,

Please i need some help and advice. I am considering putting up a website on quotations. These would be quotations from various sources including TV, film, Interviews, Books, famous speeches and persons-the works. I have called it a commercial website as the intention is to recommend products and services that i believe would help my visitors/readers.

Would i be infriging on the copyrights of the sources of the quotations? This is a source of concern for me. So if yes, then how do i go about seeking permission? Would it cost me money to get the required permission? As this is a website that would be updated regularly from ANY source would i need to continually seek permission for everyone of these quotations? And as the sources of the quotes vary, is there 1 general body i can request the copyrights from?

Thanks for your help.


Posted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:44 am
by AndyJ
Generally speaking you should be OK if you only quote a a few words or maybe a sentence. This would not be "substantial" enough to be infringement. However there are lots of ifs and buts.
Most public figures - politicians, celebrities, pundits etc - will probably be more than happy to be quoted, as will the majority of authors. The area where you might find the greatest problem could be with lyrics from songs and dialogue from films, only because the rights holders (who are not always the authors) of these tend to be the most twitchy about any copyright infringement.
The second thing to be aware of is the source of your quotes. Do not be tempted to lift great chunks out of other books or websites on quotations, as this could amount of infringement of the copyright in book or website if the amount of copying was substantial. Equally, your site could be protected by copyright because you will have used skill and creativity in making the selections. Make sure you put a notice on your homepage about how someone can object to their words being quoted and you should be fine.
If you do want to explore the idea of getting a general licence, although I don't think this is necessry, you could contact the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society

Posted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 2:08 pm
by toseiwe

Thanks so much for your reply. I've read some of your other posts and hoped you would respond to this. I feel a little confident now in proceeding with this. I don't want to be seen to infringe on any one's copyright.

I might stay away from films and lyrics of songs. I am hoping on putting a creative twist to my website so it would be almost impossible to copy large chunks from any book or anyone's website. I would however do as you advised regarding putting a notice on my homepage that objection to usage was fine.

Thanks again for your help.



Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:05 pm
by Sidewinder

just to bump this topic. A lot of quotes is found on social media from individuals. How would you know when a quote is copyrighted or not? If quotes are found on social media or on websites which show such quotes, I'm assuming those website will not be the copyright holder as it is a social media platform right?

I had still been unsure about this concept, if someone states a quote, their words will automatically be copyrighted?

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:49 am
by AndyJ
Hi sidewinder,
Assuming it is not something utterly banal and unoriginal, a quote becomes subject to copyright when it is recorded in some way. The most usual form is in writing, but it could also be in a sound recording for instance.
To find out if a quote is in copyright you need to discover who the author is and then see if they died more than 70 years ago. For some quotes it may be impossible to find the real author and so a bit of common sense may be the best answer. If something is obviously modern because of the words or ideas expressed then you should assume it is in copyright. Then you need to consider how widely it has been re-used without any attribution to an author. If this use is extensive then it may be fair to assume that the real author has abandoned their ownership of the copyright; looking at the same problem from the opposite perspective, how could someone prove that they alone created the words if a reasonably diligent search failed to find any work (say a book or magazine article) where the quote appeared under the byline of the author? And finally, are the words so few that no court would consider hearing a case about infringement? This is the so-called de minimis doctrine, often translated into English as "the law doesn't concern itself with trifles".
And if you want to use the quote under the new exception under UK law for quotation (which didn't exist when the earlier entries in this thread were written) then so long as you follow the rules pretty much anything may be quoted so long as no more than is fair and necessary is used. Clearly if the author is unknown, you are not obliged to credit them.