Wanting to quote the World's greatest

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Wanting to quote the World's greatest

Post by simmy_e »

Hi there,

I'm starting a personal development business; as part of that I'm wanting to use positive, inspirational and motivational quotes for educational artwork...yet I'm anticipating making a profit from this aspect of the business.

& I'd really appreciate some advice.

There are lots of wonderful quote website out there but they don't seem to identify where the quotes originate (in terms of the title of the books it would have been originally published within) so that I can check whether these quotes are free for me to use as part of my own work...please can you help :?: :?:

Also are all quotes from our late and greatest available within the public domain... + 70 after their death? For example even Mr Shakespeare?

Also quotes which are anonymous or have no attributing author...where do I stand with using these?

With quotes that fall outside the public domain...would I be within my rights to amend or re-translate these quotes and use my "new" version in my works...if I credit the original author also?

Thanks in advanced and eagerly anticipating your response :D :D
*..."living my life like its golden"...*
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Ssimmy,
Quotes can be tricky. Theoretically they conform to the same rules as other literary works, but by their nature the successful ones soon gain common currency and slip out of the control of their orginators. Indeed most people who coin a notable phrase would never dream of restricting its use.
The other thing to remember is that it is the manner in which the expression of the idea is fixed in permanent form which creates the copyright, not the spoken word itself.
There is a famous example from 1900 when a politician of the day made a speech without having pre-written it. A reporter from a newspaper who was present took down the speech in shorthand and later wrote it up for his paper. The reporter created the copyright in the speech by writing it down. This still holds good for today. If a public figure makes an impromptu speech and a TV crew record it, copyright may well be created by the video recording because that is the permanent form in which the words are recorded.
Returning to your query, where the originator of a quote has been dead for more than seventy years, the quote should almost certainly be in the public domain. However where there is only one source for the quote (eg a book of quotations) you should check its date of publication to make sure it was published more than 25 years ago, to ensure that the published edition is out of copyright. Clearly if there is another, earlier source (say the writings of the author himself) then this won't be necessary.
For living authors of quotes, or those who have not been dead for over 70 years, in theory you need permission, although if the quote has been widely re-published in a manner that makes you think the author is happy with this, then you are probably not running any risk in not seeking permission.
And most tricky of all are the anonymous authors. The law is relatively unhelpful on this aspect. If the author cannot be discovered after a reasonably dilligent search then it is permissable to take the date of publication of the quote as the starting point, as described in Section 12 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act:
[ ... ]
(3) If the work is of unknown authorship, copyright expires—
  • (a) at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
    (b) if during that period the work is made available to the public, at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first so made available,
subject as follows.

(4) Subsection (2) [that is, the normal rules for the duration of copyright] applies if the identity of the author becomes known before the end of the period specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (3).
As for translating or amending any quotes, care needs to be taken not to distort the quote in a derogatory way, but otherwise I cannot see any objection to translating it from one language into another.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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