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Using Quotes in a film, video or media production

Using Quotes in a film, video or media production

In this video, Entertainment Lawyer Gordon Firemark answers a question about using quotes in your production

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J wants to know whether it's OK to use quotes from scientific books and journals, and mention the authors of those quotes. Stick around for the answer.

Hi, I'm Entertainment Attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer common entertainment law questions to help industry professionals like you, take their careers to the next level.

Q: So here's J's question:
I wrote/directed a short film showing some behavior of a mental dissorder. I want to list some researchers and/or doctor's quotes and stats laid over the ending footage.

I got the quotes off of medical sites on the internet.. is it safe to use them?

A: Well, this can be a tricky situation. I don't know if I'd automatically trust quotes I got off the internet, without some independent confirmation that they're accurate quotes. It's probably best to go to the original sources. You could do this yourself, or hire a medical student or something to spend a few hours at the library verifying the quotes.

Can you use them without infringing copyright? Well, this depends on the quotes. Nobody can give you a hard-and fast answer without reviewing them. You see, copyright law protects the original expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves. So it really depends on whether a particular quote is truly “original” expression. Then, we have to look at how much of the work the quote came from is involved. If you quote 1 line from a book, it's probably going to look like a fair use, but if it's 1 line from a single-page document, it might not.

Can you identify the authors of the quotes? Sure. as long as you're careful not to create any impression that they're endorsing you or your film. But, don't get the idea that giving attribution will help you escape copyright liability. If what you're doing infringes copyright, the attribution will work as the “smoking gun” that proves you KNEW the work belonged to the author. It's probaly smarter to just ask for permission, and get a simple release form signed, so you're free and clear. Most academics will be glad to be quoted in your film.

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