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Can you use a series of audio clips of famous quotes in your show intro? – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered



Can you use a series of audio clips of famous quotes in your show intro?

Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.

A podcaster reached out with this question…

Hi, I am an amateur podcaster and I'm hoping to launch my podcast very soon. I am currently researching copyright law to learn about the laws and ethics behind producing quality podcasts.

I have created an introduction for my podcast that borrows 1-3 second soundbites from various voices (i.e. Khazir Khan, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, etc.) to create an audio collage of recognizable one liners. I'm concerned about incorporating these soundbites, however, in a way that is both ethical and legal. I'm stuck in my research and looking for help/advice.

OK… So this is a multi-part answer.

First, on copyright law basis, Based on what you’re saying, your intro may qualify as “fair use” for copyright purposes. That is, it's probably NOT a copyright infringement.

But there are several other potential issues.
It's probably not problem from a typical invasion of privacy standpoint, since the statements were made publicly, BUT, there’s a sub-category of privacy called misappropriation, which can be invoked when a person's name or likeness is taken without permission…

And in some places, there's the Right of Publicity, which generally gives a person (especially a celebrity) a right to control how his/her name, likeness, and sometimes voice is used in commercial contexts.

What remains an open question is whether a show intro like you propose is “commercial” or not. And I can’t really say with any certainty how that might shake out.

There might also be claims that your intro creates a false or misleading impression that these celebrities endorse your show, etc.

Now, It’s certainly ok to quote people with attribution, but when you use their actual voices, I think it gets a little risky.

So, here's where it sometimes gets tricky for us lawyers. You see, if you were a major media company, I’d probably advise you to go for it.

I'd explain the risks and talk about the potential first-amendment free-speech defenses. And being a free-speech advocate, I'd encourage testing the limits a bit, if your corporate mission and finances can support that kind of thing. I think it's important to stand up for important principles like freedom of press and speech.

But since you’re a self-described amateur, I’ll assume your budget is quite small, and that the costs and legal fees involved in fighting a lawsuit, even if you were to win, would be very harmful, if not devastating. So, unless my assumptions are incorrect, and you can handle the expense of mounting a defense and appeals, maybe even all the way to the supreme court, I’d advise you to re-think your plan.

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See you next time!

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