Using quotes copyright issues?

So there’s like a quote from an anime I really like that I’d like to use as a tagline for my story… Or have it be a common saying in my world.

It’s about 15 words long.

It’s similar in spirit to “With great power comes great responsibility” in that it’s like a wise thematic saying.

Is this possible at all, if I like give attribution in a foreword, afterword?? Or is that like breaching copyright too much…

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You know how some really popular shows or movies or books will have a thematically appropriate quote, followed by a little “-Socrates, [insert where and when this quote happened here]” underneath it? People do that all the time and never see any negative backlash for it.

Plus, I feel like the rules of copyright surrounding somebody saying something are pretty foggy territory, anyhow - I distinctly recall a lawsuit from some years ago where somebody tried to file copyright over the word “hon,” and to say that they got laughed out of the courtroom would be an understatement.


If it’s a big concern, you could always use a quote from a work that’s in the public domain.


Quoting from a copyrighted work (which your anime surely is) entails the risk of getting sued. You might be able to make a defense if the phrase is “short or generic,” and the copyright holder might choose not to sue you if you’ve properly attributed it to them. But overall I wouldn’t risk it.


Hmm, I’m wondering what the policy would be if you rephrased it and made it something that sounds right to you/ your world- and then credited the original source at the start/end?

Maybe that could be a way around it, but don’t quote me on that (lol no pun intended), I have no idea how copyrights work :joy:

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Thanks for your thoughts, everyone!! I might not include it for now, and see how it goes

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Don’t if you intend to publish.

Basically unless your quote is under the public domain or you have permission, you are taking someone else’s intellectual property without permission and using it for financial gain. At best, that’s ethically not ideal. At worst, you’ll get a takedown notice/legal action/COG is within their rights to refuse to publish on copyright violation grounds.

The reason for this is because quotes from Socrates are under public domain. There is a reason why you get a tonne of mugs and stickers about with old quotes on them. It’s because legally they CAN be used.

I’ve brought this up multiple times on the forum. Recommend this for reading: Quotes in games, how long can they be? What to remember? - #10 by Jacic


Well, I learned a thing today! Didn’t realize that copyright was actually as clear-cut on quotes as it is on everything else (i.e. just don’t do it if you think you might get nailed for it).


Sry I’m a little late to the discussion but I looked it up and

It’s trademarked by marvel so legally you cannot use the phrase to make money off it without license from marvel

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Honestly, the best bet would be to check if it has a Trademark.

That’s where things can get really problematic, as Trademarks are a nightmare. Trademarks can be used, where us writers are concerned, but there is a very fine line to be aware of. The entire purpose of a Trademark is to prevent someone from using said trademark in a way that is likely to confuse consumers as to the source of the goods or services.

With physical Trademarks, it’s easier to navigate. A company isn’t likely going to care much if there’s a reference to a character in a story having a debate with a friend over which soda company is the best. One like Coke, the other likes Pepsi. Which are real arguments in day-to-days, as is, and it’s easy to see Coke or Pepsi in movies on a regular basis.

Standard Character Trademarks are…harder. A phrase that is under a Standard Character Mark is something I wasn’t aware of until recently. I was actually wanting to quote John Cumming in one of his phrases ("wherever there is great power, lofty position, there is great responsibility") and shorten it down to something a bit more current, and then I came across the entire nightmare that is the Marvel Trademark over a phrase.

Referring to the quote I was intending to use, it came shy of two hundred years before Marvel put a Trademark on it in the early 2000s (2011 or 2012, I think), so I find the entire ‘Trademarking Phrases’ to be utterly ridiculous. Cumming’s quote was in the 1850s, and there are tons of similar quotes from roughly around that time. Including William Lamb, who, around the same time, said, "…the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.”

Given the fact those quotes are almost 200yrs old, quoting the phrases is okay given the authors died over a hundred years ago. So, frankly, I would check if the quote you want to use is Trademarked, then check if it was said by someone else before the Trademark (if there is one), and, if there is a Trademark, see if there’s a way you could rephrase it and still contain the meaning you want.


I mean, you can copyright generic words and sue people for putting it in the title of their work under the right circumstances. So unless it’s clearly public domain or you have the cash to fight a court battle I wouldn’t risk it.

This is why I hate copyright law (not that I’m an expert, just based on what I know), because for every legitimate innovation or idea it protects you have a case of some company weaponizing it to stifle competition.

Edit: Someone above already gave the advice to create a legally distinct version of the saying that gives the same meaning. That’s probably your best bet.


You can check trademarks, but the fact is, IP including quotes and written material is frequently copyrighted by default, but NOT trademarked. Just because a quote isn’t trademarked, definitely does not mean you can use it. Old quotes are out of copyright restrictions as they do time out, but anything recent is likely to be totally out of bounds unless specifically released into the public domain.

Example: I haven’t trademarked anything from my last release, but you would be infringing copyright if you used quotes from it without my permission.
I used an old greek tragedy as the source of inspiration for it, which is totally fine legally, because it’s thousands of years old and firmly in the public domain.
If you wished to write your own take using the same source material, that would also be totally fine, BUT you would have to use the original book, not mine, the template for your version as mine is still under copyright.

This happens a lot, particularly with Disney (ie Ok to write a story about the little mermaid fable, but you’ll probably get sued into oblivion if you write a story using disney’s version of the little mermaid as your characters.)

Basically it can get very complicated, but the link I posted earlier is a good one. If the quote/IP/image etc is recent or trade marked. You can’t legally use it except where explicit permission has been granted (in person or via appropriate CC.)

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