Are quotes copyrighted? Do you want to know about the copyright law for the quotes on the internet.

Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.

One question that often arises in this context is whether sayings are subject to copyright protection.

This topic is a complex and important one in our increasingly connected and digitised world where sayings are widely shared and reused in various forms of media.

This discussion will explore the issue of copyright protection for sayings, providing a clearer understanding of the laws and principles that govern their use.

Are Quotes Copyrighted?

Copyright law is designed to protect original works of authorship, and this can include written words.

However, short phrases, slogans, or small groups of words like sayings are typically not eligible for copyright protection on their own.

This is because copyright law generally doesn’t extend to short phrases and expressions.

That being said, a quote taken from a larger work (like a book, poem, song, or speech) could be considered part of the copyrighted material of that larger work.

In that case, using the quote without permission could potentially infringe on the copyright of the larger work, depending on how it’s used.

The key factors in whether use of a quote infringes on copyright usually include the length and substantiality of the quote in relation to the larger work, and whether the use could be considered “fair use.”

Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder, under certain circumstances.

Related Article: How to Copyright a Quote

Can we use Famous Quote? Does it Come Under Copyright Infringement?

The use of famous sayings often falls under a gray area in copyright law.

As a general rule, short phrases or expressions, including brief sayings, are not typically eligible for copyright protection on their own.

When considering whether the use of a quote constitutes copyright infringement, a key factor is how much of the work you’re quoting and whether this portion is considered substantial.

Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors like the purpose of the use (for example, educational purposes are often more likely to be considered fair use), the nature of the copyrighted work.

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The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work.

Generally, it’s considered good practice to attribute sayings to their original authors whenever possible.

If you plan to use a quote in a commercial product or for other extensive or profit-oriented purposes, it would be wise to consult with a legal expert to avoid possible copyright infringement.

Suggested Reading: What is the Process of Publishing Quotes with Copyright?

Penalties for Copyright Infringement in Quotes

The penalties for copyright infringement can be significant and vary depending on the nature and extent of the infringement.

This is true whether the infringement involves sayings or other types of copyrighted material.

Statutory damages:

For each work infringed, the copyright owner may elect to recover an award of statutory damages between $750 and $30,000.

If the court finds the infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.

Actual damages and profits:

Alternatively, the copyright owner can elect to recover the actual damages suffered as a result of the infringement and any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages.


Courts can issue orders (injunctions) to stop the infringing activity.

Impounding and disposition of infringing articles:

The court may order the impounding, on such terms as it may deem reasonable, of all copies or phonorecords that are claimed to have been made or used in violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.

Also of all plates, molds, matrices, masters, tapes, film negatives, or other articles by means of which such copies or phonorecords may be reproduced.

Attorneys’ fees and costs:

In the U.S., the court in its discretion may also allow the recovery of full costs by or against any party other than the United States or an officer thereof.

Except as otherwise provided by this title, the court may also award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs.


In conclusion, while short sayings and phrases are typically not eligible for protection on their own, the use of quotes from larger copyrighted works can potentially infringe on copyright.

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The determining factors often include the length and substantiality of the quote in relation to the larger work, and whether the use could be considered “fair use.”

While it’s generally accepted to use famous quotes, especially when properly attributed, extensive or commercial use could lead to legal consequences.

Remember, respect for  law not only safeguards against legal penalties, but also honors the creative endeavors of original authors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are quotes protected by copyright?

Short quotes and phrases are typically not eligible for protection on their own.

Can I use a quote without permission?

As a general rule, using short quotes for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research often falls under the “fair use” doctrine, which may allow such usage without permission.

However, if you plan to use a quote in a commercial product or for other profit-oriented purposes, it is always wise to seek legal counsel.

Can I be sued for using someone else’s quote?

Yes, it’s possible, especially if the quote is used in a way that infringes upon the copyright of a larger work from which it is extracted.

The specifics depend on the circumstances of each case and the jurisdiction, but potential penalties can include statutory damages, actual damages, and profits, as well as injunctions against further infringement.

How can I legally use quotes in my work?

You can often legally use quotes by seeking permission from the holder, especially for more extensive or commercial uses.

If the quote falls under “fair use,” which is determined based on factors such as the purpose and character of the use and the effect of the use on the market for the original work, it may be used without permission.

Always attribute quotes to their original authors whenever possible.

Can I copyright a quote I created?

As a rule, short phrases or expressions are not eligible for copyright protection.

However, if a quote is part of a larger work such as a book or speech that you created, it would be covered by the copyright protection for that work.

Remember that copyright protection is automatic upon creation of an original work of authorship.