Once in a while, quotes are highly useful in manuscripts. It may be used to drive a point or to improve the overall feel of the novel. In novels, there are definitely numerous uses for quotations, especially when they are from famous people. However, there are cases when using a quote may lead to a case of plagiarism. After all, just crediting the author of the quote is not enough to parry any plagiarism case that may be thrown to you. Thus, it is imperative to first ascertain whether a quote can be used legally or not before using it in your manuscript.

Before You Use a Quote…

There are three quotes that you should pay attention to. These questions can help you gauge whether using a quote will get you in hot waters or not. Here are those questions that you should take note of.

1. How old is the quote?

When a quote was published way before 1923, then it should be okay to use it anytime you want. After all, quotes before 1923 already falls under “public domain”. This means that quotes from William Shakespeare, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austin, and L. Frank Baum can be used anytime.

Of course, there’s an exception to this rule. If the quote is an advertising slogan, it may be covered with a trademark so you cannot make use of it easily.

2. How distinctive is it?

The originality of the quote can also determine whether or not you can use it legally. Even if it is just a short quote, if it contains the gist of the entire novel/speech, then it is highly likely protected by copyright.

3. How the quote is used?

Under “fair use”, you should be able to use quote even if it is protected by copyright. For example, you may take advantage of a quote if it is used for the purpose of commentary, research, education, or news reporting. It can also be useful for parodies and other “transformative” purposes.

The line between copyright infringement and fair use is quite murky though. Be careful that you don’t confuse one with the other to avoid copyright infringement cases.