informal legal advice needed


I have a relatively simple question.

Can I use a famous quotation from a living person on a commercially marketed t-shirt without first getting that person's consent?

I'm not sure whether that consitutes copyright violation or whether it falls within fair use.

(And yes, I realize that advice I get for free via my blog is worth less than the paper it's not printed on. Just trying to get a general sense as to where I should look for guidance on this.)


If it's short enough to fit on a T-shirt, and you cite the person, you are probably fine. However, depending on the circumstances, I would ask that person's permission anyway. Use Weird Al as a role model (doubt I'll ever say that again!). He doesn't need to ask for permission from those he parodies, but it saves him from stepping on too many toes and being served with too many frivolous law suits.

P.S. IANAL: but I do teach media law FWIW.

P.P.S.: Again, it depends a lot on the exact quote, how it is used, and how you came by it. For example, while you are probably fine in terms of copyright and plagiarism, you need to make sure you do not imply that the quote endorses any particular product or service.

I've taken Alex's advice, and contacted the author of the quote. If the answer is yes, the result will be a new CafePress site. :)

Copyright probably does not apply in this case (assuming a short quote). There may be other restrictions, however. For example, there may be a right of publicity involved if the quote is identified with the person. In any case, asking the author may be good for maintaining or establishing a good relationship.

I hope the quote is "The trught will set you free but first it will piss you off"

In that case, yes you can print it on a t shirt and let's talk about splitting the profits.

Marek, that wasn't it, but it should have been. I'll have my people contact your people.

In actual life, people who exemplify Arnoldian culture are no more important than other people, and they have very rarely been among the great creators, the discoverers of new ideas, or the leaders towards social enlightenment.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 29, 2003 9:12 AM.

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