How To Use Quotes Without Getting Sued

If you’re a writer, you’re most likely also a reader and collector of great quotes. Have you ever come across the perfect quote from another author that you would like to include in a piece of your writing? Maybe you’d like to share a quote on social media or include it in a newsletter for your readers. 

Before posting or hitting send, it's important to understand the legal implications when quoting other people’s words. It’s not as simple and clear-cut as it may seem. 

To avoid unintentional plagiarism, small business attorney Andrea Sager offers the following advice to writers.



“If it’s a short quote, give credit . . . . As long as you cite the source, then you’re okay,” says Andrea.

We’ve all seen short quotes from books or articles make their way across the internet. If there’s a quote you’d like to share without asking for permission, the rule of thumb is that it must be short, and it must be attributed to the author.



If you’d like to use a section of an essay or a longer piece from a book, you will need to get permission from the author. Andrea says, “If that quote falls under copyright protection . . . then you have to get permission. You need to have a license to use that quote.”

If an author grants permission to use their quote, it’s important to use it exactly as requested. The license only grants permission for the exact request being made.



It’s likely safe to use a few short, attributed quotes within your own work, but it’s always wise to make sure that it falls under fair use — especially if you’re using the quote for a product from which you will make money. 

When using quotes within a product such as a book, it’s wise to research the potential legal issues by consulting with a legal professional before including another author’s words within your own writing. 

Notable Exceptions

Song lyrics and poems have different rules regarding fair use and copyright infringement. Often, permission is required to use them in any capacity. Be sure to check with a legal expert regarding their use. 

Attribution and permission are the most important aspects to consider when sharing other people’s work. Avoid unintentional plagiarism by researching your options before sharing. 

If you’d like to know more about how to protect your writing legally, our conversation with attorney Andrea Sager is the best place to start. Click here for free access to our entire conversation and take one step toward balancing the art of writing with the business of publishing. 

 Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice.


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