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For most questions relating to copyrights — including the re-use of Wikiquote material and the reporting of copyright infringement — refer to the Wikipedia copyright policy, which also applies to Wikiquote. But note: though Wikiquote content is licensed under the CC-BY-SA and the GFDL, much of the content on Wikiquote is derivative of copyrighted material and is used under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law.

Copyrights and quotations

Despite what many people think, quotations can be copyrighted if they have been previously published, just like any form of work. Though many works are in the public domain, many are not, and require some consideration before using. Because Wikiquote is "published" in the United States, U.S. copyright law contains the relevant statutes for the project.

Fair use

Most quotations, because of their short size, are not considered copyright infringement because they fall under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law. "Fair use" of copyrighted materials is formally determined by a court of law when one party sues another for copyright infringement.

Courts have generally relied on a four-factor test for whether or not a given "use" of copyrighted materials is "fair":

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit, educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Wikiquote resource appears to fall under acceptable and fair usage based on the first criterion shown above, in that the purpose of the quotations on Wikiquote is educational, and Wikiquote is run by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. However, quoted portions of existing works must be considered within the framework of the last three criteria.

Based on criterion number two, one must consider the very nature of the copyrighted work in advance of publishing a quote from that source. This may concern which media is involved (music, film, book).

Based on criterion number three, one must consider the proportionality of the quotation to the work as a whole. Only quotations forming a very small proportion of a copyrighted work will likely qualify as "fair use".[1]

Based on criterion number four, furthermore, depending on the type of copyrighted work the quotation is taken from, it may potentially affect the future market for the copyright holder. For example, in two previous court cases, the violative quotes were far shorter than one might expect. In one case, noting also that the quotes were used for for-profit enterprises, courts ruled that as few as forty-one quotations from the Seinfeld television series were sufficient to negatively affect the ability of the copyright holder to earn profits from their own quotation and trivia books.[1]

Although the use of quotes is often covered by fair use, a separate copyright can still be claimed on the arrangement, presentation, and selection of quotes. Do not simply copy and paste a list of quotes from a website, or they will be deleted.


For specific guidance on how much is too much, see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations.

Generally, it is suggested that only short quotations and their references be used, even when permissible.

It is important, especially when quoting from things such as movies and television series, but also other published works, to make sure that there are not too many quotes from any single copyrighted work. Be especially careful not to take too many quotations from a single television or movie series (which could potentially be held under one large copyright claim as well as per-episode copyright claims).

If this simple rule is followed, most Wikiquote use of copyrighted materials should easily fall under the "fair use" clause. For more information on the "fair use" clause, see the Wikipedia article on the subject.

If you believe that a given article has too many quotes or excerpts from a copyrighted work on it, please add the text {{checkcopyright}} to its talk page. This will cause it to go into a queue for review and possible revision.

Licensing and downstream use

Any material produced specifically by editors of Wikiquote — including the selection and arrangement of quotes — is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License‎ and the GNU Free Documentation License. Additional terms apply: see Terms of Use for information about re-use of content from Wikiquote. Most quotations are, by their nature, either from public domain sources or copyrighted sources, and are subject to their own licensing requirements (or lack thereof) aside from any imposed by Wikiquote.


  1. The proportion may be larger with shorter works, for example a couplet out of a sonnet, and indeed the short poem "Blod" is almost impossible to quote (or even name) without using the whole poem.


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