I would like to use a quote from a song for my new wine label. We would use quotation marks and give credit to the artist. Is that ok?

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    You need to look up the concept of "fair use" in copyright law and see if the useage you propose falls within that definition.
    – user16226
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 17:09
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    Hi, and welcome to Writers. We aren't lawyers and can only give you our nonbinding opinions about legal issues like copyright. There is a Law SE, but if you're selling a product (particularly alcohol), the best course of action is to consult an actual lawyer. Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 17:31
  • @mbakeranalecta Note that many jurisdictions don't have the explicit concept of "fair use" in copyright law, although there is probably a minimum standard for how much needs to be used for it to be recognized as the original work in the first place. If I quote four lines of a highly popular song, then it's probably recognizable as a quote from that song, particularly if I also name the artist; on the other hand, if I quote just a few words with no attribution, it might not be recognizable as such at all.
    – user
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 9:38
  • Hello and welcome to Writers. Our focus is on writing, while your question seems to be more about product packaging and the law, so I've put this on hold. If you specify your jurisdiction you could probably ask this on Law. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 1:38
  • Questions like this have been asked before, and are usually left open as a question related to writing. However, now that the law site is up and running, perhaps it'd be best to send these questions there. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 12:29

2 Answers 2


No. You are using a work of art for commercial purposes. Trying to sell your wine is not fair use. You must ask the copyright owner for permission.


You will need permission.

If it is a song, you probably need to credit the music publisher (and possibly the music label) as well as the person who wrote the lyrics. If you are granted permission, they'll tell you the format the credits should take.

Fair Use (a.k.a. Fair Dealing in the UK) is a defence in law, not a permission or a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. And it only covers the territory for which the law was drawn up. So a Fair Dealing defence could be used in a UK court, but is not valid in a USA or South African or Japanese court.

EDIT: Also be careful of folks telling you that you can use it because it is Insubstantial Part (a.k.a. Insubstantial Use). Songs are short, so even a few lines may be over the limit of what is considered acceptable. Also, very important/crucial bits of a work are excluded from Insubstantial Part - for instance the punchline to a joke, or the bit of a crime novel where the murderer is revealed. So very recognisable song lyrics (say the chorus) may be excluded from being used as Insubstantial Part.

Of course, if the song lyric is out of copyright, there is no need for permission. In most countries, that is 70 years after the death of the lyricist. So you can't use 'Imagine' because John Lennon only died in 1980.

I'm not a lawyer, but part of my day job involves clearing footage, stills, quotations etc for TV. We have lawyers on the staff to handle the really tricky stuff.

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