I've recently noticed that in a lot of pop culture reference heavy shows or movies, like Community, Suits, Deadpool... they always mention the movie they took it from. As in, another character is confused about the line and they need it explained, or something like that.

Is that required? To name the place you took the quote from or can a character just say a line if he does it in a way that contextually implies he's quoting something, or if the quote is famous enough that the majority of readers recognize it?

For example - is it safe and sound to quote something like the "One Ring to rule them all" short poem from Lord of the rings? Or would that be complicated because it's also from a novel that has different copy rules to movies?

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    I would assume the lines are copy righted. So if you were to use the quote without context you can get fined seriously or sued. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 16:12
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    No you cannot. These days everybody is trying to sue as much as they can. There are so many lawyers looking to get paid you better believe you would have to pay for the rights.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


Copyright is copyright. There are rules that vary depending on your location, and the way in which you make use of the copyrighted material. In the US, check out the copyright law at https://www.copyright.gov/title17/

In general, quoting very brief parts of very long works is not going to be a problem, like a character saying "One ring to rule them all." However, quoting the entire poem, and especially making it a central part of your work, could raise copyright issues.

In general, criticism and scholarly works have more latitude to quote from copyrighted works under US copyright law, to foster academic discussion and knowledge sharing.

I am not a lawyer, and if you have serious legal questions, you should consult someone with legal expertise in your jurisdiction.

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