I marked it with a footnote containing the writer's name, the work's title and copied the "Publisher" section from Wikipedia so far.

What about the English translation of the original French quote?

Enough/needed/too much?

I read this one among the answers here on writing.stackexchange:

  1. Copyright is for a finite amount of time, basically life of the author plus 70 years, or if the copyright is owned by an organization rather than a person, or if the author is anonymous, for 95 years from date of publication.
  2. A translation has a separate copyright from the original work, with the clock starting from when the translation was published, not the original work.
  3. Under the "fair use doctrine", you can quote short excerpts from copyrighted works without getting permission.

If this is right (official source would be much appreciated) then I clearly can quote the line in both languages. The translation is also old enough.

So the question is maybe more like if I need to place the footnote? The character will tell his partner the writer's name also the title of the writing later on.

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    – Secespitus
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


Yes, you are correct. See here for length of copyright: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html

"Fair use" is complicated ans subject to interpretation by the courts, but for the general principles, see here: https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html

In any case, if the copyright has expired -- and if you're talking about a 200 year old work, it's expired -- then fair use is irrelevant.

No, you don't need a footnote. Footnotes have nothing to do with copyright. If you steal someone else's copyrighted work, it will not help in any way that you gave a proper footnote. Footnotes are for an entirely different issue: plagiarism. If you write a scholarly article, you are expected to give footnotes for your sources. This serves two purposes: (a) it allows other scholars to verify that your quotes are accurate, to check the context, to read the entire source to do further research, etc; (b) gives proper credit to the person who originated an idea. If you fail to give proper footnotes, you can be accused of the academic violation of plagiarism. If you're a student you could get kicked out of school for this. If you're a professor you could lose your job. But it's not a crime or a tort: you can't be sued or sent to jail. If you're writing a novel, plagiarism is not an issue. You don't need footnotes in novel. Though of course you CAN include them if you think they are appropriate or helpful. Plagiarism never expires, that is, in a scholarly paper you should give footnotes regardless of how old the source is.

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