I’m writing a non-fiction book and I want to use authors and books as supporting references.

Does anyone know if this sample below represents a copyright infringement?

Copyright is a legal protection. According to Don Smith in his best-selling book, Don Smith’s Question, “copyrights are legally protected.”


1 Answer 1


US copyright law is clear on this. A short quote, used for reference, properly attributed, and in no way affecting the market for the source work would be fair use. Fair use is an exception to copyright, and this would notr be infringement under US law. Fair use is often complex and the line is often unclear, but this is about as clear a case as there could be.

Under UK law this would be fair dealing, which is also an exception to copyright, and also not infringement.

Most EU countries have one or another exception to copyright that would over this case. I am reasonably sure that such a quotation would not be considered an infringement in any EU country.

By the way, a comment says:

American and E.U. copyright law can be very picky when it comes to naming real people in a work.

This is not correct. Ordinary names have no copyright protection at all. The only possible legal issues with using a real name are defamation and trademark.

For defamation to apply, there would have to be sufficient identifying details that a reasonable person would conclude that a specific identifiable person had been intended, and three would have to be negative things said that are not true of the real person, and a reasonable person would need to conclude that those things are intended to be said of the real person, and provable harm to that person's actual reputation would have to have resulted. This can be hard toi prove, particularly in US courts.

For trademark, the name would have to have trademark protection (most do not) and would need to be used in a way that could reasonably confuse people into thinking that the book had been endorsed or approved by the tr4ademark owner, or came from the same source. Trademark infringement would be very very unlikely for the sort of quote shown in the question.

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