I am writing a memoir and I want to know if I can quote some lines from some of my favorite TV shows from the 50's and 60's in my upcoming book.

For example:

  • Superman: "look up in the sky! It's a bird..."
  • The Fugitive: "innocent victim of blind justice".

Please let me know.

Also, can I take a photo of a DVD cover and use it?

  • The potential publisher would greatly appreciate it if you show that you've received permission from each source you borrowed from.
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 23:15
  • 1
    It's not good form to ask multiple questions at once. Also, this question gives the impression that you haven't done any of your own research before posting.
    – levininja
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


A very short quote such as the examples given generally falls under the heading of a *literary reference or allusion. In the US it generally falls under fair use and no permission is needed.

The detailed analysis would probably run as follows: Only a small part of the source work is used, the use has no effect on the market for the source work, and new work could not plausibly serve as a replacement for the source work. Those are key factors in a fair use analysis under 17 USC 107 But if the work is to be published via a traditional publisher with a legal department, by all means check with that department.

As to a CD cover, that is much more iffy. First of all it is much more likely to be actively in distribution, so market harm is more likely. Covers are often considered to be separate works of art, so this sounds like using the entire source work, which leans away from fair use. It would matter how and for what purpose the CD image is intended to be used, so I cannot be at all definite. Consulting a lawyer with copyright expertise might be a good idea there.

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