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Can I reprint someone's ad n my book?

San Diego, CA |

I want to write a book.

In my book I want to include examples of advertisements

Can I have those advertisements fully printed within my book?

note: some of these ads have been mentioned by other writers, but never directly


A book that teaches advertising. The ads are the best I can find. They are noteworthy pieces of copy to learn from. The only thing I'm saying about these ads are to learn how they are so successful. I am considering ads not to imitate, but I'll definitely get consent or use my early unsuccessful pieces for this. Thanks for your advice Pamela, David and Frank. I know what I need to do from here. :)

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Attorney answers 4


You really have not given enough info about how you are using the ads. If you are writing a book to teach advertising, you might be able to duplicate the ads. Keep in mind that companies spend significant money to create ads. You should consult an IP attorney before beginning your project.


While it certainly sounds at first blush that what you propose would fall under a fair use category (namely using the material for editorial/commentary purposes), I suggest that it is wiser to get written permission from the owner of that content so you do not run the risk of annoying anyone.

Keep in mind, that fair use is a legal defense and if you pissed off the wrong people they may force you to defend that in court which can be expensive even if you prevail. For example, lets say you make some highly critical comments about a popular ad and that company felt insulted.

For something like this I suspect getting permission should be rather easy as it just amounts to more free impressions for the ad. But if you believe that would be too great a burden, I would consult a lawyer in private to vet your plans just so you know exactly where the line is to avoid any litigation.

Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

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As my colleagues have noted, ads are the result of an investment by the product and trademark owner, and it's often a big investment. The doctrine of "fair use" might apply to your use of ads, since it sounds like you want to comment on them, but the use needs to be analyzed using the 4 fair use factors, and you need to realize that this doctrine is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement --meaning you've already been sued.

Please see the guide linked below, written for non-lawyers about getting permission to sue copyrighted works. And then hire your own IP lawyer.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


This is a rather difficult question. The advertisements are covered by copyright law. The companies who own the copyrights in the advertisements may include advertising agencies that may be very unhappy to find out that their work may be used to educate competitors. Further, you are proposing to include entire advertisements in your book, rather than must portions of them. And to complicate this further, the advertisements no doubt include trademarks for various companies who also may not be thrilled to have their advertisements used for educating their competitors. I don't believe the trademark issues are your biggest problem---so I will focus on copyright.

Your use of these advertisements would clearly constitute copyright infringement unless you are saved by the fair use doctrine. The fair use doctrine is a narrow doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted materials for purposes of education, academics, journalism, social and political commentary and parody. Courts consider many factors in a fair use analysis, including the nature, scope and character of the use of the copyrighted material, the purpose and duration of the use of the copyrighted material, the amount of each copyrighted work used, and most importantly, the impact of the proposed use on the market value of the copyrighted materials. My guess is that you will lose the fair use argument here. You are writing a book for commercial purposes and while it may have some educational value, your objective is commercial. Further, you are using entire advertisements, not just small pieces of them. Most importantly, your use may diminish the market value of the copyrighted works, since you acknowledge that your book would teach competitors how to make similar works.

Nonetheless, there is at least some possibility that you could restructure your book so that fair use might apply. If you are serious about pursuing this project, my strong advice is that you immediately retain intellectual property counsel to assist you.

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