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Legal use of famous quotes

Orlando, FL |

I want to put a famous quotation from Woody Allen on a direct mail piece that will be mailed first class to several thousand households.

This one page flyer would be used to solicit insurance sales.

I have been told as long as I put it in quotation marks, and give credit to Woody Allen, as the author, then it would be legally permissable.

Anxiously waiting to hear your opinions
Thanks !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Attorney answers 3


On one hand, short quotes aren't protectible by federal copyright law, so you have the 1st amendment right to use other people's quotes. On the other hand, there's a FL state law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 540.08) prohibiting use of someone's likeness for an ad for profit, so state law clashes with the federal law. Woody Allen just sued American Apparel for using his likeness in one of their ads), so one thing to consider when using the alleged property of living, rich, litigious famous people, is this a fight you want to pick? If you're not going to use any likeness, and just a name and quote, you'll be ok.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.


I agree with Ms Koslyn. You should have the direct mail piece reviewed by an attorney before you send it out.


The real concern is not the possible copyright violation as short quotes are indeed permissible to re-use. You want to be sure that nothing in the way the piece is crafted would lead anyone to believe that Woody Allen endorses or is affiliated with your product. That could violate not only the Florida State law Ms. Koslyn cits, but also Mr. Allen's "right to publicity" which includes the right NOT to have publicity in the first place.