How to Copyright a Quote

By Andrea Farkas ; Updated April 25, 2017
Bald businessman thinking with speech bubble over gray background

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If you say something memorable, federal copyright law can protect your quote – but you must put your quote in writing first. Copyright protection gives you the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute and create derivative works from your quote. Registering your copyright gives you the option to sue someone who infringes on your copyright.

Put It in Writing

A quote must meet some basic requirements to be eligible for copyright protection. It must be made permanent; for example, if you type or write your quote on paper so that another person can read it, your quote is generally copyrightable. You might not be able to copyright your quote if it needs protection under trademark law, instead. You can't copyright short phrases and slogans, but you can trademark them.

Copyrighting and Registering Your Quote

If your quote is eligible for copyright protection, federal law immediately protects it. It's not required, but you have the option of registering your quote with the U.S. Copyright Office; registration gives you the right to sue if someone infringes your copyright. To register your quote, submit an application form, deposit and filing fee to the U.S. Copyright Office. You can submit an application online at Copyright.gov or you can mail a hardcopy. If the U.S. Copyright Office needs additional information, it will contact you. If your application is accepted, you will receive a certificate of registration. Alternatively, if the U.S. Copyright Office rejects your application, it will send you a letter explaining how it reached that decision.

About the Author

Andrea Farkas has been writing since 2005. Her legal article appears in the "Texas Tech Estate Planning" and "Community Property Law Journal." Farkas graduated from Texas A&M University and earned her law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law.