I am considering creating a booklet with quotes from pop media for commercial use. Something like a list of one-liners from songs from the 80s for example or movies.

Would this be legal? I am aware of fair use, but it seems that this could fall either under fair use (since it's a form of commentary) or under copyright infringement (since I use it for commercial use and use the essence of the artifacts).

2 Answers 2


Such a booklet might or might not be ruled fair use under US law. This isn't really commentary, unless you add some analytical or critical materiel, in short some comments, on the quotes. That woukld make it pretty clearly fair use. But fair use is significantly broader than commentary. Let us look at the statutory factors. This question and its answer lists and describes them. 17 USC 107 is the actual law.

  1. The purpose and character of the use. The use is commercial, which weighs soemnwhat agaisnt fair use, but not overwhelmingly. The use is arguable soemwhat trasformational, but it seems to me not highly so. That weighs a little towards fair use.

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work. The works quoted are creative, works of entertainment, not factual or educational. This weaighs agaisnt fair use, but not overwhelmingly.

  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This nis not really clear from the question. One or two lines from a short song might be a substantial portion. "Like a bridge over troubled water / I will lay me down. Might alone be considered the "heart" of the Simon & Garfunkel song, as it in my view, captures the key feeling of the song, even if it is only 2 short lines, one sentence. A line or two for a feature-length film is much less likely to be a substantial part. This factor can be quite subjective. Recall Harper vs Nation where a 300-word quote from President George H. W. Bush's long autobiography was judged to be the "heart" of the work, and fair use denied.

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. This is also hard to judge without specifics, but short quotes rarely harm the market for an existing work, much less one decades old. This provably weighs in favor of fair use.

So fair use is possible for the kind of use described, but a long way for assured. Adding significant commentary on each quote would make the case for fair use significantly stronger.

As for Sweden, while the basic framework of modern copyright, derived from the Berne Convention is the same, Sweden has nothing like the fair use doctrine in its law. I think the case for copyright infringement under Swedish law would be fairly strong.

And of course, even if a use is clearly an infringement, there is no penalty unless the copyright holder shooses to sue. One can never know if that will happen, but corporate media copyright owners tend to be more ready to sue than the general population. They often have the resources, and are inclined to think that way. So I wouldn't relay on the forbearance of each anfd every copyright holder that such a booklet might quote.


In the US, it would be up to a court to decide if your booklet fell under Fair Use (U.S. Copyright Office). All it will take is one copyright holder - one music company or one film studio - to sue you for copyright infringement for one or two lines from a song or movie. At that point, you will have to defend your usage of the copyrighted material.

You could argue that your usage is "commentary", but that requires some critical or responsive thought about the material being reprinted and not simply reproducing it by itself. And selling the booklet is obvious commercial usage, and that would work against you, and not for a case of Fair Use, as you claim.

In Sweden, the case would be very similar, as Sweden is a signatory of the Berne Convention (Wikipedia).

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