If I write a book and I cite the works of other authors, what are the legal requirements for the citation? For example, I want to take about 1 or 2 sentences verbatim from the book titled 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'

I assume that I have to include the name of the author and the name of the work, which I am citing. What else must be included?

  • Citing and quoting are not the same. Citing means referring to a work. Quoting means reproducing words from another work. Citing is usually done in a bibliography or reference section. Quoting is usually done in the body of the work. Which do you mean?
    – user3270
    Jan 5, 2016 at 22:27
  • @user3270 I meant quoting text. If I quote some text verbatim, what do I have to include
    – Lumo5
    Jan 6, 2016 at 8:38

3 Answers 3


Citation is not a matter of law; it is a matter of academic rules. That is, you cannot be sued for failing to cite or citing incorrectly (you can be sued for copyright breach), however, failing to cite in accordance with the rules of your university is academic misconduct (plagiarism).

As for copyright law, you need to comply with the law in every jurisdiction where your book will be published/sold. And yes, that means if you are distributing to any country via the Internet it means every jurisdiction. However, this is not as onerous as it sounds because most countries are parties to the Berne Convention.

  • I am not a University student but I am writing a book and I would like to quote some text verbatim. What does the Berne Convention say specifically about quoted certain text? How can I be on the safe side?
    – Lumo5
    Jan 6, 2016 at 8:41
  • Easy, hire a lawyer
    – Dale M
    Jan 6, 2016 at 11:09

I don't think there is any legal requirement to cite any of it at all.

In most situations, content that you'd cite in your own work probably constitutes fair use. Any citation would be purely for the benefit of your readers and/or to maintain a level of good will or professionalism with the original author.

Of course you may be violating any agreements you've made not to use that material without proper citation, but in such cases the requirements for citation would be specific to the agreements which stipulated them.

Also, this probably works differently for trademarks.

Finally, consider the source. Even if you're in the right, a large publisher can sue you into financial ruin for slighting them.

Practically speaking, if you are at all concerned, you should contact the original author and/or publisher and ask them how they prefer you cite them in your work. They may ask you to agree to some terms or pay some fees or something, in which case it's up to you to decide how to proceed. They may happily respond with their preferences. They may not respond at all. They may say you can't cite them. Etc.

If you are less concerned, simply use any of a variety of standard citation styles. Some popular options are APA, MLA and Chicago. Plug your information in at the citation machine, for instance, and go with that. Just remain consistent.

  • Fair use is a US concept. Fair dealing, the corresponding UK concept, is far more restrictive. Other countries are free to define their own rules surrounding this kind of thing. Copyright law is hard!
    – phoog
    Jan 5, 2016 at 19:08

The problem in quoting arises when you quote enough of another's work to reduce the worth of that other work. So, quoting a few sentences from a thick book is unlikely to be a problem, unless you are quoting something so extremely important and unique that it is the reason that a person might buy that thick book. Also, academic reviews are treated leniently. (I am not a lawyer but I am an author.)

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