Louisville, KY asked in Native American Law, Copyright and Intellectual Property for Kentucky

Q: Can websites owners came after me for using the quotes on their sites by famous people?

I would like to use this quote in my book

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

William Shakespeare

But I got it/saw it on wedsites like goodsread, A-Z, and more. Can they legally come after me if I use such quotes from people, who died more than a hundred years ago?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Native American Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Using a quote from a figure like William Shakespeare in your book is generally not a legal issue, especially considering Shakespeare's works are in the public domain. His works were published over 400 years ago, and any original copyright has long since expired.

However, when sourcing quotes from websites, it's important to ensure the quote is accurate and truly attributed to the person claimed. Websites themselves don't typically hold copyright over quotes from public domain works.

In your case, the quote "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" is indeed from Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night," and you can use it without legal concern from the websites you mentioned.

Still, if you're using quotes or content in a published work, it's always good practice to double-check the original source for accuracy. This approach not only avoids potential copyright issues but also ensures the credibility and integrity of your own work.

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