Van Nuys, CA asked in Copyright, Entertainment / Sports and Intellectual Property for California

Q: Can I show the title and author of book in my short film if i don't' use the cover art?

The film is about a pregnant woman and the camera pans to show some of the pregnancy and parenting books she is reading. The books are not mentioned or quoted, only the titles and authors are shown. The plan is to create our own cover art but use the actual titles and authors.

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In most cases, simply showing the title and author of a book in a film without using the cover art would be considered fair use and not require permission from the copyright holder. This is because you are not reproducing a substantial portion of the copyrighted work.

However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1. Duration: The titles and authors should only be shown briefly. Extended focus on the books could potentially exceed fair use.

2. Context: The books should be used in a way that does not imply endorsement or sponsorship by the authors or publishers.

3. Trademark: Some book titles or series may be trademarked. While this is less common, if a title is trademarked, you would need to be careful not to imply an association with the trademark owner.

4. Defamation: Be sure that the context in which the books are shown does not defame the author or publisher.

As always with copyright and fair use, there are gray areas. If you have any doubts, it's best to consult with a lawyer specializing in intellectual property law. However, in the situation you've described with the books only being shown briefly without the cover art, it is likely to be considered fair use.

Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

Giselle Ayala Mateus
Giselle Ayala Mateus
  • Entertainment & Sports Law Lawyer
  • New York, NY

A: When featuring the title and author of a book in your short film without using the cover art, you need to consider both copyright and trademark law.

1. Copyright Law: Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including literary works such as books. Displaying the title and author's name of a book in your film typically does not infringe on copyright, as these elements are considered factual information rather than creative expression. However, if the book title or author's name is displayed in a distinctive font or design that is original and creative, it may be subject to copyright protection.

2. Trademark Law: Trademark law protects brand names, logos, and slogans used in commerce to identify and distinguish goods or services. Book titles and author names can sometimes be trademarked if they are used in connection with a series of books or associated products. If the book title or author's name is trademarked, your use of it in your film could potentially infringe on the trademark owner's rights, especially if your use causes confusion about the source of the book or implies endorsement.

Considering both copyright and trademark law, here are some factors to consider:

- Fair Use: Your use of the book title and author's name may qualify as fair use under copyright law if it is for purposes such as commentary, criticism, or parody. Fair use is a nuanced legal concept, so consider whether your use falls within the parameters of fair use.

- Likelihood of Confusion: Evaluate whether your use of the book title or author's name is likely to cause confusion with a registered trademark. If there is a risk of confusion, you may need to seek permission from the trademark owner to avoid infringing on their rights.

- Attribution: Providing clear attribution to the book title and author's name can help clarify that you are not attempting to claim ownership of the intellectual property. This can mitigate the risk of copyright or trademark infringement claims.

In summary, while displaying the title and author of a book in your short film without using the cover art is generally permissible under copyright law, it's essential to consider potential trademark issues and ensure that your use does not infringe on the rights of trademark owners. Consulting with a legal expert can provide personalized guidance based on the specific circumstances of your film and the book in question.


Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.