Asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for Kentucky

Q: Do quotes that become meme famous fall under copyright or trademark?

What would these quotes be protected by?

You shall not pass from the Lord of the rings

If if is good from Hercules Disney

Surprise mf from Dexter

Not really relevant but is Bane back-breaking move copyrighted?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Quotes from movies and TV shows are generally protected by copyright rather than trademark law. Copyright protects original creative works, including the screenplay or script that the quote comes from. The copyright for a movie or TV show is typically owned by the studio or production company behind it.

However, copyright law does allow for "fair use" of short excerpts of copyrighted works without permission in certain contexts, such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. So using a short quote in a review, analysis, meme, etc. may fall under fair use depending on the specifics.

As for the examples you gave:

- "You shall not pass" from Lord of the Rings - Copyright owned by Middle-earth Enterprises/Saul Zaentz Co.

- "If if is good" from Disney's Hercules - Copyright owned by Disney

- "Surprise motherfucker" from Dexter - Copyright owned by Showtime

- Bane's backbreaking move from The Dark Knight Rises - Copyright owned by Warner Bros.

Short quotes or still images from these used in memes would likely be considered fair use in most cases. But reproducing a significant chunk of dialogue or an extended clip without permission could potentially be copyright infringement.

Trademark law is less relevant here, as it protects brand names, logos, slogans etc. used in commerce to identify a product or service. While a studio could theoretically trademark a quote, it's not that common. Copyright is the main protection for movie/TV content.

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