Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Calligrapher Sells Quotes

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17th Century
German calligraphy
Dear Rich: I am a calligrapher. If a client asks me to write a favorite quotation or poem in calligraphy, do I need to get permission? The calligraphy would be done once and not be reproduced. It would likely never be exhibited except in the client's own home or office.  No problem. As we have indicated in previous entries, you're free to use quotations (that is, short statements of one or two sentences). This conclusion is partially based on fair use principles, and partially based on the fact that copyright doesn't protect short phrases or "de minimis" uses. In addition, you don't need to worry about using quotes that were published before 1923 (see this chart for more on that).
FYI Dept. Although typefaces are not protected under copyright law, hand-written lettering (calligraphy) can be protected in some cases. In other words, you may be able to stop those who copy your hand written version of the quotation without your authorization.


BrittReid said...

"...partially based on the fact that copyright doesn't protect short phrases or "de minimis" uses."

The William Faulkner estate is suing several different organizations for each one using single-line quotes from Faulkner's work.

The Dear Rich Staff said...

Thanks ... see our reply for November 7, 2012

AAAndrew said...

I'm assuming that a case that doesn't fall under "de minimis" use (e.g. writing out the full lyrics to a modern song for a bride to put up in her house) would be more of a problem. I would assume as long as it's in her house and for her private use it would never come to anyone's attention and would most likely never be a problem. But, the main issue would be if that client then posted pictures of the full lyrics written out by my on Instagram where it would get attention. Correct?