Not necessarily. There is a copyright myth that you are in a fair use safe harbor if you use fewer than 250 words of a book, fewer than eight bars of a song, or fewer than five seconds of a film. Unfortunately, there is no such automatic fair use safe-harbor
Fair Use Depends on the Circumstances
Each fair use determination looks at all the circumstances of the specific situation. How much you quote is only one part of the fair use analysis. Other important fair use questions include
- how you intend to use the quote;
- whether your use is nonprofit or commercial; and
- whether your use will have any negative economic impact on the copyrighted work.
For example, it may be a fair use to quote fifty words from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in your book offering a literary analysis and comparison of Judy Blume and other popular American writers. In contrast, having a character in your YA novel quote a fifty-word passage from a Harry Potter novel just might get you sued.
More Help on Fair Use of Quotes
For more details on determining what and how you can quote books and other text, see my previous blog posting, “Staying Legal When Using Quotes” or my book, The Permission Seeker’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks, and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions.