1 Message


70 Points

Fri, Apr 1, 2022 1:18 PM


Why aren't we violating copyrights when we contribute to the "Quotes" page of films and shows?

The copyright notice of a screenplay I found caught my attention just now. I searched for the screenplay so I could verify and resubmit a declined contribution to the "Quotes" page of a certain film. In standard language with which we're all familiar, the notice says, "© 2012 REPRISAL FILMS LIMITED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PORTION OF THIS SCRIPT MAY BE PERFORMED, PUBLISHED, REPRODUCED, SOLD OR DISTRIBUTED BY ANY MEANS, OR QUOTED OR PUBLISHED IN ANY MEDIUM, INCLUDING ANY WEB SITE, WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT OF REPRISAL FILMS LIMITED." [emphasis added]

That prompted my subject line question: Why aren't we violating copyrights when we contribute to the "Quotes" pages? Does IMDb have some blanket agreement with the entertainment industry, either tacit or official? Or, is it a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or "Look the other way" kind of thing?

38 Messages


488 Points

5 m ago

Well, there are various issues involved. For one thing, IMDb doesn't reproduce the actual written script as it was on the page (with stage directions, etc.); to the extent that IMDb quotes DO include such descriptive comments, they very likely vary from what the actual script included. Second, virtually anyone can use quotations from a movie or TV show in a limited way; think of all the talk shows, comedy acts and other formats in which people casually quote a movie - as long as they're not passing off the quote as something they wrote themselves, and the audience has a general awareness of the source, it's not an issue. (Think of all the fan-produced videos in which movie scenes are reproduced or reimagined.) Third, IMDb does have an informal limit on how many quotes it will list from a movie. I recall a discussion several years ago on the old Contributors Help board in which one of the admins mentioned that they'd reached this decision based on the number of quotes submitted for The Princess Bride; I believe they set an informal limit somewhere between 100 and 150 quotes, as they obviously didn't want to reach a point where the majority of the script was reproduced. Sometimes, of course, that's unavoidable; I'm sure the quotes page for All Is Lost (2013) includes most, if not all, of the spoken content in the film.

A shorter answer would be that, because they don't represent a primary function of the site, IMDb's presentation of quotes likely falls under the legal principle of "fair use". Because IMDb doesn't charge site users for access to content, the purpose is for informational reference/education, and the inclusion of quotes likely doesn't significantly damage the commercial market for the films and published screenplays (perhaps even enhancing them), it's permissible - just as TV shows can include brief clips from movies for purposes of reviews and even comedy.



2.5K Messages


66.8K Points

5 m ago

Fair usage policy