How much do you know about copyright in quotes? Test your muscle against the Yale Law School Top Ten

Now that you’ve considered how and whether you can protect quotes via copyright (thanks to our previous post here), it’s time to take your skills to the next level.

We couldn’t resist letting you know that the Yale Law School has just released its annual list of the most notable quotations of the year. It seems that Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at Yale Law School, is given the task of updating the “Yale Book of Quotations” first published in 2006. Shapiro chooses quotes (which, not surprisingly, have an American theme) on the basis of what they reveal about the spirit of the times.

At a tie for #10, a big nod goes to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke who said: “Under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases.” Thanks to him, the term ‘fiscal cliff’ has entered the vocabulary of every economic commentator wanting to sound earnest, serious, and – yes – very knowledgeable, about, well, economic stuff.

OUR VERDICT** – No copyright in ‘fiscal cliff’ but Ben, you might have just squeaked in with the whole line.

We had to love that PSY has made it into the #9 spot with: “Oppan Gangnam Style”. Our view? A bit short to deserve copyright protection, even if the quality is there.

OUR VERDICT – No copyright.

At number 5 is Barack Obama’s glorious response when challenged by Mitt Romney in one of the pre-election debates: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

OUR VERDICT: Don’t try and plagiarise this one people. Copyright subsists.

And at #1? Don’t pretend to be surprised. You knew it would be this: “There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Perhaps the defining moment of the Romney campaign, it was the copyright moment Mitt Romney wished he never had.

OUR VERDICT: Yes my friend, copyright subsists, but unless you’re planning a T-shirt range soon, we don’t think a court case is imminent.

For the full list, please see Business Insider here.

** Our approach was based on Australian law and, well, pretty loose. Think about it: the copyright owner of a classic Mitt Romney quote will be the person who reduced it to material form (ie. who shot the video) rather than the speaker himself. Although, of course, the candidate may have been talking from written notes. But then again, who wrote those?

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