Freelancer's question: Can I use published quotes?

Freelance UK reader Standerino:

‘I'm currently a first year Journalism student, and have a question regarding using other people's quotes.

Simply, can you do it (legally)? Or is the person who conducts the interview the sole holder of the information?

The reason I ask this question, is because I'm currently writing a football (soccer for the Americans!) match report, and wondered If I can use quotes gathered from others that have interviewed the managers and players i.e. the BBC.’

Answer provided by Roger Sinclair, media lawyer at Egos Ltd, a freelance specialist:

‘It’s a complex question, but in outline:

It seems to me that there are 2 copyrights here – the BBC’s broadcast copyright, and the speaker’s copyright in the words that were broadcast.

Therefore the reproduction / adaptation of the material is prima facie an infringement.

However, where current events are reported, the ‘fair dealings’ defence of s30 should be available.

In one case (Springfield v Thame 1903) a news story about a drowning man of 83 lines was reduced to 18 lines in another newspaper, becoming in effect a restatement of the facts; there was no infringement.

In another (Express v News UK 1990), where one newspaper took from another verbatim quotations attributed to an interviewee running to some 154 words, there was infringement.


Retell the facts in substantially different words – substantially using your own language – summarise, pick out highlights - this is what newspapers have done for a very long time

Keep verbatim quotes to a minimum – so as to keep the ‘fair dealing’ defence open by being able to show that no more than ‘reasonable’ extracts have been reproduced – 10 words from 500 may well not be substantial; 100 may be; 250 probably would be – and note when considering the literary copyright of an individual in his broadcast words, this may well be in relation to the words of the individual contained within the feature, not the total words (including those spoken by others) in the feature as a whole.’

Roger Sinclair, Egos Ltd.


4th January 2007

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