Is using the portion of a texton the back of a DVD, book, or game box considered fair use?

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2011

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2011Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Is using the portion of a texton the back of a DVD, book, or game box considered fair use?

I am setting up a website that will profile movies, books, and games. The site will generate revenue in part through the sale of the items and related merchandise. Is it okay to take a portion of the text on the back of a DVD, book, or game box to use as a brief (2 to 4 sentences) synopsis? Would this be considered fair use? If not, can I get away with paraphrasing?

Asked on August 29, 2011 North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No, it's not fair use--the fair use exceptions are for scholarship, education, parady, news reporting--not for a commercial venture intended to sell the items.

Of course, nothing stops you from asking the publisher (or other rights owner) for permission to use the text to advertise the material; if they permit, you can do this.

Otherwise, don't paraphrase--rewrite. For example, say you are are considering selling copies of game, where the back box text says, "In a post-apocayptic wasteland, hunt mutant zombie biker gangs--or join them in their hellacious damnation." Don't try to modify that text--just write a straight forward description; e.g. "Did you ever think that hunting mutant zombie bikers after the fall of civilization? Or ever want to be a mutant zombie biker? Then this is the game for you." The reason you don't want to play the paraphrasing game is that copyright also control the right to adapt or modify the original work, so if you clearly modified the original work, you could be violating  copyright.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption