I want to publish a funny celebrity quote on my book cover. Can I legally do this?
The answer lies in the context the quote is used. If you’re trying to make a quotation look like an endorsement, you can’t use it unless the celebrity has truly read your book, and has agreed to endorse it.
However, if you’re using a casual, funny quote to make readers laugh, or to educate them about the general topic of your book, that’s fine.
Here are some examples –
You can’t use these quotes on your cover because, obviously, these people are not talking about YOUR book:
“It’s a very good historical book about history.”
– Dan Quayle
“With this book, I truly hope to reach everyone that I don’t bump into on the street and share my story.”
– Teri Hatcher
If you wrote a book on, say, writing or publishing, you could include the quotes below because they are obviously NOT about YOUR book:
“The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book – it makes a very poor doorstop.”
– Alfred Hitchcock
“A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.”
– Brendan Francis Behan
(Yeah, I was lucky to find that one for this Q&A, wasn’t I?)
Likewise, if your book is about, say, cats, you can include funny quotes like this:
“The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.”
– Paula Poundstone
“Cats always seem so very wise, when staring with their half-closed eyes. Can they be thinking, ‘I’ll be nice, and maybe she will feed me twice?'”
– Bette Midler
Or, if your book is about, say, quitting smoking, you could include this quote in/on it:
“Everybody smokes! Models, actresses, everyone! Don’t they realize that it’s gross? I understand it’s an addiction, but it still pains me to see my friends do it.”
– Kirsten Dunst
Celebrities are extensively quoted. There are even books of famous quotations and websites featuring celebrity quotes. As long as you’re not misusing the quote, or stealing somebody else’s original material and using it as your own (you must give credit to the celebrity), you can quote them. If there is any doubt whatsoever, contact representatives of the celebrity.
By the way, my reference for the quotes above is this great website: http://www.saidwhat.co.uk