The Digital Media Project


Philip Merrill


TRU #01 to quote





Philip Merrill

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Pasadena, California

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

TRU to quote


Summary description of TRU

Right to reproduce limited portions of another author's work, for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of ways usually involving some attribution. Permission from the original author is not required, however exercise of the quote TRU exposes the quoting author to possible legal challenges.


Use records of TRU

Quoting is a custom going back to the beginning of civilisation. Quotation is a common part of news journalism, political speech and academic critical analysis. Its use is frequent and normal to society. Excerpts of text used in published book reviews are the classic example. The ease of reproducing short strings of text in analogue or spoken media has made reproduction of words the most common use. The application of quote TRU to the sampling of audio and/or visual media is less common, although the use of 30-second clips and computer screenshots is relatively common. Quotation that should be acceptable may be unfairly challenged in court or suppressed by a "chilling effect", for example some academic journals are unwilling to print papers containing two-sentence quotations unless the submitting author can provide written proof of permission to quote. Relatively common misuses of this TRU (or bad faith uses) include those adverse to the truthful communication of the quoted author's meaning, for example quotes used "out-of-context", or adverse to the quoted author's economic exploitation rights, such as "giving away" crucial elements of a plot.


Nature of TRU

Legally supported. Nicely summarised by Professor Sam Ricketson at for example pp. 11-14 on Berne requirement. In particular (on pp. 83-84), Ricketson concludes by addressing the tension between the requirement under Berne and the potential for technological measures that protect digital media to take away this right. U.S. common law, constitutional first amendment and copyright law provisions regarding fair use provide open-ended scope for new applications of this TRU. In general this right is quite extensive and its limits are difficult to define with precision.


Benefits of TRU

Inherently a right of author's quoting other authors' expressions. Because of its interaction with TRU political freedom, all members of society can benefit or be harmed.


Possible digital support

Recommended and optional types of support are summarised under requirements below, especially functionality to support sectional reference. In addition to those, important areas for possible support include:

The scope of copy-and-paste functions for a given digital media item could be predefined by the author, so that copying could be restricted but quoting permitted. For example, such restrictions could isolate sections for which some automatic quotation functionality is suported or else could set a maximum size and/or resolution for the amount of material that could be quoted with automated support. Also, authors could encourage the quotation or promotional use of defined sections.

Richness and social scope (for example, socialising with friends using portable devices) of collaborative interaction with quoted material, including the ability for an author to negotiate permissions possibly tied with compliance to a promotional scheme.

Multiple techniques for reference including exact reproduction of material (including through the "analogue hole" although this raises dangers of infringement), sectional reference only, and sectional reference with the option of richer access to the source of the quoted material (possibly e-commerce enabled). For example, all quoted material could be reproduced on fixed media and alternatively all quoted material could exist only on third-party data servers responding to sectionally defined requests (program calls). It is noteworthy that the ability to link to material quoted or used in a bibliography has been cited as the inspiration for Tim Berners-Lee's creation of HTML.

Declaration by author doing the quoting of the purpose for which the quote is made, the potential for third-party review of the fairness of these statements including by author or author's representative, third-party impartial entity, or peer review among P2P buddies, etc. Although the overhead of such a process could be viewed as a burden for those exercising their right to quote, there might be circumstances under which this was compensated for by increased security from punitive litigation or a driving urge to publish quotation-rich analysis in some area where rightsholders are expected to be prone to sue over their material having been quoted without prior written permission.

Timeframe support for cease-and-desist communications/negotiations between quoter and quoted, including pre-publication and post-publication timeframes.

In the event that reference was made by means of a search string e.g., find the phrase "for two days only" within an e-book it could be important to provide a backup means to located the phrase if the primary means fails.



The ability to quote using a short but meaningful excerpt shall be supported, with attribution provided and without notice to the author quoted. Separately, convenient methods for providing authors being quoted with notice that they are being quoted should be developed and their use encouraged. Quotation without notice is expected to expose the author doing the quoting to legal liability. With no disrespect intended for the political importance of this type of quote, it could be referred to as the "so sue me" method. Because of its importance to political freedom, it shall be possible to publish such quotes anonymously, opening the door to the possibility of wrongful infringement. Within a given circle of digital media consumption, it should be possible to filter or suppress these, especially based on criteria such as assigned ratings or an excessive number emanating from a defined (but anonymous) source. Note that such suppression opens the door to the possibility of wrongful censorship.

Normative issues (not necessarily required) include the preservation of a stable digital media rendering to be quoted; efficient and adequate means of attribution; sectional reference functionality for example chapter-and-verse with text, timecode start-stop with linear audio and audiovisual material, geometrical sections of 2D/3D art, and more challenging references to the state of a multimedia item such as a level and POV in a game (note that these could require preservation of state information such as path or inventory of "weapons collected" etc.); functionality for owners of the same title to enjoy fully rendered references to sections; e-commerce ability to locate and possibly purchase or rent full access to media or else obtain limited access to rendered references.