I have already asked quite a few questions on this site and they have helped me so so so so so much! Thank you! After my questions were answered, it seemed like my writers block had suddenly vanished... so, yay! I am almost finished with chap. one!

Now to the question.

Okay... in the book I am writing, I wanted to recall a quote from Stephen King's movie It. My main character says something about a Pennywise the Clown wannabe, and the other character retorts with a quote (what Pennywise had said) and walks away.
Is this illegal?... Should I write a letter to Stephen King or... something?...

Answer: UPDATED! As always, I must point out that I am not a lawyer and before publishing a work you or your publisher should get clarity from such an expert.

However, here's my understanding...

I doubt the film you mention is in public domain, so it is most likely fully protected by copyright. The characters may also be trademarked. If you want to quote from it, the best and safest thing to do is get permission from the owner of the rights.

The following steps may help, but are not guaranteed to get you off the hook if the copyright owner decides to enforce his/her rights ...

1. Acknowledge the source. Mention the title of the film, so it's clear what you are quoting and that the line is a quote from the film. If you could include the screenwriter's name, it would be even better. It may take a little creativity to do this smoothly.

2. Make sure the quote is brief. A line or two at most. Definitely not over 300 words (including all similar quotes in your book added together).

3. Don't give away the essence of the work you are quoting. (Admittedly, this would be hard to do, since it would mean providing a quote that would make it unnecessary for the reader to see the film.)

If in doubt, it's usually safer to quote works that are in the public domain - ones whose copyright has expired. But even then, you should acknowledge the source.

On the other hand, don't get too hung up on this. It's usually better to write your story the way that feels right now and then check on the legalities later, when the book is going to be published.

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