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TV Tropes takes copyright seriously. People copyright things because they want to make their living from the creative process that made the thing. We are all about creativity. TV Tropes also takes plagiarism seriously. Regardless of whether something is copyrighted, copying it and passing it off as your own work is not okay.

In order to talk about creativity we sometimes want to show a part of the thing created. That is cool. It is called Fair Use. In order to make the use fair, we have to follow some rules. The big ones that make the rest of the little ones easy to remember are:

  • You can only show an excerpt, not the whole thing.
  • You must give credit to the original creator.

As a reminder, all content you contribute is licensed to TV Tropes. Details of our contribution license may be found in Welcome to TV Tropes. You commit copyright infringement when you contribute content that you do not have the rights to, except as discussed below. You commit plagiarism when you copy someone else's work without crediting them, regardless of how the content is licensed.

Note: This policy is about copyright and plagiarism in general. For information about TV Tropes' obligations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, click 'DMCA Notice' in the site footer. For information about TV Tropes' usage license, which is distinct from our contribution license, see Welcome to TV Tropes.


Copying text from other websites or publications and pasting it into wiki articles is plagiarism and may also be copyright infringement. If you do this, you will be banned and your work deleted. That said, there are ways to copy text legally within the bounds of Fair Use. All of the criteria listed must be satisfied:

  • The text is clearly marked as a quotation or excerpt. Use quote indentation (->) or quotation marks (") to distinguish it.
    • On the forums, [quoteblock] markup may be used as well.
  • The quotation or excerpt is used for illustrative purposes and does not constitute the entirety of an example or article description.
  • The quotation or excerpt is brief and only uses as much of the original content as necessary.
  • If it is not clear from context where the quote or excerpt comes from, it is attributed to its source. (We do not require bibliographic citations, but at least say where you got it.)
    • In a work or creator article, it is assumed that quotes and excerpts are from that work or creator. If not, you must provide a source.
    • In a Useful Notes article, all quotes and excerpts should be attributed.
    • Use appropriate judgment in other cases.

The simplest way to attribute a quotation is to pothole it to the source. The source can be a wiki article (for quotes taken from a work or creator) or an external link. For excerpts or long-form quotes, add an attribution line with a suitable link. Example:

In the good ending, you're a virtuous flower child with love and a smile for all the shiny-coated beasts of God's kingdom, and in the bad ending you're some kind of hybrid of Hitler and Skeletor whose very piss is pure liquid malevolence.
Zero Punctuation (Bioshock)

Even if the text is not copyrighted, has a license that permits copying, or is in the public domain, you should follow these rules. We want original writing on TV Tropes, not something you cribbed from someone else.

TV Tropes may occasionally reproduce original, copyrighted content under written license. You may not negotiate for rights on behalf of the wiki unless authorized to by a moderator or administrator. Content reproduced in this manner must be attributed and may not be altered.

Copying your own writing (self-plagiarism)

So-called "self-plagiarism" occurs when you write something on a website that accepts contributions, such as TV Tropes, and then write exactly the same content for another site, like Wikipedia. You have the right to do this, but these sites do not have the rights to carry identical content and may be accused of plagiarizing each other.

Specifically, while you retain the license to anything you contribute to TV Tropes, TV Tropes also gets a license to that content. It is attributed to this wiki. So if an identical copy shows up on another site (without attribution), that site may be plagiarizing TV Tropes, or vice-versa.

This is especially problematic if the sites' content licenses are not compatible. TV Tropes has a "share-alike" clause in its content license, so you may not reproduce our content on Fandom, which does not have such a clause in its license.

A similar situation may occur if you write unlicensed content, such as a fanfic, then reproduce it on TV Tropes without following the above rules (attribution, excerpt only, etc.). This is not permitted. Do not copy your own work on TV Tropes.

Summaries and synopses

Summaries and synopses are especially frequent targets of plagiarism. DO NOT, under any circumstances, copy the synopsis of a work, work episode, character, actor, media company, or any other subject from another site and use it as the description of that subject on TV Tropes, even if you wrote it yourself.

Images and Videos

Simple guidelines for the use of images and videos are as follows:

  • We must attribute the image or video to its source. Potholing it to a TV Tropes article is acceptable.
  • We may only use a representative portion of the image or video, not all of it. Specifically, we should only use enough to properly illustrate the concept that it's associated with (e.g. a trope or work).
  • Permission must be sought if an entire work, especially in the case of a single-panel comic or an artwork on a site like DeviantArt, is being considered for use on the wiki. Only an affirmative from the creator will be accepted; until they respond, the answer is assumed to be "no". The sole exceptions to this, outside of works in the public domain, are comics from xkcd and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, as their creators have allowed us to freely use their comics as page images as needed.
  • We may not use images or videos with watermarks. We may under certain circumstances use images and videos with bugs. Regardless, the bug or watermark may not be removed.
  • External links should be to the original or first-party content, not someone's copy of that content, whenever possible.

Copyright symbols

  • If there is a copyright symbol © but no name on the part of work shown, it needs to be made clear that there is more of the work, or it looks like we're claiming the copyright, which would be bad.
  • If there is a copyright symbol © with or without a name, on the work shown, and there isn't any more to that work — a single-panel comic, for example — we can't use it at all. It is not an excerpt. It is the whole thing.
  • If there is a copyright symbol © with or without a name on the work, we can't simply remove it. That wouldn't be honest, or fair. We can show a part of the work that doesn't have the copyright symbol, though, and it is preferable to do so. Just clipping off and showing the part of an image that doesn't have the symbol is not an excerpt.


A watermark is any printing or image deliberately overlaid across the image or video in order to interfere with seeing it completely clearly. It's an anti-theft measure. We can't use it. Period. The artist might provide us with an un-watermarked version, but it's on us to ask for it, and if we don't get it then we need to look somewhere else. Making a copy of the image and then Photoshopping out the watermark is not kosher.

This is a watermarked image: note


TV channels use bugs mostly for marketing purposes rather than as an anti-theft measure. A single screencap from a show is Fair Use, and an image with a bug in the corner is acceptable, although one without it is preferable, because it's prettier. This image has a bug (circled):

That's it

We will honor all reasonable take down requests based on copyright. That is really the entirety of the wiki's obligation. We are not obligated to seek out permissions for excerpt use or to investigate to discover what a creator's copyright policy might be. See our DMCA Notice, linked at the bottom of this page, for more information on making claims.

Hopefully that clears up questions about how and when we can show parts of works. If you see plagiarized text or have questions about the plagiarism policy, post in this thread. If you have further questions about images, post the question in this thread. If you see a page image that you think violates these guidelines, make a thread for it in the Image Pickin' forum. If you see a video example that you think violates these guidelines, post about it in this thread.

For historical and cultural information on these topics, see Copyright and Plagiarism.

Alternative Title(s): Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, Copyright