Taking Liberties With Quotations

How far can a quotation be mangled with … ellipses, [added words], and other trickery before the law gets interested?

Here’s a small hypothetical:

Slimeball Studios releases a real stinker. Evening World is such a complete piece of shit nobody will give it a glowing quote, even the known whores. Of course, they need something for ad copy, so they find an Ebert review that goes something like this:

“This movie is completely uninspired, insipid, and moronic. A friend was lucky enough not to see it, but it’s my job to watch the dreck Slimeball produces. Nothing could induce me to see this again.”

The ad copy reads:

“*nspired … A friend was lucky enough … to see it [and he loved it]. Nothing could induce me [not] to see this again.”

If Slimeball keeps the attribution, essentially shoving those words in Ebert’s mouth, can Ebert take legal action? Can he take civil action?

Compare the original example with the rewritten example. Is the intent the same? Do both convey the same message? Meaning?

You have your answer.

Which answers nothing.

Is it actionable, in civil or criminal court?

We both know it’s immoral. Not all immoral things are actionable.

Your example, Derleth is a bit extreme as it dropped even the Un in Uninspired. Clearly that would be actionable against the movie studio, the producers of the film, the copy-writer and ad company.

Much faster than the outcome of any court actions would be all the publicity and replays of the reviewer reading his original review. What little credibility the producer/director/the movie had would be lost. Nobody’s (well almost nobody) is going to see a movie so bad they had to spin-doctor the reviews.

Normally they’d just opt for quick sound bites: “Hilarious!”, “Stunning!”, “Broad…Cinematic!”

Original: I laughed out loud at lines the director clearly meant to be spoken in earnest. I cried when I realized that was two hours of my life I’d never get back!

Ad: “I laughed…I cried!”

Maybe this would be better off in its own thread, but I thought the use of brackets ( […] ) meant that you were paraphrasing, not actually remaking the sentence. In your example, you actually changed words to make the sentence mean something completely different. My understanding of the brackets was that you were saying essentially the same thing, just usually with less words.

Or, it was also used to refer to something previously unmentioned when a quote was taken out of context. Like, if I was reading a piece on the Two Towers, and a quote from an actor was used, it might look something like this:

“He [Peter Jackson] is a master director…”