A representative of William Faulkner’s estate is suing representatives of Woody Allen’s movie project, “Midnight in Paris” over its use of a quote from Mr. Faulkner.

The line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”, is taken from Faulkner’s 1950 novel “Requiem for a Nun”. In the movie “Midnight in Paris”, time-travelling Owen Wilson says “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past.”

Faulkner’s estate is suing for copyright infringement, and is seeking damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees. The defendants are defending the claim, relying on the “fair use” defence. Consistent with the “fair use” claim, it is noted in the article that President Obama paraphrased the quote in a speech during his 2008 campaign.

Faulkner’s executor, Lee Caplin, is quoted as saying that the suit is being brought in order to look out for the fiduciary responsibilities of the Faulkner estate.

We have blogged before on various estates involving literary works. In most cases, the estate trustee(s) will go to great lengths in order to ensure that there is an appropriate financial return on the literary works, while also ensuring that the works are not devalued or cheapened. 

(Paranthetically, I note that Woody Allen did not chose to quote Faulkner’s Guiness Book of World Records record-setting 1,288 word “Longest Sentence in Literature” found in “Absalom, Absalom”, published in 1936.)

“Thank you for reading.”*

Paul Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle

*may be subject to copyright