Wuh oh - Am I in trouble?

For a book of mine, Buried Diamonds, that came out in 2002, I used a famous William Faulkner quote. And at the time, both Faulkner’s estate and I were represented by the literary agency Harold Ober and Associates. (Ober was Faulkner’s agent.)

Well, now that same quote is the subject of a huge lawsuit by Faulkner’s estate against Sony, which made the movie Midnight in Paris.

““Sony did not have Faulkner’s consent to appropriate William Faulkner’s name or his works for Sony’s advantage,” it adds. In Midnight In Paris, Gil Pender, the disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, says, “the past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” The rightsholder say the slightly paraphrased quote could “deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”

Sony considers the lawsuit frivolous. I'm no lawyer, but I will say using a dozen words from a book seem to fall under "fair use."




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This lawsuit just seems silly. I agree: It would seem that using a dozen or fewer words from a book would be considered fair use.
This. I could almost understand if they just claimed the words as their own, but the character attributes it to Faulkner. It's absurd for them to go after the movie for that.
Hmm, seems to me Faulkner's quote was being used as a sort of cultural-icon reference. It doesn't detract from his reputation or interfere with the value of his estate. It's not like they were using the quote to sell potato chips or something. Will be interesting to see how it turns out ...
Personally, I wouldn't want anyone to stick me or my words into an ad in a way that implies I endorse a product, without my consent. But I'm not too offended by the idea of future writers making references to my books or fantasizing about my being able to critique their mss.