Considering Changing My Blog to “Pieces of Faulkner: Daily Quotes!”*


UPDATE (7/19/13): U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills has DISMISSED the Faulkner Estate’s lawsuit against Sony Pictures! This is very good news.

The Faulkner Estate’s assault on copyright law’s Fair Use doctrine makes me want to borrow As I Lay Dying from the library (I refuse to buy it) and post a snippet of it on this blog every single day until the lawsuit ends. But I’ll refrain, not because I fear getting sued, but because I can’t stand Faulkner’s convoluted writing.

There were two lawsuits, both filed in October 2012. The case against The Washington Post and Northrop Grumman for use of a fourteen-word Faulkner quote in an advertisement was, at best, a weak case, but it settled.

The other case against Sony for a nine-word paraphrase of a Faulkner quote in Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, is frivolous, as I’ve explained in previous posts. Sony filed its Motion to Dismiss in December, and while we’re waiting for the court’s decision, a trial date has been set: April 7, 2014.

Let’s hope the case gets thrown out before then, preferably on the motion to dismiss or, if not then, on summary judgment (which is filed before trial but after the parties have exchanged documents and taken depositions). We certainly don’t want the Faulkner Estate’s narrow view of Fair Use to prevail. It’s a threat to all of us, as I’ve explained before:

The worst-case scenario, in my opinion, involves some court giving credence to the Faulkner estate’s shockingly narrow and chilling view of copyright law. It is particularly concerning that Faulkner’s lawsuits seek to narrow exceptions to intellectual property rights in a way that could restrict not only the creative work of wealthy “deep pockets,” like Sony, but also “empty pockets,” like authors and bloggers who use short quotes in their works.

In case you’re interested, these are my previous posts about these lawsuits:

When Someone Quotes You, Say “Thank You,” Not “F-You” (Nov. 13, 2012)
“Manners” for Authors: On Being Quoted (and an Update on the Faulkner Lawsuits) (Dec. 10, 2012)
Faulkner’s Literary Estate “Works Hard” (at Staying in the Limelight?) (April 3, 2013)

*I’m not really considering this change.


  1. Isn’t that a Kurt Vonnegut in your caution sign? Do you have to pay royalties for using it, or is a butt-hole licensed under ‘creative commons’ given that we all have one? (Maybe I shouldn’t ask you that… I remember your disclaimer about refraining from giving legal advice via your blog.) 😉

    1. Ha! I could argue a combination of fair use and parody, and I drew it myself (it’s not an exact copy). I don’t think attribution changes anything. Besides, maybe it’s just an asterisk, and not a reference at all! 😉

  2. This issue is scary. It makes no sense to me why short quotes with the proper acknowledgment won’t be allowed. Hopefully reason will prevail as these types of issues make their way through the courts.

    1. Let’s hope that reason prevails! It’s very scary. The Faulkner estate might be going after large corporations, but a weakened fair use exception to copyright law could hurt all of us.

  3. Hopefully the estate does not prevail. How can they go up against such big companies? They can’t possibly meet the legal fees, or are they that wealthy themselves? Do the companies just pay them to go away?

    1. It’s all greed. I think the estate has a fair amount of money (Faulkner’s works are still under copyright and forced upon high school students everywhere, and then the estate keeps finding “treasure troves” of Faulkner documents to auction off). It’s rare for me to take the side of a corporation like Sony, but the literary estate’s activism has the potential to hurt everyone, from authors who use short quotes in their books to bloggers who do the same on their blogs.

  4. Thank goodness you’re not actually making the change! Ugh, ever since you first helped me learn about the Faulkner estate’s ridiculousness I’ve been avoiding his writing quotes like the plague for my Monday posts. It just left a sour taste in my mouth. This will come back to bite them, karma always comes through. I know a lot of the old generation in power hates our disruptive technological age. Maybe the Faulkner estate should watch this video until some of their rabid needs to seek and destroy calm down.

    1. They should watch that video! I’m avoiding Faulkner quotes, in part, because I don’t want to interest people in his work. Quotes are a way of staying relevant, and making people pay a toll to express their admiration of you should make you obsolete.

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