Friday, January 30, 2015

Reading Passages of Classic Literature in Movie

Dear Rich: There is a scene in the feature film I am currently making where a character turns on the radio and listens to the host read a small passage from classic literature (something like Romeo and Juliet). Would there be any copyright issues? 
Everything published in the United States before 1923 is in the public domain in the United States. Everything created by authors who died more than 70 years ago is in the public domain in almost every country other than the United States. Thus, classic works of literature like the complete works of William Shakespeare are in the public domain throughout the world (as well as 80,000 Shakespearean illustrations). When a work enters the public domain you are free to use it any way you want without obtaining permission from anyone. This means you are free to read from Romeo and Juliet or any other work of Shakespeare (or any author published before 1923 in the U.S.) in your film. Answered by Stephen Fishman, author of The Public Domain.