While catching up on my reading, I ran across an article in the December 2013 issue of Entrepreneur. A reader asked about starting a t-shirt business using funny quotes from Facebook and whether he needed to get permission from Facebook. Part of the response was that previously published material could be used as long as credit was given to the author. Wrong! That is copyright infringement plain and simple. Copyright is a very complicated area of the law, and it amazes me the amount of legal advice that is given by non-lawyers. You do not shield yourself from a claim of copyright infringement by merely attributing the phrase to the author. You are merely pointing out the fact that you are knowingly infringing. There are other uses where attribution is enough, but as the title of this post states, it’s complicated.
Here’s an example of the complications of copyright. The William Faulkner estate recently sued Sony Pictures Classics for the use of a phrase from a Faulkner novel in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris (starring Owen Wilson). The character quoted a phrase from one of Faulkner’s works and even pointed out that he was quoting Faulkner. Sony managed to get a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but it took some legal maneuvering and cost a lot of money to get to that point. And the offending phrase was not even one minute of a 90+ minute movie. Putting a published phrase on a t-shirt and giving credit to the author is not a way to prevent a claim for infringement.
With all this talk of something complicated, thankfully there are easy things in life. One such easy thing is this mayonnaise recipe. The recipe is from The Last Appetite, and it’s super easy.
200 ml oil (such as canola) (just shy of 7 oz. – most glass measuring cups have a side marked with ml)
1 egg (don’t separate the yolk – this is supposed to be easy)
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 T lemon juice
Put all ingredients in a mason jar. Blend with your stick blender. Voila! Mayonnaise.