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Old April 8th, 2004, 07:05 AM   #1
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Is history copyrighted

In watching the movie "The Conspiracy Theory" with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, One scene has dialog that says "well John Hinckley shot President Reagan". That statement in dialog was correct. It told the actual truth about what John Hinckley did. Now, forgetting about any laws that prevent prisoners from proffiting etc etc, In speaking of someone historically, that is alive, is there a copyright issue using the persons name?

Tough question, thansk for any help.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 07:58 AM   #2
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Go watch CNN for about 15 minutes, and then ask yourself the same question.

Just fun above.

A very good friend of mine is within the judiciary, and he gnashes his teeth when he hears of over zealous attacks on a person's freedom of expression or freedom of speech. I strongly agree with him.
To your query, I think that only the most obnoxious stakeholders would bring forth such an action against such a fundamental part of our collective existance.
Up here in Canada, we have become known for our tolerence and liberalism. Notwithstanding our financial policy, but that is another matter. Your question is excellent, and one that I am sure is tested regularly in many jurisdictions.
I just hope not here any time soon.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 08:05 AM   #3
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No.

A person's name is not a creative work, nor is it fixed to a tangible medium. In fact, the person didn't even create their name, their parents did!
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Old April 8th, 2004, 09:13 AM   #4
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Referring to historical events is fine. Telling a person's personal history is where you may get in to trouble. Fine line... best to get the person's release to tell their life story.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 09:18 AM   #5
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Do you think John Hinckley was paid anything / signed a release? Again removing any laws about prisoners proffiting from their crime. This was a fiction production created for the entertainment industry and profit, we must remember News is exempt from most photo and information copyright.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 12:10 PM   #6
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As Dan indicated, names cannot be protected by copyright. There are, however, other considerations. One is right-of-publicity -- laws in many jurisdictions preclude the commercial appropriation of name and/or likeness. In California, the statute even extends to dead celebrities. The other is defamation. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to get rights from a person.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 02:17 PM   #7
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Would that be necessary in this case? The statement is a true fact of history. I can see getting in trouble if the statement was not positively proven, perhaps even in the case of Oswald? Of course there you have a government commission stating it is true.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 05:15 PM   #8
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but this is not just a name, it is instantly attatched to a single individual, I would think it is not like using Bob Smith, that could be anybody, but "John Hinckley who shot President Reagan" is a distinct individual, pointing to only one person on earth.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 05:32 PM   #9
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Especially when you're talking about historic events or famous people, as long as you're not being defamatory, using their image, or taking anyone's original expression, you are usually safe. There are unauthorized biographies all the time. Public figures have a fairly low level of privacy protection unless outright falsehood is involved (remember the movie the People v. Larry Flint, about the Hustler v. Falwell case?)

If you stand to make a lot of money, you could attract attention theoretically, in which case you might have trouble on your hands (even if nothing more than a nuisance). So if a lot of money is at stake always get specific legal advice because there are always variables.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 05:57 PM   #10
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Yes, that makes a lot of sense, The grocery store rack mags only seem to get in trouble when they completely falsify a story. The statement in the movie was placed as a fact of history, "John Hinckley shot President Reagan", I am very comfortable with that. I believe ESPN is trying to come out with a Dale Earnhardt movie without cooperation of the family.


Now, Not to stir the pot, that is not my attempt. This topic actually involves work in process for me. What about using Governments, all ficticious names. Rambo did it, Many movies about the presidency did it. Let say you wanted to create a plot about an overseas government coverup, say neverneverland, I have never heard of a government suit??
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Old April 8th, 2004, 08:35 PM   #11
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Not sure what you're talking about actually. :) Do you mean a movie about a corrupt fictional government? Why do you think there'd be any problem at all?

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Old April 8th, 2004, 10:38 PM   #12
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Anyway seriously governments can't sue you for defamation, at least not in the US. The US also cannot claim copyright on any original government works (though I believe they can own copyrights on works created by others - Paul can correct me if I'm wrong).

So making up stories about governments, yeah that's pretty much the epitome of first amendment protection, at least for dramatic purposes anyway.
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Old April 9th, 2004, 12:13 AM   #13
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Follow the money!
lol.. So in this regard, the government is working for the money lenders and banks, the IMF, the FEDS, etc., all private companies :) Never saw a good documentary on that> following the money chain way up; you know way past Bill Gates into bigboy/Rothchild territory...bah on the other hand best to live a longer life 'cause doing a project like that would shorten it! No on camera interviews there just black window tint.
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Old April 9th, 2004, 06:32 AM   #14
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This discussion needs to stay on topic. If you're wondering where your posts went, please refer to the DV Info FAQ and the prohibition of discussions about politics and religion. Thank you for your cooperation
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Old April 9th, 2004, 07:25 AM   #15
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I should not have used a ficticious government in my discussion because in my work it will not be ficticious. I want to use an actual overseas government / nation.

And thanks everyone for their input, It's amazing how much of ones thought process has to grind away at liability.
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