I am not an attorney and any comments I post are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a legal expert who is familiar with the area of legal expertise you need.
I saw this story in an e-mail from the Wichita Eagle, Wichita‘s local newspaper – https://www-1.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article231834033.html.
Just assume that because this was a public place copyright lawsuit and you don’t do public place stuff means you are safe.
A common complaint/excuse I hear when people say they don’t worry about copyright is how rare copyright lawsuits are. As noted in the above link,
BMI has filed at least 3,174 copyright cases in federal court since 1972.
In Kansas, BMI has filed 24 cases, dating back to 1990.
It’s worth noting that ignoring a copyright lawsuit is a bad thing to do. While a few defendants have gone this route and had the lawsuits tossed, it’s more likely the courts will rule against the defendants who don’t respond. There are plenty of lawyers and law firms filing copyright lawsuits on a regular basis. Even if a decent number of them get tossed, enough are won to make it imperative that bloggers, vloggers, and other social media users learn the law. That’s not including authors who need to learn about copyright. While trademark isn’t mentioned in the article, it’s something to take into account for all the groups I mentioned in this paragraph.
FYI, someone being dead doesn’t mean that copyright and/or trademark lawsuits won’t come into play. Some of the most copyright lawsuit heavy groups out there are the estates of well-known authors and/or public speakers. My caution to authors is to not assume that a dead celebrity or trademark item is okay to use in your book without doing additional research. There are some trademark items that many people assume have fallen into the “okay to use” category when in fact, they haven’t.