I am directing and producing a feature length film. The main character quotes part of a poem (not the entire thing, only a few lines) that I do not believe is in public domain.
You are permitted to quote small amounts, but the question of what constitutes small is not a simple computation which we can provide here. You need to have IP counsel (which you should already have in your field of endeavor) and have such counsel review your plans and say yes or no. If your quotation is too long, and you are committed to its use, you would have to contact the copyright holder and work out some sort of authorization or license.
BTW, if you are working from a script and that quotation is already in the script this issue may already a problem. You should have the script reviewed by counsel as well.
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Copyright includes, at least, the exclusive right to perform a copyrighted work publicly, at least for literary works, so there may be a copyright infringement concern.
However, there may be fair use, first amendment, and deminimis use arguments that can be made.
You should discuss with an intellectual property attorney in a private consultation.
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Using quotes will generally be permitted. This is largely because using what amounts to a very small portion of a much larger body of work will not be considered copyright infringement and short phrases or small groups of words are not protected under copyright law. Now in some cases, especially where the work from which the quote was pulled is widely recognizable (the money part; like the chorus of a very famous song for example) it may be a copyright infringement issue.
That said, some phrases are being employed as trademarks (slogans or taglines) and you need to be careful that whatever you use will not be considered infringing. In most cases, this will probably be obvious but certainly not in all. This is not really relevant to your specific facts.
Further, using the names and likenesses of authors can easily become a publicity and privacy rights issue, especially if it seems that you are playing off of their celebrity and name recognition.
If you need clarification, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Legal, LLC on the basis of this posting.
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