Dick Cavett’s great piece in the New York Times.
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When does an homage become just plain stealing a brilliant idea?
I have a few lines of dialouge in my script that not-too-gently paraphrase Bogart and Rains.
While not the classic, “Louis, I think this is the beginning…” it is still one that any reader worth their salt should know: “Waters? What waters? We’re in the desert. / I was. misinformed.
What is acceptable use? Does including this cross the boundaries of copyright (presuming it exists after 70 years)?
The characters involved have the same Rick/Renault relationship and I feel it would be a nice nod to a classic to include this but am troubled that it would make me look like a hack.
Well, well, well. What a excellent question there, Simon. Since I did precisely the same thing in the script I’m working on, I guess it must be okay to do. I did it almost exactly the same way you did, with the same few lines from CASABLANCA. Wow. Small world.
Several thoughts spring to mind. If both you and I are using that line, how many other writers are doing the same thing, giving their readers pause? Hmmm. I recall one of my students, when I asked him how he wrote such fantastic dialogue, he said, “Because when I read it, if it sounds like something I’ve already heard, I rewrite it.”
Sort of makes me want to rethink that bit in my script, no matter how much I like it. It sounds like something else, so I may need to work harder and come up with something out of my own tiny pea brain.
But, to answer your original question, I think it’s all right to do. it’s clear that it’s from the other movie, you’re not trying to pass that stuff off as your own. But, hey, I’m not an attorney. I could be way off base.
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