The sound and the fury of William Faulkner's prose is nothing compared with the din being made by lawyers representing the late writer's estate.

They are suing Woody Allen, the Washington Post and several corporations for allegedly infringing his copyright. A series of claims filed in Mississippi by Faulkner Literary Rights seeks compensation and damages from roughly 100 people and companies who, it claims, have profited from the illegal misappropriation of the Nobel Prize-winning author's oeuvre.

Among the defendants is Allen, whose 2011 film Midnight in Paris is targeted because of a line spoken by Gil Pender, the character played by Owen Wilson. "The past is not dead!" it reads. "Actually, it's not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner."

Faulkner's estate says Allen should have asked permission to use the phrase. It is also peeved he misquotes the writer's original line from 1950 book Requiem for a Nun: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."


Midnight in Paris, for which Allen won a screenwriting Oscar, made US$160 million ($194.8 million).

Faulkner Literary Rights was founded by the writer's daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, after his death in 1962. She died in 2008, and it is now managed by Lee Caplin, a film producer, for the commercial benefit of his descendants.

The estate is suing the Washington Post and defence contractor Northrop Grumman over a full-page ad with the Faulkner quote: "We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practise it."

Caplin's lawyers say it is "commercial appropriation".

- Independent