Over the years, customers have asked about using copyrighted quotes or poems in funeral programs or booklets or similar materials. On the surface while it may seem harmless, there really are some legal issues surrounding using others’ works, even for personal reasons such as a funeral program.
It’s called the U.S. Copyright Law, which is set of exclusive rights granted to an author or creator of an original work, such as a poem, song, news article, etc.
This copyright allows the author to copy and distribute his or her work as needed; however, it also protects him or her from having others do that. So, if you see a poem online that you just love, you cannot just cut and paste the entire piece to your own work.
However, there is a way around this. It’s called Fair Use. As part of the U.S. Copyright Law, this doctrine allows others to use excerpts of copyrighted material, under certain circumstances, such as noncommercial use.
Funeral programs fall under this category. Fair use allows individuals to copy a poem for non-financial gain if the poem is fewer than 250 words, or if longer, up to 250 words. No more than five poems or excerpts from an anthology of different poets or only three poems or excerpts per poet are allowed at one time.