Funeral Directors – Beware


Posted by Ryan Throgmartin

I got an email a few weeks ago from someone in the industry who said many funeral homes have received a copyright letter from the legal department of Linda Ellis – author of “The Dash”. The poem is basically about how your life is lived in the “dash” on your grave monument that resides between your birthdate and death date. The “dash” is where the details and story of your life are.

I wish I could post the poem here so you would know what I am talking about, but as you will read below, that wouldn’t be in my best interest! In any case, if you do not know what “The Dash” poem is you can most certainly Google it.

If you do Google “The Dash” you will find a number of different articles talking about the copyright letter being sent out. Basically anyone who has it posted on their website should remove it immediately or you are at risk of a $7,500 fine or higher.

I was able to reach out to my friend Paul Lemasters ( about the copyright letter and what funeral homes should do if they currently have the poem posted on their website. Paul was kind enough to provide this reply:

Any allegation of a copyright infringement is a very serious matter.  It is not difficult for a copyright owner to prove an infringement claim, and for the alleged offender – it can be quite costly to defend.  Anyone who believes that someone has infringed on their copyrighted materials has a right to defend their material.  Keep in mind that just because a writing does not say it is copyrighted doesn’t mean that it’s free to use.  All current writings are automatically protected by copyright laws.  More so, just because you didn’t know doesn’t mean you aren’t liable!  And keep in mind that Federal law allows damages from $750 up to $150,000 per infringement.  So what do you do if you have an allegation against you for copyright infringement?  Do not ignore the letter.  If you ignore it and then later find yourself in a suit it could lead to higher damages.  Contact your lawyer.  I know it seems like more money but you should never settle a matter without legal representation.  Plus, it is quite possible that an attorney could get the amount reduced to a more reasonable amount, if the facts show there was an actual infringement.   Lastly, if the matter cannot be resolved through negotiations, consider contacting your insurance company for coverage; some policies cover infringement claims. 

I guess if you have this poem on your website or anywhere else in your funeral home where (heaven forbid) people might read it then you should probably take it down and never mention it again, or I guess you could spending the remainder of your “dash” fighting it out in court with the author Linda Ellis!