The Sound & the Fury,|Signifying Nothing

     The people at Faulkner Literary Rights are not keeping up with modern art.
     In fact, considering that their Man Man’s most famous book title ripped off Shakespeare, the folks have a lot of nerve.
     In a ridiculous lawsuit against Sony Pictures, Faulkner Literary Rights claims that Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” maliciously violated copyright and trademark, tried to confuse people and misappropriated Faulkner’s name by having Allen’s main character misquote nine words from a Faulkner book-which the character immediately attributed to Faulkner.
     What’s in a name, Faulkner Literary Rights?
     Press coverage by any other name would smell as sweet. Thou whoreson zed, unnecessary letter!
     The Faulkner quote, from the 1951 novel “Requiem for a Nun,” is: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
     Let’s repeat that quote 27 times now, just to piss off Faulkner Literary Rights.
     In Woody Allen’s movie, the hero Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, is taken to Paris in the 1920s and meets the whole gang of U.S. expatriates and foreign artists, including Hemingway, Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
     According to the federal lawsuit: “In describing his experiences, Pender speaks the following lines (the ‘Infringing Quote’): ‘The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.'”
     That’s it.
     For that, Faulkner Literary Rights filed a federal lawsuit.
     Their attorneys at Mayo Mallette, in Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Miss., seem to have no understanding of the term “fair use.”
     Let me educate them.
     You can’t sue an artist, successfully, for using nine words some other artist used.
     Especially if the second artist attributed them to the first guy.
     Especially if the first guy has been dead for 50 years.
     Nor, for example, could Campbell’s Soup sue Andy Warhol-successfully. It didn’t even try.
     It is quite a reach to claim, as the lawsuit does, that the “infringing quote,” and the attribution to Faulkner, are “likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the Infringing Film’s viewers as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of Sony’s good, services, or commercial activity by William Faulkner and/or his written works.”
     And it is impertinent to claim, as the lawsuit does, that “Sony’s actions in distributing the Infringing Film were malicious, fraudulent, deliberate and/or willful.”
     Let’s take a quick poll here.
     How many people confuse William Faulkner with Woody Allen? Raise your hands.
     Faulkner is the neurotic Jewish comedian, right? In the white suit? No, wait, that was Mordecai Twain.
     Woody Allen is the great Southern Gothic novelist who wrote about schmertz und schmaltz, right? Or wait, that was Count Vlad Tepes.
     I jest.
     “Fair use” is, admittedly, a rather vague term. Black’s Legal Dictionary calls it “a reasonable and limited use of a copyrighted work without the author’s permission, such as quoting from a book in a book review or using parts of it in a parody.”
     My italics.
     Nine words of anything is fair use, Faulkner Literary Rights.
     Including Faulkner’s title, “The Sound and the Fury,” misquoted from MacBeth.
     Including “Absalom! Absalom!”, ripped straight from the Bible.
     Without the fair use doctrine, God could have sued Faulkner for “Absalom, Absalom!” For misappropriation and trademark violations.
     God © is a Registered Trademark, all rights reserved in perpetuity throughout the universe.

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