(CN) – In a copyright complaint that tests the limits of “fair use,” Faulkner Literary Rights sued Sony Pictures for a nine-word (mis)quote of William Faulkner in the Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris.”
For more entertainment stories, check out Courthouse News’ Entertainment Law Digest.
In the 2011 film written and directed by (nonparty) Woody Allen, the hero, Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, somehow ends up in Paris in the 1920s, and meets artistic giants such as Hemingway, Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The complaint states: “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.'”
The complaint continues: “The Infringing Quote is taken from a passage in the William Faulkner book ‘Requiem for a Nun’ (‘the Book’), where it reads: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ (‘the Original Quote’).”
Faulkner Literary Rights then points out that Faulkner copyrighted the book in 1951, and that it owns “all right, title and interest in the name, image and likeness of William Faulkner.”
It claims the infringing misquote, and use of Faulkner’s name, are “likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the Infringing Film’s viewers” about the perceived affiliation, connection, sponsorship, origin or approval of the Faulkner association and Sony.
And it claims that “Sony’s actions in distributing the Infringing Film were malicious, fraudulent, deliberate and/or willful.”
It says Sony never asked for permission to create, publish or distribute the film.
It seeks costs, disgorgements of profits, and damages for copyright infringement, Lanham Act violations, and commercial appropriation.
Faulkner Literary Rights is represented in Federal Court in Oxford, Miss., (Faulkner’s home town), by J. Cal Mayo.
(Editor’s Note: Although Courthouse News customarily refrains from commenting upon litigation in the story in which the lawsuit is reported, and at risk of offending the shade, or estate, of Charles Dickens: This is a far, far weirder thing than Sony has ever done.)