Friday, October 26, 2012

Worst lawsuit of the week

Faulkner estate sues over the line in a Woody Allen film, “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.”  (I would have taken this as a parodic reference to Allen's own persona, myself.)  The quote itself reads: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  The story says this is a copyright complaint, but quotes an assertion of confusion; the complaint itself claims both copyright infringement and a violation of the Lanham Act (along with something called "commercial appropriation"), but I'm torn as to which claim is more fee-worthy for defendants.

ETA: here's the complaint until RECAP goes live.  Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC v. Sony Pictures.


GK said...

If they're suing over everyone who uses that quote, those lawyers are going to be awfully, awfully busy.

Francisco said...

If you have a copy of the filing please share it.

Rebecca Tushnet said...

Edited to add the complaint.

Dan said...

Even if as short a phrase as that were subject to copyright protection, isn't there a provision of fair use for the purpose of commentary and criticism, which would seem to apply to the movie in question given that its whole premise was to comment on the particular group of authors and artists who hung out in Paris in the 1920s?

And, on another topic, the CAPTCHAs are getting more annoying all the time... now one of the "two words" I have to type in is an image of some illegible blob.

Rebecca Tushnet said...

I would hope we'd go straight to "not infringing, too short," but unfortunately I fear a court would instead go through a more extended fair use analysis, which should of course still favor Sony. And it should even if the movie wasn't about that era!

I feel your pain on the CAPTCHAs, believe me.

Anonymous said...

Rule 11 Sanctions.
P L E A S E ! ! !

Attribution was given.
What more could you want!

newamsterdam said...

Rule 11. Agreed.
It's not a literal taking.
If you want to get into it, any fair use analysis would clearly identify the NOT word-for-word taking, the minuscule role in the entire Woody work, and entirely transformative use. Attorneys for plaintiff should be ashamed! What a waste of time and money.
RULE 11 and threaten to take away their license.