The company that looks after the legacy of author William Faulkner, who died in 1962, is suing Sony Pictures Classics. over a quote used in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight In Paris.
The suit rests on one line of dialogue, spoken by Owen Wilson, in the 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.
Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC, is the party seeking damages against Sony, claiming they did not seek permission to quote the author. The quote in question is taken from Faulkner’s 1950 book ‘Requiem For A Nun‘.
The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
The suit hangs on these 9 words. The suit details:
The use of the infringing quote and of William Faulkner’s name in the infringing film is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.
The suit is demanding:
Damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees.
Sony responded to EW with the following comment.
This is a frivolous lawsuit and we are confident we will prevail in defending it. There is no question this brief reference (10 words) to a quote from a public speech Faulkner gave constitutes fair use and any claim to the contrary is without merit.
The general tone from news sources seems to agree with the frivolous nature of the suit. We hope that this story will come and go quite quickly. ‘Midnight In Paris‘ is Woody Allen’s most successful film to date, and there’s a lot of money to have a share of, if you can conjure up a law suit.