Sony Pictures Classics, the distributors for Midnight In Paris, has officially responded to the case brought about by William Faulkner‘s estate – and they’ve asked for it to be dismissed outright.
Earlier this year, William Faulner’s estate brought suit against Sony Picture Classics over the use of one line of dialogue in Woody Allen’s 2011 film ‘Midnight In Paris‘. The suit claimed that the film did not rightly license the use of that line. Most commentators have called the suit frivolous – and we covered the details back in October.
Sony’s lawyers have made the case that the line – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” – and the context qualifies as ‘fair use’. They point out that it has been used by many others, including President Barrack Obama and alternative rock band Ben Folds Five.
Sony’s lawyers lays out the case:
The film’s protagonist is on vacation in Paris with his fiancée and travels back in time to spend his evenings with great artists of the early 20th Century—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein. When hetries to explain what is happening to his incredulous fiancée, the protagonist paraphrases a nine-word quote from William Faulkner, expressly attributed to Mr.Faulkner on-screen, and to great comic effect.
The heart of their defense – the ‘fair use’ argument:
As a matter of law, the use of a nine-word quotation from a full-length novel is a ‘de minimis’ use and not copyright infringement at all. Moreover, the use at issuepresents a classic case of “fair use,” a critical doctrine fostering creative and artistic expression, journalism, and scholarship. Plaintiff’s extreme—and absurd—positionin this case is that it is unlawful to even minimally quote Mr. Faulkner’s work without its consent. Such a holding would be contrary to the very purpose of the Copyright Act, and other laws.
They also call upon other factors, including nonexistent damages to the market of Faulkner’s works, and miniscule amount of quoted material.
Also from Sony’s lawyers:
Plaintiff’s extreme — and absurd — position in this case is that it is unlawful to even minimally quote Mr. Faulkner’s work without consent. Such a holding would be contrary to the very purpose of the Copyright Act, and other laws.
We now wait to see how the judge will respond. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lee Caplin, who runs the Faulkner estate, was expecting this and still intends to pursue to the suit. Find his quotes at their article.
Full documents from Sony Pictures Classic’s lawyers are here.
As an aside, Ben Folds Five‘s ‘Smoke‘, which also quotes Faulkner, is wonderful. Check it out below.