Discovery Institute — Against Property Rights?

BACK WHEN Yoko Ono first sued the producers of Expelled, Ben Stein’s anti-science documentary, over the film’s allegedly improper use of certain copyrighted music and lyrics, a disturbing article caused us to write this:
Is Ben Stein a Communist?

Now, from the pen of Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute (a/k/a the Discoveroids), Lord High Keeper of their Wedge strategy, and the ultimate leader of all cdesign proponentsists (described here: Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”), we read this blog article: Now for a Film about Yoko Ono, Would-Be Censor.

Here are some excerpts, with bold added for Curmudgeonly emphasis:

There are several good news stories on today’s development in the federal court case in which Yoko Ono seeks to prevent further distribution of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein film. And then there is this one from ars technica:

Notice the way the writer feels obliged to abuse free speech—by misrepresenting intelligent design—even as he defends it.

What is Chapman talking about? The article in ars technica is certainly critical of Intelligent Design, saying:

We’ve noted before that intelligent design is not a scientific theory so much as an attempt to create the appearance of controversy using flashy PR tactics. Indeed, the advocates of intelligent design theory have explicitly advocated that schools “teach the controversy,” which gives schoolchildren the mistaken impression that there is widespread controversy regarding the merits of evolution within the academy. Expelled in particular has advanced this narrative by featuring scientists who supposedly faced retaliation for their support of intelligent design.

What’s wrong with that? Where’s the abuse of free speech? It’s pure opinion; and it’s also our opinion. This Discoveroid article gets worse, so stay with us. Chapman continues:

We still do have free speech protections in America, but we also have the right to tie up opponents in tactical lawsuits, which is just what Yoko Ono did at a crucial point in the screening of Expelled. Nonetheless, Expelled has become one of the most-viewed theater-released documentaries ever.

That film has been a money-loser for sure, and it wasn’t Yoko Ono’s litigation “at a crucial point” that kept everyone (or anyone) away from the box office. Chapman’s explaining the film’s failure that way is like saying that the dog ate his homework. The Discoveroids have to face reality — Expelled‘s promoters lost money, the expected surge from their Discoveroid hype failed, and the film bombed. They can’t comfort themselves by claiming that this financial black hole is Yoko Ono’s fault.

As for ranking Expelled among documentaries, that’s like ranking our own humble blog against all others with the word “Curmudgeon” in the title. We’d rank high — which goes to show that if you choose your niche carefully enough you can be a big player — in a little niche. Among Documentaries, which aren’t known for their box-office results, Expelled ranks number 12, below such other socially significant films as Bowling for Columbine and Mad Hot Ballroom. That’s a dismal performance in a usually lackluster field, especially considering that Expelled opened at far more theaters than any other documentary.

Moving along with Chapman’s article:

The spirit of authoritarian censorship is all over the cultural left these days. These were the same people who opposed authority back in the 60s, weren’t they—people like John Lennon and Yoko Ono? “Imagine”!

What’s with that? Chapman’s friends who made Expelled could have avoided litigation with Yoko Ono merely by seeking permission to use Lennon’s music. They chose not to do that, and they took their chances in court. So far it’s worked out for them, but for all the talk of “authoritarian censorship,” let’s remember — the root of it all is that Expelled uses Lennon’s song without permission. When Yoko Ono complained, first Ben Stein and now Chapman squawk as if they were the victims.

If Chapman’s outfit were truly the patriots they want us to think they are, they’d be a bit more scrupulous in observing other people’s property rights. The producers of Expelled got lucky. They used property not their own, without permission, and a compliant judge (or is he a liberal judge?) let them off the hook. Having won this “victory,” they lash out in their blog against what Chapman calls the “spirit of authoritarian censorship” which he complains is “all over the cultural left these days.” Yeah. Censorship.

Who are the leftists in this little drama? Those who tried to defend their property rights, or those who used the property of others without permission?

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2 responses to “Discovery Institute — Against Property Rights?

  1. longshadow

    Well, the judge, compliant or otherwise, didn’t really let them “off the hook,” as the ruling was only with regard to a motion for injunctive relief, not on the merits of the underlying copyright infringement suit, which presumably continues to wend its way through the courts.

    The standard for obtaining injunctive relief is a high one indeed, so the mere fact that it was denied should not be viewed as encouragement for other anti-Evo knuckleheads to filch intellectual property without permission.

  2. Yeah, Mr. Chapman. What’s up with this?

    “We are not quite at the point where there should be a film about the way Expelled itself was attacked, but there is a story there.”

    It’s almost like he’s … disappointed the judge ruled AGAINST the injunction. He and others of the same ilk have now been robbed of their ability to yell “Help! Help! I’m being repressed, I’m being repressed!”.

    Sadly, I have come across this attitude on some other blogs, and try to make sure I respond to it.

    1) Just because someone defends their IP rights does NOT mean they are leftist/rightist/creationist/IDist/Darwinist or any other kind of “ist”.

    2) Yoko Ono filed suit as soon as practicable after she found out that “Imagine” had been used. It was not a “tactic” – she was merely defending her (inherited) rights, and there was no “crucial timing” involved. Once suit is filed, the time frame it plays out in is completely out of her hands.

    I hope Mr. Chapman is not seriously thinking of making that movie. It’d be an even bigger loser than this one.

    But if he did, I’d have one peice of advice for him – wanna avoid lawsuits? Clear your rights for all music, or negotiate a deal with a composer for all new music for the film, or don’t use any music at all.

    That last one worked fine for the makers of “No Country for Old Men”, and although I haven’t looked up the numbers (I’m curious, so now I will), I betcha it made a ton more money than “Expelled”.