IT WAS back in June when we posted our last article about Yoko Ono’s litigation against the producers of Expelled, Ben Stein’s bizarre documentary. Ono’s suit alleged that the film used copyrighted work without permission — John Lennon’s “Imagine” — Yoko Ono Will Appeal “Expelled” Ruling.
Now there’s some news to report: Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project Announces That Yoko Ono and EMI Records Have Withdrawn All Claims Against Premise Media. It’s a press release, so (with bold added for emphasis) we shall excerpt freely:
The Fair Use Project of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society today [O7 October 2008] announced that Yoko Ono and EMI Records have withdrawn all claims filed against Premise Media. The dismissal follows failed attempts by Yoko Ono in federal court and EMI Records in state court to enjoin Premise Media’s documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” because it uses a 15-second clip of a John Lennon song.
“Expelled,” which was released in the United States on April 18, 2008, on more than 1000 theater screens nationwide, explores whether proponents of intelligent design are being discriminated against unfairly in academia and beyond. The film uses a 15-second clip from John Lennon’s song “Imagine” to criticize both the song and the anti-religious message some interpret it to convey—that the world might be a better place without religion.
EMI Records, along with Capitol Records, filed a dismissal yesterday following an August 13, 2008 decision by the New York Supreme Court that denied EMI and Capitol’s attempt to enjoin the further showing and distribution of “Expelled” based on the claim that the film violated their sound recording rights under New York state law. The court concluded that EMI and Capitol were unlikely to overcome Premise’s fair use defense and that EMI and Capitol therefore failed to demonstrate a probability of success on their infringement claim.
“I’m gratified that the attempts to silence our film were unsuccessful, and we want to thank the Fair Use Project and everyone else who worked so hard to preserve our free speech rights, and by extension the free speech rights of all documentary filmmakers,” said Logan Craft, chairman and executive producer of Premise Media.
We don’t think Yoko Ono was trying to silence the film, only to block its distribution until the producers removed that 15-second clip, which they used without permission. But that doesn’t matter now.
One final excerpt from the press release:
The Fair Use Project represented Premise Media and the other defendants in the case pro bono, along with the national law firm Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.
So there you are. The alleged copyright infringement is now a non-issue.
As an amusing footnote, back in July we posted ‘Expelled’ to Be Re-Released? in which we quoted — and laughed at — a story that said:
“We had many individuals and groups who had planned to see the film, but decided not to because the cloud of doubt this lawsuit brought to the film,” noted one of the film’s producers, John Sullivan.
The film seems to have been a box office failure, but we don’t think that was Yoko Ono’s fault. It’s most unlikely that even one potential ticket-buyer was discouraged from seeing the film because Ono’s litigation was pending.
Anyway, we assume we’ve now heard the last of this sad imbroglio involving Yoko Ono, Ben Stein, and the strange documentary that briefly caused their paths to intersect.