UPDATE, 1:45 PM: One day after the rightsholder to the work of William Faulkner filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sony Pictures Classics over a quote used in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight In Paris, the studio responded:
“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.” – Ann Boyd, SVP Global Communications Sony Pictures Entertainment.
PREVIOUSLY, OCT. 25, 4:22 PM: The rights holders to William Faulkner’s work say Sony Pictures Classics had no right to use a quote from the author’s Requiem For A Nun in Woody Allen’s2011 film Midnight In Paris. Faulkner Literary Rights filed suit (read it here) today against the studio in U.S. District Court in Mississippi for copyright infringement, commercial appropriation and violation of the Lanham Act. “Sony’s actions in distributing the Infringing Film were malicious, fraudulent, deliberate and/or willful,” says the six-page complaint. “Sony did not have Faulkner’s consent to appropriate William Faulkner’s name or his works for Sony’s advantage,” it adds. In Midnight In Paris, Gil Pender, the disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, says, “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.” The rightsholder say the slightly paraphrased quote could “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.”
Faulkner Literary Rights have requested a jury trial and is seeking an injunction against Sony Classics. They also want compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees and some of the movie’s profits. Midnight In Paris was Woody Allen’s highest-grossing film ever, bringing in $148.4 million worldwide. Interestingly, Allen, who wrote the script, is not named as a defendant. A sometimes Hollywood screenwriter himself as well as Pulitzer and Noble Prize winner later in life, Faulkner passed away in 1962. J. Cal Mayo Jr, Pope Mallette and Paul Watkins Jr of the Oxford, Miss, firm Mayo Mallette are representing Faulkner Literary Rights.