Faulkner Literary Rights LLC, which owns the rights to American author William Faulkner’s works, is suing Sony Pictures Classics alleging that the main character in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris used and misquoted a Faulkner line without permission.
In the film, Gil Pender, 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.”
Faulkner Literary Rights LLC points out that the line is drawn from the 1950 novel Requiem for a Nun; the original reads: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” and that its use in the film constitutes copyright infringement because the filmmakers never asked for permission to use it.
The complaints provides:
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.
Faulkner Literary Rights LLC is seeking “damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees.”
A Sony representative has called the lawsuit “frivolous” and believes that the “fair use” exception to copyright would allow the studio to use a “brief reference (10 words)” to the quote.
Interestingly President Barack Obama, when he was running for president, gave a speech entitled A More Perfect Union, which also referenced but misquoted the Faulkner line. “As William Faulkner once wrote,” then-Senator Obama said, ‘The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.’”
What do you think of the lawsuit against Sony? Who wins?