Yoko Ono sues "Expelled" producers over "Imagine" song
NEW YORK (Reuters) - John Lennon's sons and widow, Yoko Ono, are suing the filmmakers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" for using the song "Imagine" in the documentary without permission.
Lennon recorded the song in 1971 and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 3 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, according to the lawsuit.
Ono, her son Sean Ono Lennon, and Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son from his first marriage, along with privately held publisher EMI Blackwood Music Inc filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking to bar the filmmakers and their distributors from continuing to use "Imagine" in the movie.
They are also seeking unspecified damages.
Another news article reported that Ono complained that bloggers accused her of "selling out" to the "Expelled" producers. An earlier article about the dispute -- published before the announcement of the lawsuit -- is here.
The "Expelled" producers have a good fair-use case against Ono. The film uses under 25 seconds of the song. The Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project says,
STANFORD, Calif., February 27, 2007—The Fair Use Project of the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford Law School announced that it has teamed with Media/Professional Insurance and leading intellectual property attorney Michael Donaldson to provide critical support for documentary filmmakers who rely on the “fair use” of copyrighted material in their films. . . .
“Documentary filmmakers who use copyrighted materials in their work under the ‘fair use’ doctrine of copyright law have come under tremendous pressure in the face of demands for huge licensing fees from copyright holders and overly-aggressive enforcement of copyrights,” explained Lawrence Lessig, founder and director of the Center for Internet and Society and the C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.
“The mere threat of a lawsuit can keep an important film on the shelf for years,” Lessig said. “This has been a tremendous problem for documentarians because their films depend on the inclusion of copyrighted material they seek to comment on, discuss, and contextualize.”
In order to help solve this problem, the Fair Use Project has announced that it will agree to provide pro bono legal representation to certain filmmakers who comply with the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use [see below] published by the Center for Social Media at American University (www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fairuse). Accordingly, the filmmaker will have counsel in place prior to the release of the film should the filmmaker face claims of copyright infringement. Media/Professional, in turn, will provide insurance coverage against copyright infringement liability in the event the filmmaker proves unsuccessful in defending the claim. In situations where the Fair Use Project is not in a position to promise pro bono representation, Donaldson and other leading intellectual property attorneys will be available to defend claims at favorable rates.
Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use says (page 6 of pdf file),
QUOTING COPYRIGHTED WORKS OF POPULAR CULTURE TO ILLUSTRATE AN ARGUMENT OR POINT
DESCRIPTION: Here the concern is with material (again of whatever kind) that is quoted not because it is, in itself, the object of critique but because it aptly illustrates some argument or point that a filmmaker is developing — as clips from fiction films might be used (for example) to demonstrate changing American attitudes toward race.
PRINCIPLE: Once again, this sort of quotation should generally be considered to be fair use. The possibility that the quotes might entertain and engage an audience as well as illustrate a filmmaker’s argument takes nothing away from the fair use claim. Works of popular culture typically have illustrative power, and in analogous situations, writers in print media do not hesitate to use illustrative quotations (both words and images). In documentary filmmaking, such a privileged use will be both subordinate to the larger intellectual and artistic purpose of the documentary and important to its realization. The filmmaker is not presenting the quoted material for its original purpose but harnessing it for a new one. This is an attempt to add significant new value, not a form of “free riding” — the mere exploitation of existing value.
Yoko Ono, despite getting $20 million a year from John Lennon's royalties, is extremely tightfisted about his copyrights. She is also in a dispute over the copyright of a film about John Lennon.
Labels: Yoko Ono lawsuit