There are two things in the Beatle world that can be for certain.
- At any given moment, somewhere in the world a Beatles song is playing.
- At any given moment, a member of the Beatles’ clan is embroiled in some kind of lawsuit either with an individual, a company or organization, or among the members themselves.
I say these two statements in good fun, but history has shown us that The Beatles are as famous for their song writing as they are in the courtroom. This time, it’s illegal use of the iconic song, Imagine. The judges involved have promised that it will be a speedy trial. Yoko has been a stalwart protector of john’s music, image, and legacy over the decades. We’ll keep you posted on any trial updates.
In Beatles’ history we’ve had some interesting lawsuits and court cases. Here’s my top five favorite Fab Four court cases:
- The Beatles suing each other.
- George Harrison’s plaigarism suit.
- John Lennon’s deportation hearings.
- Apple vs. Apple
- Paul McCartney’s divorce
What are your “favorite” lawsuits throughout Beatle history?
Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on those famous Beatle legal ranglings.
Here’s what we’ve read.
A judge has promised a fast decision in a lawsuit brought by Yoko Ono to get the song “Imagine” taken out of a movie challenging the concept of Darwinian evolution after a lawyer for the film’s distributors warned the litigation could wreck the movie’s political message.
U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein said he will rule quickly in the case after both sides described the issues surrounding the song and movie in harsh terms during arguments on Monday.
Lawyer Anthony T. Falzone said the movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” was set to open in Canada on June 6 and DVD rights needed to be finalized by the end of May for distribution in October. The movie is still being shown in about 200 theaters in the United States.
He said an adverse ruling by Stein would mean “you have muzzled the speech of my clients” because they would have to replace the song with other images, losing the chance to make the issue important enough that it could even influence the U.S. presidential campaign.
“If you issue that injunction, you trample on these free speech rights and you put a muzzle on them and you do it in a way that stops them from speaking on this political issue leading up to the election,” Falzone said.
If the ruling does not occur fast enough, “it truly jeopardizes the whole Canadian release and DVD date,” the lawyer said.
The judge required EMI Blackwood Music Inc. and the family of John Lennon to post a $20,000 bond by Wednesday, to show they can cover any losses suffered by the film’s producers as a result of the lawsuit.
Ono has accused the movie’s producers of infringing the song’s copyrights by using portions of it without her permission, giving the impression that the Lennon family had authorized it.
Dorothy M. Weber, a lawyer for Ono, Sean Lennon, Julian Lennon and EMI Blackwood Music Inc., said the makers of the movie “took away their right to stay no.”
She said the defendants _ Premise Media Corp. of Dallas, Rampant Films of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Rocky Mountain Pictures Inc. of Salt Lake City _ had obtained authorization for the other songs used in the movie, a point the judge noted himself.
“We are not saying the film should stop being shown,” she said. “We are talking about a small segment of the film we are asking be removed because it violates our clients’ rights.”
The film features Ben Stein challenging Darwinian theories and suggesting life could have originated through intelligent design. About 20 to 30 seconds of the song are played in the movie. Stein is an actor, quiz show host and former speech writer for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He has screened the movie at some state capitals for lawmakers.
Falzone said the portion of the song _ “nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too” _ was central to the movie because “it has the most cultural force … it represents the most popular and persuasive embodiment of this viewpoint that the world is better off without religion.”
He added: “What they are criticizing here, your honor, is they’re saying that happy, naive feeling you get when you hear the song and think about peace and children and play is dangerous, dangerously naive.”
Falzone said the movie suggests “that this absence of religion paves the way for fascism, totalitarianism, Nazism.”
“Really, what the film is doing is, it’s asking if John Lennon was right and it’s concluding he was wrong,” the lawyer said.
He said the movie makers did not believe they needed to ask Ono’s permission to use a portion of the song because it was not the entire song or enough of it to infringe on the copyright.
“Why would you ask somebody for permission to criticize their work?” he asked. “It’s not likely it’s going to be granted.”
Weber acknowledged that there are instances when portions of songs protected by copyrights can be used without the copyright owner’s permission, a legal right known as “fair use.”
But, she said, “fair use is not about destroying the other person’s market. It’s about carving very, very limited exceptions to a copyright proprietor’s monopoly.”