NY judge: Film can use Lennon song.

Yoko’s been brushing up on her ownership and copyright law recently.  She was in court not too long ago fighting over the rights to a film of her late husband at his most candid and private.  The film was shot by her former husband Tony Cox over the course of three days where we get (someday) to see what it was like to be John and Yoko in private. 

Yoko was able to stop the new owners of the film from showing it to the public.  Once that was settled, Yoko moved onto a new court case.  This time she had to fight to stop the use of 15-seconds of John Lennon’s anthem, Imagine.  This time she lost the argument.  Ben Stein and his film production won this round.

I swear, with all of the Beatle related court cases, I need to create a new post tag for Beatles – Court Appearances.

Here’s what we’ve read.

Yoko Ono lost her legal bid Monday to stop the playing of a 15-second excerpt of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” in a film challenging the theory of evolution.

Lennon’s widow had sued the makers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” saying they used the ex-Beatle’s anthem without her permission.

Ono, who had sought a preliminary injunction against the filmmakers before the movie gets a wider release, said she would appeal. The other plaintiffs were Lennon’s sons, Sean and Julian.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein ruled that if the case went to court, the filmmakers would probably win under the fair use doctrine.

“That doctrine provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work for the purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright,” Stein wrote in his decision in Manhattan federal court.

Ono said in a statement, “It is a pity that this decision weakens the rights of all copyright owners.”

The defendants, Premise Media Corp. of Dallas, Rampant Films of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Rocky Mountain Pictures Inc. of Salt Lake City, said they were pleased.

“There were important free-speech issues here _ they were literally asking the judge to censor the film,” said their lawyer, Anthony T. Falzone.

The movie, which opened on U.S. screens in April and is set for release in Canada later this month and on DVD in October, presents a sympathetic view of intelligent design, the theory that the universe is too complex to be explained by evolution alone.

At a hearing last month, Falzone had argued the segment of the song in the film _ “nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too” _ was central to the movie because “it represents the most popular and persuasive embodiment of this viewpoint that the world is better off without religion.”

The film, he said, is “asking if John Lennon was right and it’s concluding he was wrong.”

Ono had countered by saying, “One of the most basic rights I control by reviewing and choosing licenses is the right to say `no.’ The filmmakers simply looted me of the ability to do so.”

The film features Ben Stein (no relation to the judge), an actor and former speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford, defending intelligent design.

Source: Newsday


2 Responses

  1. This actually is unfortunate. They really did undermine the rights of the copyright owners on this one. It’s her decision, and I agree with it.

  2. How unfortunate that after all these years, people still don’t “get it” about imagine.

    “Imagine there’s no heaven, its easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky”…

    Its just too positive for religious fanatics to appreciate. The imagine song is so loved because of its message, accept yourself and your universe as one and the same thing, we’re all in heaven already. The creationist argument is however, pointing a long skinny accusatory finger at itself by bringing attention to imagine no religion with this whole case! The whole point of imagining no religion is so people might be able to foresee a world without beliefs which separate us from each other as human people. The world needs Nutopia more than ever.

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