Judge tosses Faulkner lawsuit

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Daily Journal

OXFORD – The region’s top federal judge doesn’t think too much of a Woody Allen movie including a William Faulkner paraphrase.
Thursday, he also didn’t think too much of a Faulkner estate lawsuit claiming that movie wrongfully used words from the Nobel laureate’s book “Requiem for a Nun.”

“The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, ‘Midnight in Paris,’ read the book, ‘Requiem for a Nun,’ and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare ‘The Sound and the Fury’ with ‘Sharknado,’” writes Chief U.S. District Judge

Michael P. Mills as he dismissed the lawsuit.

At issue in the lawsuit was whether a single line from the Faulkner novel “Requiem,” “singly paraphrased” and attributed to the Oxford icon in the film, constituted copyright infringement.

“In this case, it cannot,” adjudged Mills, himself an author.

In 2012, Faulkner Literary Rights LLC sued Sony Pictures Classics Inc. and unnamed persons or entities over the issue.

Sony did not contest the facts, and Mills said he uses the fair-use factor in tossing the lawsuit.

“It is difficult to fathom that Sony somehow sought some substantial commercial benefit by infringing on copyrighted material for no more than eight seconds in a 90-minute film,” he adds.

A sister lawsuit, filed at the same time in the federal Southern District of Mississippi, sued Northrop Grumman Corp. and The Washington Post Co. for a newspaper ad Grumman sponsored on July 4, 2011.

The ad displayed an unfurled American flag with the Faulkner quote, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”

The Faulkner estate insisted it owned the essay from which the quote came and that Northrop never asked its permission to use it.

That lawsuit was settled and dismissed in December 2012.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com