PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Mills basks in limelight of fishy order

Patsy BrumfieldJudge Michael P. Mills has gone viral.

No, he isn’t sick. Something he’s written has spread like wildfire across the Internet. Bloomberg, Huffington Post, New York Times, you name it!

Of course, Judge Mills – the presiding U.S. district judge in the Northern District of Mississippi – deserves most of the credit.

But, hey, I’m gonna take some, too.

If it weren’t for the amazingly interesting story I wrote about his July 18 decision, the story might not have launched so fast.

Here’s what happened: Nobel Laureate William Faulkner’s estate sued Sony because an insignificant Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” contained a line or two referencing Faulkner’s words from “Requieum for a Nun.” The words were that famous phrase that “the past is never dead, it’s not even past” stuff.

So, the estate sues in the Northern District of Mississippi, which I am fortunate enough to watch closely because of my truly delightful job here at the Journal.

When Judge Mills writes a lengthy opinion, I always read it. It’s kind of like when my son clerked at the Mississippi Supreme Court and helped his justice author opinions with phrases from “Monty Python.”

“At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement. In this case, it cannot,” Judge Mills wrote.

In this case, Judge Mills said he watched the Woody Allen movie and read the Faulkner book – “Midnight” and “Requiem.”

He also wrote, with much tongue in his legal cheek, “The court is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare The Sound and the Fury with Sharknado.”

“Sharknado” is a recent television movie about tornadoes that suck up killer sharks from the ocean and fling them upon Los Angeles, with obviously gorey results. The film apparently cost only $1 million to make. “The Sound and the Fury” is a Faulkner classic.

The movie went viral when its viewers began to Tweet lots of hilarious stuff. One viewer/tweeter, actor Matt Damon, may be up for a part in the sequel.

Fortunately for those of us who missed “Sharknado,” it’s set to replay on the SyFy Channel tonight at 6.

IPDuck, a blog describing itself as “devoted to both intellectual property law and the latest humor on the web,” terms Mills’ opinion a “first” published to mention “Sharknado.”

The learned judge, himself an author and noted dinner-circuit speaker, tells me that since his Faulkner opinion and my news story, he continues to get clippings from all over the world and emails to boot.

He insists that some of the messages come from people who think he’s actually serious, although of course he is serious about the bottom line: Lawsuit dismissed.

And so, for now, this lawsuit over a literary past is dead, regardless of what Mr. Faulkner thought about it.

The Faulkner estate had until Aug. 18 to file notice of appeal. It didn’t.

Indeed, the deadline “past.”

Thankfully, SyFy movie re-runs never are.

PATSY R. BRUMFIELD writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or at patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.