Sony asks judge to dismiss copyright infringement suit over ‘Midnight in Paris’

By Pankaj Ladhar

“Midnight in Paris” was Woody Allen’s most successful movie of all time, but at least one entity was not pleased with it — the estate of William Faulkner, which sued Sony Pictures over a quote in the film. The resulting lawsuit is a good chance for Miami readers to understand the doctrine of “fair use”

The nine-word quote Faulkner’s estate alleges was improperly used comes from Faulkner’s 220-page 1954 novel “Requiem for a Nun.” Faulkner’s estate is claiming that Sony Pictures should have asked (and paid) for permission to use the quote. Since it didn’t, Faulkner’s estate believes it infringed on Faulkner’s copyright.

In a response filed last week, Sony asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed. It claims that having a character repeat the quote was fair use, a doctrine in copyright law that allows for a portion of a work to be used in another work.

Usually, fair use of copyrighted material applies when the portion of the work used is small. It has to not impair the right of the copyright holder to benefit economically from the copyrighted work, and no more of the work can be used than is necessary.

So, what do you think? Is using nine words out of a 220-page novel a sufficiently small amount of the work, and do you think it will result in a drop in sales of “Requiem for a Nun”? Lastly, do you think Allen used more of “Requiem for a Nun” than he needed to make his point?

If this case goes any further, those are questions a court is likely to ask. We plan to keep an eye on this case and will bring you any important updates as they arise.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Sony Pictures Asks Judge To Dismiss Lawsuit Over Faulkner Quote In ‘Midnight In Paris,'” Eriq Gardner, Dec. 20, 2012