The producers and distributors of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed have found an unlikely ally in the Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project, which has agreed to represent them in their legal battle with the heirs of former Beatle John Lennon.
Last week, Yoko Ono Lennon, Sean and Julian Lennon and EMI Blackwood Publishing filed a $75,000 copyright and infringement lawsuit against Premise Media and its associated companies, alleging that the makers of Expelled used a fragment of Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” without their permission. The suit also alleges that the association of the song with the anti-evolution polemic damages the reputation of Lennon, his “trademark,” and his heirs.
Premise Media representatives assert their use of the song and its lyrics fell within the “fair use doctrine” of US copyright law, and that they did not need to obtain permission to use “Imagine” in the movie. The filmmakers did obtain permission from other music used in the movie, however.
“The right to quote from copyrighted works in order to criticize them and discuss the views they may represent lies at the heart of the fair use doctrine,” said Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project. “These rights are under attack here, and we plan to defend them.”
Falzone will serve as counsel on the case along with Stanford Law colleagues Julie A. Ahrens and Brandy Karl. The Stanford team will be joined by Roy Hardin and April Terry, partners at the Dallas office of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.
The Lennon heirs’ suit, filed in US District Court in Manhattan April 24, demands that Premise cease using the song in the movie, which would require the existing 35 mm prints be recalled from the more than 1,000 theaters showing the film nationally. It also demands a minimum of $75,000 in damages be paid to Lennon’s heirs.