Update on the Ono Law Suit …
As you most certainly know, Yoko Ono and her two sons have sued the producers of Expelled! for their use without permission of the song Imagine by John Lennon.
Well, it appears as though a ruling from the court is imminent. AP is lubing the shoots with a retrospective summary of the suit.
Ono is not asking that the film be pulled, but rather, that the song she controls the rights to not be used.
At a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan this week, the filmmakers’ lawyer, Anthony T. Falzone, said that if the judge granted Ono’s request for an injunction against the film, it would “muzzle” the filmmakers’ free-speech rights.
Falzone said 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.”
He also said the filmmakers did not believe they needed to ask Ono’s permission because they didn’t use enough of the song to violate the copyright.
“Why would you ask somebody for permission to criticize their work?” he asked. “It’s not likely it’s going to be granted.”
Ono 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.”
Dorothy M. Weber, a lawyer for Ono, her sons Sean and Julian Lennon, and EMI Blackwood Music Inc., said the defendants obtained permission for the other songs in the movie – a point the judge noted himself.
I have to say, although I am firmly on Yoko’s side philosophically, I’m not sure what I think about this particular situation. I have not seen the movie, but it is pretty clear that Expelled criticizes Lennon’s perspective, and criticism, parody, etc. seem to be at least somewhat protected. But, I am no thing close to an expert on this stuff, and I await the decision, hoping that somehow Expelled! and its producers get screwed yet free speech is preserved.