Monday, May 12, 2008

Imagine that

I'm from Missouri asks why I haven't commented on the lawsuit Yoko Ono, Sean Ono, and Julian Lennon have brought against the makers of the documentary Expelled, which purports that "theorists" of "Intelligent Design" have unjustifiably been expelled from the conversation regarding evolution and the development of life. I hadn't known of the case until this question. My understanding is that 15 seconds of the song are used in the film. Quite plainly, Ono does not agree with the filmmakers' point of view. Simply to capitalize on the film as soundtrack material that would be attractive to an audience would likely not be fair use, but, if, as seems likely, the song is quoted to criticize its atheism, that use would likely constitute fair use, regardless of whether Ono finds the users' message objectionable. That certainly seems to be the conclusion of the Stanford Fair Use Project, which has taken on the filmmakers' defense in Ono's lawsuit. Their description of the use of the song in the film seems to confirm my own suspicions regarding the legitimacy of the fair use defense in this case:
The clip of Imagine, which is audible for approximately 15 seconds, is used in a segment of the documentary in which the films narrator and author Ben Stein comments on statements made by Myers and others about the place of religion. In the documentary Stein says: Dr. Myers would like you to think that hes being original but hes merely lifting a page out of John Lennons songbook. This is followed by an audio clip of Lennons song Imagine, specifically, the lyrics Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too.

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