Faulkner’s estate sues Sony Pictures Classics over quote

Movie producers didn’t have permission to use quote in “Midnight in Paris”

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." Well, that’s not quite how Owen Wilson quoted the famous William Faulkner line in “Midnight in Paris,” but Faulkner Literary Rights—the famous author’s estate—say it’s close enough. And because film studio Sony Pictures Classics didn’t ask for and receive permission before (mis)quoting the line from Faulkner’s “Requiem for a Nun,” his estate is taking Sony to court.

The Oscar-nominated film centers on a writer who travels back to 1920s Paris. At one point, Wilson’s character says, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past.” Because of that line, Faulkner’s estate is claiming copyright infringement and seeks "damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees," the suit says.

“The use of the infringing quote and of William Faulkner’s name in the infringing film is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film's viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand,” the suit reads.

Sony Pictures called the suit frivolous. “We are confident we will prevail in defending it. There is no question this brief reference (10 words) to a quote from a public speech Faulkner gave constitutes fair use and any claim to the contrary is without merit,” a Sony representative said in a statement.

Read more about this case on CNN.

For more InsideCounsel stories about celebrity copyright and trademark infringement cases, see:

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Contributing Author

Cathleen Flahardy

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