Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Faulkner's estate sues Woody Allen

One of the best films I've seen recently was Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, a whimsical piece in which a frustrated writer finds some sort of portal into the past and carouses with Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein et al. It's very funny indeed. Now, Woody Allen is being sued by the estate of William Faulkner for misappropriating a quote of Faulkner's in the film. The line in question is:
The past is not dead! Actually, it's not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.
It seems pretty innocuous to me. It even gives Faulkner as the source of the quote, although his estate are quibbling that it's actually a misquote. It's all a bit silly. But, worse than that, it seems somewhat menacing. This is what one would usually call fair use, where quotes from an author may be used by others as long as appropriate acknowledgements are made. This blog, for example, would not be possible if I could not quote from literary works. What Faulkner's estate are doing seems ridiculously heavy-handed.


Jeff Riddell said...

How do the concepts of "fiction", poetic license, satire, etc., stand up as a defense in a court of law? Seems strange that the estate of a literary giant would take such an aggressive position against literary principles.

Tom Conoboy said...

Yes, it seems odd to me, Jeff. I think it could end up being a curious - and dangerous - court case.