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The William Faulkner estate took aim at Sony Pictures Classics and the Washington Post last week in separate lawsuits over use of the famous author's words.
The suit against Sony Pictures Classics deals with the 2011 surprise box office hit, Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Midnight In Paris. In the film, Owen Wilson’s character finds himself in the Paris of his dreams. during his narration, Wilson says, “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.”
According to The New York Times, Faulkner Literary Rights says that this was a quote from Faulkner’s 1950 novel Requiem for a Nun. The actual quote is “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The estate filed the suit in Federal District Court in Mississippi, stating that Sony did not receive permission to use the line.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit and we are confident we will prevail in defending it,” Sony said in a statement. “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.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, on Friday, the Faulkner estate took aim at the Washington Post and the Northrop Grumman Corporation over an Independence Day ad that featured a Faulkner quote on freedom from a Harper’s Bazaar piece he wrote. The ad used the line, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
The Faulkner estate is going after commercial speech and claims that the use of the line in the ad would confuse people into connecting Faulkner with the Northrop Grumman Corporation, a military contractor.