You know that stupid Ben Stein movie Expelled, that argues in favor of “intelligent design” and chastises the sane for not allowing religious bullshit to be taught in science classes? Apparently, they used the John Lennon song Imagine in the film . . . without permission.
Yoko Ono, one of my all-time favorite feminists, isn’t having any of that shit. The issue came to her attention when bloggers started accusing her of selling out. And so she slapped the filmmakers with a lawsuit.
“Based on the fair use doctrine, news commentators and film documentarians regularly use material in the same way we do,” Premise Media said in a statement. “Unbiased viewers of the film will see that the ‘Imagine’ clip was used as part of a social commentary in the exercise of free speech and freedom of inquiry.”
Ono’s lawsuit claims the producers did not ask for permission either because they knew they couldn’t get it or because they did not want to pay for the rights. It objects to the way “Imagine” is listed in the film’s credits, saying it suggested to members of the news media and others that the song’s use had been approved.
“Internet ‘bloggers’ immediately began accusing Mrs. Lennon of ‘selling out’ by licensing the song to defendants,” says the complaint, filed this week.
The lawsuit calls “Imagine” Lennon’s signature song, saying it “has become closely associated with and is synonymous with John Lennon.”
The complaint, which also names other firms involved with the movie, asks the court to stop the filmmakers from distributing, selling and promoting the movie, and it seeks financial damages. It was filed on behalf of Ono, Lennon’s sons Sean and Julian, and EMI Blackwood Music Inc.
I don’t know enough about the fair use doctrine, and am not going to try to do enough research to pretend that I do, to know whether or not the use of the song applies in this case. But I do know a little bit about the Lennon estate, and I can tell you that Yoko Ono doesn’t fuck around. While I don’t agree with absolutely everything she has done, I do think that she is genuine about protecting Lennon’s work and generally does an amazing job. And I know that she never would have gotten herself or John involved in a movie like this. Though many have claimed that Ono exploits Lennon’s icon status, she rarely sells his music, usually only donating it for charitable purposes. If she has given the rights, you know about it; footage, photographs, and songs are always accompanied by a thank you to Yoko Ono and Lennon’s estate. She has his image and name copyrighted. And as Paul McCartney can tell you, she’s not afraid to sue anyone who she feels is denigrating Lennon’s legacy. So a person who uses Lennon’s music without getting permission first is a total moron just begging to be taken to court.
One could argue that she’s just giving these asshats more publicity, but seeing as how the movie already has a ton and is doing better than expected at the box office, I say go for it. I’m guessing that some will find reasons to talk shit about her over this. I also know that due to misogyny and racism, she is already one of the most reviled figures in musical history, and her very name is used as an insult against any uppity woman who feels that she is an equal to her boyfriend/husband’s friends. So I’m sure that she can take Ben Stein (and hopefully, Ben Stein’s Money).
[I honestly didn’t realize the pun in the title until well after I came up with it, as those words were my initial reaction to the story. Then, fascinated with the horrible lameness of my subconscious wit, I just couldn’t bring myself to change it. You may now commence the embarrassed shaking of your heads.]