Archive for October, 2013

WOODY ALLEN / REQUIEM FOR A NUN - Copyright infringement?

Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC v. Sony Pictures Classics Inc., et al

‘My dad was a nun..’ said Baldrick. 

‘Don’t be silly…., how could that be?’ said Blackadder. 

‘Because… when the judge said “Profession?”, my dad responded “Nun”‘.  Replied Baldrick!  


This case concerns an ambitious claim by Faulkner Literary Rights against Sony. They claimed that the use of a quote from “Requiem for a Nun”, a book by William Faulkner, in the Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris”, amounted to copyright infringement.

Owen Wilson (the lead character) in Midnight in Paris misquoted Faulkner, and stated that: ‘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.’  This is a variation on the quote in Requiem for a Nun which reads: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

The courts tested for substantial similarity in copyright using both quantitative and qualitative analysis.  The plaintiff relied on the latter and stated that the quote was central to the theme of the book.  The courts rejected this under the established law that copyright protection does not reach to ideas (or concepts), only expression. 

The US District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi ultimately found that the use of the quote was considered de minimis - a trifle which the law does not concern itself with. In short, a snappy line paraphrased and credited to the original author was considered fair use.

The courts went on to add that if anything, the homage paid to William Faulkner in the film would increase the market value of Requiem for a Nun.  The fact that the case was even brought before the courts seemed to irk the judge who questioned ‘How Hollywood’s flattering and artful use of literary allusion’ came to be a point of litigation.

Kester Mather – Intern at New Media Law, 17/10/13

CHINA TIGER REVIVAL - Inaugural dinner


Breaking news: 2 October 2013


New Media Law would like to thank Sir David Tang and Stephen Fry for their most excellent hospitality at China Tang in the Dorchester Hotel last night (1st October 2013) for the inaugural dinner for China Tiger Revival.

China Tiger Revival is a new charity set up by conservationist Li Quan, together with New Media Law partner Ian Penman (who is Chairman and founding director of the charity), with patrons Lord Clement-Jones, Lang Lang, Nick Rhodes and Jackie Chan.

Its primary focus is working with the Chinese government to provide a protected habitat in China for the South China Tiger.  The South China Tiger is an endangered species, but thanks to the efforts of Li Quan, the Tiger is now slowly but surely increasing in numbers.  Li’s groundbreaking work in the re-wilding of the South China Tiger has shown that there is still a glimmer of hope for the survival of the species.

New Media Law is proud to be associated with Li’s work, and with the support of patrons such as Sir David Tang and Stephen Fry, Li will be able to continue her vital work in ensuring that the words of William Blake continue to refer to an existing species that can still be seen by our children in the future.

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder; what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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