I mentioned in last week’s ‘various’ post that the Faulkner estate had sued Sony Pictures Classic for their use of the ‘past...not even past‘ quote from Requiem in last year’s Woody Allen ‘Midnight in Paris’ film. They filed in U.S. District Court in Mississippi and the suit is officially brought by Faulkner Literary Rights. They claim copyright infringement and violation of the Lanham Act (the federal trademark act).
In response, Sony’s sr. vp of global communications, Ann Boyd, said, “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.”
Fair use is fair use, and I think Sony will be successful in that regard.
Well, the Faulkner team has been busy, because on Friday in Jackson, they also sued Northrop Grumman Corp. and The Washington Post on using another quote in a newspaper ad. Two lawsuits in a week, but these are the first lawsuits they have made.
Now this quote in an ad…I think they may have more of a case. In their WaPo ad, Northrup Grumman used this Faulkner quote: “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it”. Because that’s a paid advertisement, I’m guessing that they also want to make certain that no one thinks Faulkner would be associated in such a way with a company that makes money from warcraft like their ‘long-range strike aircraft bomber‘.
In the article the Washington Post ran on the lawsuits, they quoted David Olson, a Boston College law professor who specializes in these issues and thinks the estate is legally over-reaching:
“Commercial use isn’t presumptively unfair,” he said. He said no one watches “Midnight in Paris” as a substitute for buying “Requiem for a Nun.”
“The Faulkner estate’s interest is not being harmed in any way,” Olson said. “If anything it draws a little more interest.”
Olson said the Northrop case may be stronger, but he fears that authors are using copyright to limit the political context in which works are quoted or used.
Above, this is the interior of the building shown above. It’s ‘Faulkner House Books‘ — a very nice little shop where I bought ‘Thinking of Home, Letters to his Mother and Father, 1918-1925‘ in which Faulkner mentions living here; he refers to it as Bill Spratling’s house and that it faces the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral.
The whole time I was in the shop, I was thinking of how fantastic it would be to live here.
Along with Lewis Piper who was in ad sales for the New Orleans Item-Tribune, Faulkner lived in two rooms on the first floor, and had a court and a kitchen. Upstairs was Bill Spratling the painter’s area, and that was where the bathroom was that they used. Bill also made sure they had breakfast thanks to his maid, Eleanora, who cleaned the other rooms while they ate breakfast.
Oh — and Bill Spratling wasn’t only a painter — he was professor of architecture at Tulane (Spratling had studied at Auburn and designed the university seal), he was an illustrator and author and silver designer who went on to move to Mexico and become a friend of Diego Rivera. Later in his life, he received an honorary doctorate from Auburn.