October 29, 2012

The past is not dead: Faulkner estate sues Woody Allen


“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.”

Thus spoke the character Gil Pender in Woody Allen’s 2011 film, Midnight in Paris, and now he’s getting sued for it.

Alex Ben Block in the Hollywood Reporter writes that Sony, as the studio that made the film, is being sued by the Faulkner estate.

Faulkner Literary Rights LLC has filed a copyright suit against Sony because Owen Wilson, playing Gil Pender, utters the well known line, made famous in Faulkner’s book Requiem for a Nun.

You can read the full complaint here.

The estate claims that Faulkner’s exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the book and quote was infringed, and that Faulkner’s name and work was appropriated to Sony’s advantage, without permission, amongst other things.

Says Sony,

“This is a frivolous lawsuit and we are confident we will prevail in defending it. 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.”

I would have to agree. To sue over a short quote, especially one so famous, that the film even attributes correctly seems like a waste of time. Not to mention, to introduce Faulkner to a new audience can only be worthwhile. Although I guess it doesn’t fill the coffers of the Faulkner estate.


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.