Sony Sued Over William Faulkner Quote in 'Midnight in Paris'

May 20: "Midnight in Paris"
Roger Arpajou/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams star in Woody Allen's latest, which is far from the only specialty offering in May. The month is chock o' block with indie titles, raising the possibility that they'll cannibalize one another.

Sony Pictures Classics and a group of unnamed movie exhibitors have been sued by the owners of the rights to the literary works of the late William Faulkner because a quote from one of his books was used by Woody Allen in the hit 2011 movie Midnight In Paris.

Read the Complaint Here 

The copyright infringement suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Mississippi claims Sony and others did not seek permission to use a quote spoken in the movie by Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson). The dialogue describes his experiences with the line, “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.”

PHOTOS: The Making of Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris'

The quote, notes the suit, is from a passage in Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun, which reads: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

The suit charges: “The use of the infringing quote and of William Faulkner’s name in the infringing film is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film's viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”

The suit, filed by Faulkner Literary Rights LLC, asks for “damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees.”

In a statement, a representative for the studio said: “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.”


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