Yoko Ono’s Injunction Against “Expelled” Producers Denied

June 3, 2008 he Fair Use Project of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society today announced that Yoko Ono’s attempt to enjoin Premise Media’s documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” has been denied.

In a ruling issued today, Judge Sidney H. Stein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York rejected Ono’s request. In holding that Premise Media is likely to prevail under copyright’s fair use doctrine, the court recognized that the film used a limited portion of “Imagine” to criticize the song and the views expressed in it, and to make further social commentary. While the lawsuit is still pending, today’s decision helps pave the way for further distribution of the film in theaters and on DVD.

“This case is not just about fair use, it is about free speech,” explained Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and lead counsel on the case. “The right to use portions of copyrighted works in order to criticize them and discuss the views they represent lies at the heart of the fair use doctrine because that right is essential to the free flow of ideas, thoughts, and debate.”

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and his sons Sean and Julian, along with EMI Blackwood Music, filed suit on April 22, 2008 claiming that Premise Media’s unauthorized use of “Imagine” violates copyright and trademark law. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged that Premise Media, C&S Production LP, Premise Media Distribution LP, and Rocky Mountain Pictures misappropriated the composition in violation of the Copyright Act, the Lanham Act, and New York state law.

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