District Court Denies Yoko Ono Lennon’s Motion for Injunctive Relief
By Nicola Carah — Edited by Evie Breithaupt
Lennon v. Premise Media Corp.
S.D.N.Y., June 2, 2008, No. 08cv03813
The District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Yoko Ono Lennon’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief in a case involving Premise Media Corp.’s use of a fifteen-second clip of the song “Imagine” in Expelled, its controversial documentary about intelligent design. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to show a clear likelihood of success on the merits — required to obtain preliminary injunctive relief — because the defendants were likely to succeed in asserting an affirmative defense of fair use.
The court looked to the fair use factors articulated in § 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976: “(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” Although Expelled is commercial in nature, the court found that the movie’s use of “Imagine” is “highly transformative, and not merely exploitative.” According to the court, the pairing of the lyrics and accompanying music to a sequence of images provided “a layered criticism and commentary of the song.” The court concluded, therefore, that defendants were likely to prevail on their fair use defense.
Expelled is a feature-length film that, according to one producer, “examines the scientific community’s academic suppression of those who ask provocative questions about the origin and development of life.” It is narrated by actor and writer Ben Stein, who graduated as valedictorian from Yale Law School in 1970, and who recently has become a proponent of Intelligent Design theory. (more…)