Judge dismisses lawsuit over Faulkner line in ‘Midnight in Paris’

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Sony Pictures has won out in a legal battle over whether Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” had the right to use a nine-word quote from William Faulkner’s novel “Requiem for a Nun.”

A federal Mississippi judge on Thursday dismissed Faulkner Literary Rights LLC’s lawsuit against Sony, saying the 2011 film was not in violation of copyright when it used the line.

In the film, Owen Wilson’s character says, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner, and he was right. I met him too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”


To be technical, the exact wording of the original Faulkner text is, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

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In a 17-page ruling, Michael P. Mills, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, said the use of the quote qualifies as a fair use.

“At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement,” Mills wrote. “In this case, it cannot.”

“Midnight in Paris,” written and directed by Allen, stars Wilson as a nostalgic screenwriter who visits Paris and every night is transported back to the 1920s.

Proving not even district court judges are immune to trending social media topics, Mills wrote the following: “The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, ‘Midnight in Paris,’ read the book, ‘Requiem for a Nun,’ and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare ‘The Sound and the Fury’ with ‘Sharknado.’”



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