The owner of the literary rights to author William Faulkner's work has filed suit against Sony Pictures Classics, claiming that the 2011 Woody Allen film "Midnight in Paris" unlawfully used a quote from one of Faulkner's books.
In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Mississippi on Thursday, Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC says that Gil Pender, the screenwriter character played by Owen Wilson in the film, quoted a line from the Faulkner book "Requiem For a Nun" without permission.
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In the movie, Pender encounters personalities from the past such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso while vacationing in Paris. In the passage cited in the suit, he says, "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."
The passage from Faulkner's book reads, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Sony Pictures spokeswoman Ann Boyd told TheWrap that the suit is "frivolous" and "without merit."
“This is a frivolous lawsuit and we are confident we will prevail in defending it," Boyd told TheWrap in a statement. "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.”
Claiming copyright infringement and commercial appropriation, Faulkner Literary Rights is seeking unspecified damages.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.