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Judge finally rules in favor of movie studio in copyright case

It doesn't take much to trigger a dispute over intellectual property. In fact, sometimes it only takes a handful of words. This was the case for a movie studio that was sued over a movie character quoting a famous author -- even though the character attributed the author for the quote in the movie. Fortunately for the studio, the suit was not successful.

The business dispute revolved around Woody Allen's 2011 movie "Midnight in Paris," in which the main character, a writer played by Owen Wilson, magically travels back in time to the Paris of the 1920s, which was inhabited by artists and writers such as Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemingway. In one scene, Wilson's character recounts something William Faulkner had told him at a party.

In fact, what Faulkner was said to have said came from one of his novels, "Requiem for a Nun," and was paraphrased from that work (Faulkner did not appear as a character in the film himself). The movie quote was 10 words long; the original quote from the book was only nine.

This was enough for Faulkner's estate to sue Sony Pictures Classics, the film's studio, for violating the novel's copyright. After many months, a judge finally ruled in favor of the movie studio, saying that the quote's use does not represent a copyright violation and should be considered a fair use. At least part of this is likely due to the fact that in the film, Faulkner is attributed as having come up with the brief quote.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Judge dismisses lawsuit over Faulkner line in 'Midnight in Paris'," Ryan Faughnder, July 18, 2013

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