As you may have heard, the latest controversy surrounding Expelled comes from the fact that they used a 25-second clip of John Lennon’s Imagine without permission. Apparently they use it over images of communism and Nazism, illustrating what you would have with “no religion”. In so doing, Mathis and crew have attracted the attention of someone far more important than David Bolinsky, PZ Myers or Abbie Smith: they have angered Yoko Ono. Premise Media’s response was to claim “freedom of speech”:
In a written statement, the film’s three producers — Walt Ruloff, John Sullivan and Logan Craft — acknowledged that they did not seek permission, but they called the use “momentary.” “After seeking the opinion of legal counsel it was seen as a First Amendment issue and protected under the fair use doctrine of free speech,” the statement said. A spokeswoman said under 25 seconds of the song are used in the movie.
It’s an interesting defense – free speech. I heard the same excuse being used for copying the XVIVO animation. Now Jim Lippard makes the point that this should be fair use, but legal precedent suggests that it isn’t:
Now this is actually an instance where I agree with “Expelled”‘s producers–this should fall within fair use guidelines. The courts, however, have already ruled otherwise. In 2005, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films that even a 1.5-second sample requires a license. I’d be happy to see a lawsuit on this issue result in that ruling being overturned.
Now broadly, I would agree with him, but if the precedent exists, then Premise Media can’t really go about claiming that it doesn’t exist. It is, of course, in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that has characterised the entire production, starting with the way they managed to get their interviews with Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott and PZ Myers.
Over at Uncommon Descent, Dembski has been crowing on about “we’ve got them where we want them”. I would be puzzled if I heard that from someone other than Dembski, but Dembski has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth while gloating.
So getting back to the original question – do I detect a pattern? I’d say yes. The level of misrepresentation surrounding this movie is incredible. I doubt they set out to do things this badly.