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Injunction against Premise Media

As I’m sure everyone has seen already, a federal judge in New York issued an injunction against Premise Media, instructing them not to “distribute” Expelled any further.  Apparently they can continue to show the film in cinemas, but they cannot send out new prints or distribute DVDs.  Ed Brayton and Wes Elsberry have details.

People were right – it’s one thing to mess with small startups (or big universities).  It’s quite another thing to mess with Yoko Ono.  Of course, unlike the XVIVO issue (where the infringement seems pretty clear), the use of 26 seconds of “Imagine” in the movie seems to be a far weaker case.  I’m all for liberal fair use laws in principle, but the way they used the song (Imagine there’s no Heaven, over pictures of Nazis and Stalinists) is more than just a copyright infringement – it has the ability to fundamentally change the way that people see the song.  It’s unlikely – but then, isn’t that who Freddie Mercury thought when he first heard “Ice, Ice Baby“?  (Not that “Under Pressure” was a great song or anything, but whenever I hear that base line, I think Vanilla Ice, quicker than I think Queen.)

The fact that the judge was willing to issue the injunction suggests to me that there’s a case there.  Of course, if could also just reflect the fact that Yoko can afford top-notch lawyers.  Who knows.  Even if she wins, all it will mean is that they’ll have to edit out change a few seconds of music.  It won’t stop Expelled from being used as a propaganda tool…

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