In the most recent court action involving the controversial movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed featuring Ben Stein, Yoko Ono and EMI Records have both withdrawn all claims filed against the filmmakers, Premise Media.
Days after the film opened in April, two lawsuits were filed to have the movie pulled from theaters because it uses and critiques 15 seconds of the John Lennon song Imagine. The filmmakers argued that the use of the song was protected by the fair use doctrine.
"This legal action was about more than our film Expelled," noted producer John Sullivan. "What was really at stake was our basic right as Americans to free speech. While this was personally challenging, it was a fight worth going to the mat on because of the gravity of the issue."
In June, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan denied the preliminary injunction claim from John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono which alleged that the use of the song clip violated federal copyright and trademark law.
Then on August 13, 2008, the New York State Court in Manhattan similarly denied EMI Records' and Capitol Records' attempt to enjoin the distribution of EXPELLED based on the claim that the film violated their sound recording rights. As with the Federal opinion, the State court also concluded that Premise Media was likely to prevail in court based on the Fair Use Doctrine.
After the Federal and State courts denied the preliminary injunction attempts against the film, the plaintiffs filed for dismissal.
Premise Media was defended by The Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project and Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell. "We're very pleased that all plaintiffs withdrew their claims," said Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and lead counsel on the case. He added: "We think it was clear from the beginning that Premise had every right to use the ‘Imagine' clip, and we're happy we've vindicated that. The right to use copyrighted material to criticize it is essential to free speech and public debate, and that's what was at stake here."
"I'm gratified the attempts to silence our film were unsuccessful, and I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to defend our integrity and preserve the free speech rights of filmmakers," said Logan Craft, chairman and executive producer of Premise Media.
For the filmmakers the news comes just in time as Expelled will be released on DVD by Vivendi Entertainment October 21, 2008. It will be available on DVD and Blue-Ray where ever DVDs are sold.