We here at Law Law Land are big fans of Halloween, the
drunkest, sluttiest, most creative and fun-loving holiday of the year. Law Law Land HQ itself is awash in cat ears and warlock coats today, and your editor is looking forward to a heaven-vs.-hell, angel-vs.-devil ping pong grudge match of epic proportions tonight. But if you’re looking for a real fright on Halloween night, just consider some of the following truly scary cases and claims.
If the Past Is Never Dead, Does That Mean the Past Is Undead?
William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Woody Allen-mouthpiece Owen Wilson less-famously said, in 2011’s Midnight in Paris, “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.” And Faulkner’s estate is now infamously saying that, if you use Faulkner’s line (ish) in a movie, with attribution, you have broken the law.
Faulkner’s estate is suing Sony Pictures Classics for copyright infringement and trademark infringement, claiming that Midnight in Paris’s misquote of Faulkner’s famous aphorism from 1950’sRequiem for a Nun not only infringes their copyright, but also violates the federal trademark statute by deceiving viewers into believing that the movie was affiliated, endorsed, or authorized by the Faulkner estate. So are Sony’s lawyers running scared into the night? Not likely. But the distant howls you might be hearing are actually the pained wails of frustrated intellectual property law professors everywhere.
(Special kudos to the usually-dry-as-a-skeleton Courthouse News Service for observing, “at risk of offending the shade, or estate, of Charles Dickens: This is a far, far weirder thing than Sony has ever done.”)