Judge Cites “Sharknado” in Decision Clearing Woody Allen Film of Copyright Infringement

Sharknado, the Syfy television movie that took Twitter by storm earlier this year, has even made its way into a federal court opinion. A federal judge referenced the disaster movie in a copyright infringement case involving Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris.

“The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, ‘Midnight in Paris,’ read the book, ‘Requiem for a Nun,’ and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare ‘The Sound and the Fury’ with ‘Sharknado,'” the opinion states.

The copyright infringement lawsuit against Sony Pictures involved a single line taken from a William Faulkner novel.  Owen Wilson’s character says, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner, and he was right. I met him too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

While the movie line closely resembles a line from Faulkner’s novel, Requiem for a Nun, Judge Michael P. Mills held that the doctrine of fair use applied. “At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement,” Mills wrote. “In this case, it cannot.”

As the judge further explained, “The copyrighted work is a serious piece of literature lifted for use in a speaking part in a movie comedy, as opposed to a printed portion of a novel printed in a newspaper, or a song’s melody sampled in another song. This transmogrification in medium tips this factor in favor of transformative, and thus, fair use.”

Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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