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album cover
Yono Oko on the oddly titled cover of her latest album, “Yes, I’m a Witch” (2007)

A new front has been opened in the culture wars. Although “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed” has been out for less than a week, it has already become one of the top 25 documentaries of all time. Opponents of the film have attacked everyone and everything in it. They have attacked the producers, the star, the music, and film itself. They have even attacked those who have seen it. Now they seem to want to challenge the Constitution.

Yoko Ono and others have now filed lawsuits challenging the film’s use and critique of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” One of the suits seeks to ban free speech through preliminary injunctive relief which essentially means that they are trying to expel “Expelled” as it is now being shown in theaters.

Walt J. Ruloff
Producer Walt Ruloff

Walt Ruloff, Executive Producer and CEO of Premise Media, explained,

If you really listen to the lyrics of “Imagine,” then you realize that it represents everything that the Neo-Darwinists want. Imagine there’s no Heaven No hell below us. Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too That’s exactly what the Darwinist establishment wants to do: get rid of religion. And that’s what we point out when we play less than 15 seconds of the song and show some of the lyrics on screen.

Executive Producer and Chairman of Premise Media Logan Craft added,

The fair use doctrine is a well established principle that gives the public the right to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary and criticism. While some may not like what we have to say or how we say it, we have the free speech right to do so—just as other political and social commentators have been doing for years.

Premise reports they

did not pursue a license for the song and had no obligation to do so. Unbiased viewers of the film will see that the ‘Imagine’ clip was used as part of a social commentary in the exercise of free speech. The brief clip—consisting of a mere 10 words—was used to contrast the messages in the documentary and was not used as an endorsement of ‘Expelled’.

But the irony of this lawsuit was not lost on the films star Ben Stein,

Ben Stein in Expelled
Ben Stein

So Yoko Ono is suing over the brief Constitutionally protected use of a song that wants us to Imagine no possessions? Maybe instead of wasting everyone’s time trying to silence a documentary she should give the song to the world for free? After all, imagine all the people sharing all the world You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the World can live as one.

Editor’s Note (June 3, 2008): The Federal Court subsequently expelled Yoko Ono’s request for a preliminary injunction due to lack of merit. U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled that Yoko Ono Lennon, Sean Ono Lennon, Julian Lennon, and EMI Blackwood Music had “not shown a clear likelihood of success on the merits because, on the basis of the current record, defendants [the “Expelled” producers] are likely to prevail on their affirmative defense of fair use. That doctrine provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright.”

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