Expelled without a license

Word on the street is starting to trickle in that the popular music was not licensed:

* John Lennon’s “Imagine” was definitely used without permission. The Lennon estate + EMI are suing. (See Reuters, 4/23 (link from pharyngula); the NYT, 4/24; and Paste Magazine. (I can just picture the graphic on The Daily Show: “Ono you di’n’t!”)

* I’m also hearing that The Killers (“Personal Jesus”) didn’t authorize. (See comments on earlier posts.) … And now I’m hearing that they did authorize, but were duped into doing so. See the playlist.

Updates as available.

4/28 update: It looks to me as if copyright infringement was at least anticipated and planned for, and the case that the copyright infringement was an intentional gambit by Premise Media to inspire litigation is considerably stronger: Check out this press release by Premise. They’re trumpeting the litigation, and note that they reference it as litigation by the “beloved Yoko Ono.” Tapping into popular dislike of Yoko Ono — which had significant racist and sexist over-, under-, and in-the-middle-tones — Premise Media continues to demonstrate that they are a class act. Their behavior reflects on the religion they profess and promote, of course.

Other discussions on the issue:
* metamagician
* Lippard Blog

music inspired by Expelled

So at the end of this long post about Expelled and copyright infringement, I appended some rewritten lyrics to the tune of “Spirit in the Sky” :

When I copy and they tell me “desist”,
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I get caught in a lie,
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I lie
When I lie and they tell me desist
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

DJ actions might come a bust
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you lie
He’s gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you lie
Steal in God’s name but they tell you desist
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

I sorta copied and I maybe infringed
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I lie
He’s gonna set me up with
Designers in the sky
Oh set me up with Designers in the sky
They’ll protect me when I lie
Texas judges might not let me rest
But Designers will protect me the best
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

I thought it was free will but it was all part of some greater cultural zeitgeist. Today, PZ Myers linked (in a post called “RIAA bait” — boy, their reputation sucks, doesn’t it?) to two others that must be read and hummed along to:
* Imagine (Ben Stein’s Ethics) (from MJS on Corrente)
* Bensteinian Rhapsody (from MartinC posted on Stranger Fruit)

And then in the comments thread many people started posting their own rewritten lyrics — there are some amazing ones. (I posted these there too.)

Do I sense a phenomena? Will Expelled inspire all the rewritten lyrics the way Fellowship of the Ring (1) inspired a gajillion rewritten poems? (I still love the one I did based on Whitman’s Song of the Open Road).

Expelled copyright infringement, cont’d

update 4/16: Both a commenter here and also P.Z. Myers have reported that Expelled filmmakers Premise filed on Monday a DJ (“declaratory judgment”) motion on XVIVO‘s copyright claims against them — i.e., asked a judge to look at the evidence & say that they are not infringing. Premise v. XVIVO, N.D. Tex., 4/14/2008.

Here are links to the PDFs of the
* complaint , and
* the statement of interested parties.
And may I just note that PACER is a pain in the ass?

Also via that same post @ pharyngula, Sarah S @ ERV reports that they copied not just the XVIVO video but other sources as well. Quel surprise.

Previous posts:
* Copyright claims against Expelled
* “Expelled” music licensed or not?

Thoughts on reading the complaint below the fold:

obedience & expelled

Obedience has never been my forte but every now and then I try it out just for fun. Or else, just because the radio waves directly into my brain will stimulate the pain center unless I do as told.

So, direct from central squidelicious headquarters:

This dumb movie named Expelled is being released the eighteenth of this month, I’m told, and this post is a G00gle-b0mb to help out. You too can play by adding the following text to your blogs and other sites:

<a href=”http://expelledexposed.com/”><i>Expelled</i></a>

and to help your less HTML-nerdy friends play, you can also include instructions for them to further instruct other bloggers … a vast game of peer-to-peer obedience to the evil athiest conspiracy:

&lt;a href=”http://expelledexposed.com/”&gt;Expelled&lt;/a&gt;

Obey … obey … obey … obey … obey …

update 4/16: On the 14th when I posted this I noted that Expelled Exposed was 16th-ish on Google search for “Expelled”. Today on the 16th I checked and it’s 10th. (At least for me; Google twinkles its algorithm depending on what information it has on you.)

io9 discovers expelled conspiracy

conspiracy revealed

Copyright claims against Expelled

4/11: I had previously (3/27) drafted a brief commentary on Expelled‘s use of copyrighted material. Then, I unposted it while I checked on something, to try to make it more complete. I hadn’t gotten back to it, when the other shoe dropped: One of the copyright holders’ whose material was used in Expelled wrote a published a draft cease & desist letter to the filmmakers. So, I’m re-posting my original comment, even though I haven’t yet had a chance to figure out the licensing status of the animations in question, and I’m doing a more detailed analysis below of the current set of claims. Consider this a rough draft of an analysis.

In part, I’m rushing this out because there are a few misconceptions about copyright and fair use on the Pharyngula blog comment thread. I’ll have to come back & add in the relevant cites when I’ve got a bit more time (probably not before Sunday), and I may have more considered analysis at that point. Right now, this is my quick first impressions on the merits of the claims that XVIVO is making, and the merits of the likely defenses that Expelled could raise.

I’ve gotta say, I’m rarely so personally sympathetic with a cease and desist as I am with this one, a letter from Peter Irons on behalf of XVIVO to the makers of Expelled, for using without permission a biology animation that XVIVO did.


The misuse of science is not the same thing as the misuse of intellectual property, and I have, unfortunately, a number of problems with this cease & desist letter. My problems are more tactical and, of course, from the perspective of a fair use / information policy attorney. But I’ll go through a bit of legal analysis first, because there are some interesting questions. If you don’t find details of copyright interesting, skip to the last 3 paragraphs.


Scientific American fisks Expelled

Scientific American‘s reviews of “Expelled”, the creationist movie with Ben Stein, are the best yet: the one by John Rennie is particularly helpful. It dissects the rhetorical tricks, and fills in the facts that were left out of the film’s assertions about punitive action taken towards experts. Expelled Exposed, from the NCSE, is developing point-by-point rebuttals of the assertions in the film. (Their tagline is: “Flunked, Not Expelled”.)


“Expelled” music licensed or not?

Josh Timonen wrote a detailed synopsis of the movie “Expelled”, the creationist film that tries to argue that creationist views are “unfairly” excluded from the academy.

What piqued my interest about this particular post (there have been hundreds by now about how bad the movie is, the deceptiveness of the filmmakers, P.Z. Myers’ being prevented from attending, the NCSE’s excellent “Expelled, Exposed” website, and so on) was that Timonen noted the proliferation of popular commercial music, including John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and a song from “The Killers”; maybe others. Timonen says:

Either Expelled has a disproportionately-large music budget (for how bad of a film it is), or they are using songs they haven’t paid for in their Director’s Cut private screenings (that may be changed before the official nationwide release). John Lennon’s “Imagine” is played (original version) over B&W scenes of what looked like communist China, with a parade of soldiers. The lyrics to the song were subtitled on the bottom of the screen. I think I remember a shot of Stalin saluting somewhere in here as well. The part of the song played was of course “…and no religion too…”, implying that no religion equals communist China. Does Yoko know about this? I doubt she’d be pleased.

The excellent “Mad Hot Ballroom Dancing” got dinged for a lot of money for a lot less music use than this. Could the Expelled filmmakers really not have known they needed to license music? Did they have a giant music budget? Are they relying on fair use? Maybe one could make a fair use case for using “Imagine” to illustrate communist China, although it seems a bit of a stretch to me since the point of the film isn’t China or John Lennon, or even atheism per se.

I’ll be interested to see what happens when it’s officially released. Same music? And what’s the story with the licensing? Does Yoko Ono not control the Lennon estate? Would she really license the music for that purpose? Questions, questions.

Supposedly, the film also includes animations of cellular functions. There have been lots of such animations made in the last few years. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula described one such animation out of Harvard and XVIVO being edited and used without in creationist lecture tours. What’s the licensing on these, I wonder? Studio Daily describes the animation process and says they can’t provide it, because it belongs to Harvard & XVIVO; there’s a version at Harvard’s MCB website. These were funded by the HHMI and the licensing notes the copyright to Robert Lue & Alain Viel, Harvard University, and says “For educational use only. The use, duplication, or distribution of this material for any commercial purpose is strictly prohibited.” Well, creationist lectures are arguably “educational”, at least in the broadest possible sense, but editing it to create a derivative work — that seems a bit different.