The controversial pro-intelligent design documentary featuring actor Ben Stein released on DVD Tuesday, weeks after a highly-publicized lawsuit against it was dropped.
Noticeably missing from the “Expelled” DVD, however, is the song “Imagine,” which was at the heart of the months-long legal battle.
“The mere pendency of these cases caused the film's DVD distributor to shy away from releasing the full film – the version that includes the Imagine segment,” reported Anthony Falzone, executive director of Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project, which defended “Expelled” in court. “So the film goes out on DVD on October 21 in censored form, illustrating the damage that even an unproved and unsupported infringement claim can do.”
Earlier this last month, John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and EMI Records, the world's fourth largest music company, dropped copyright infringement lawsuits against the makers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” over a portion of the ex-Beatles’ anthem "Imagine" that the film featured without permission.
"I'm extremely gratified to hear that Yoko Ono's attempts to silence our little film have not succeeded and that free speech is still alive and well in America," noted Stein, the highly recognizable television personality known best for his role in Visine eye drop commercials.
Had Ono and EMI Records moved forward with the lawsuits, experts say the film segment in question would most likely be protected under the doctrine of Fair Use, as a U.S. district judge concluded earlier this summer.
“There should never have been any doubt the filmmakers who were sued here had every right to use a short segment of a song for the purpose of criticizing it and the views it represents,” wrote Stanford’s Falzone in his blog. “But the right result came far too late.“
According to film producer John Sullivan, “many people who wanted to see the film … were put off by the lawsuit and weren't sure if they wanted to support a film that was under a legal cloud.”
Since the cloud was lifted, however, Sullivan said many groups have requested for the film to be brought to their communities for theatrical showings.
Furthermore, adds Stein, “we are looking forward to great numbers when the DVD comes out."
The movie, which debuted in U.S. theaters this past April, presents a sympathetic view of intelligent design, a theory which holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they could not have come about randomly but point to an intelligent designer.
While “Expelled” is notably critical of Darwinism and supportive of intelligent design, the people behind the movie say it does not seek to champion intelligent design as the sole truth. Instead, they say, it calls for more academic freedom, where challenges to any scientific theory including Darwinism would be fairly considered.
“Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are,” explains Stein. “Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-science, it’s anti-American.”
For “Expelled,” Stein interviewed researchers, professors, and academics who claim to have been marginalized, silenced, or threatened with academic expulsion because of their challenges to some or all parts of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Also featured in the documentary are members of the pro-Darwin community including Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and influential biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers, both of whom later accused the film of using quotes and segments out of context.
“People will be stunned to actually find out what elitist scientists proclaim, which is that a large majority of Americans are simpletons who believe in a fairy tale,” says “Expelled” co-producer Walt Ruloff, who co-founded Premise Media, which produced the documentary. “Premise Media took on this difficult mission because we believe the greatest asset of humanity is our freedom to explore and discover truth.”
Critics of “Expelled,” however, argue that it is the filmmakers who are hiding truth by making “outrageous claims” against evolution, for intelligent design, and that tie Darwinism to Nazism and the Holocaust, among other heinous historical events.
“Expelled’s inflammatory implication that Darwin and the science of evolution ‘led to’ eugenics, Nazis, and Stalinism is deeply offensive and detrimental to public discussion and understanding of science, religion, and history,” states the National Center for Science Education in their anti-“Expelled” website, expelledexposed.com.
“The public interest is not well-served by the efforts of sectarian groups to advance their own narrow agendas through distorted and simplistic explanations of horrific events,” it added.
Despite the controversies surrounding the film, which piqued as it was preparing for theatrical release, “Expelled” had the third highest opening for a documentary, debuting in 1,052 theaters and placing No. 5 in the box office with $2.9 million in sales.
After about a month in theaters, “Expelled” raked in more than $7 million in theaters, making it the twelfth highest-grossing documentary film in the United States.