The Fair Use Project of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society announced Thursday that it would serve as legal counsel for the producers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" in their right to use a clip of John Lennon's song "Imagine" in its pro-intelligent design documentary.
A lawsuit filed last week in a New York District Court by John Lennon' sons and widow, Yoko Ono, alongside EMI Blackwood Music is seeking unspecified damages and a halt on all screenings of the film for what they claim is an illegal appropriation of the hit song.
The producers of the film, however, have claimed legal protection under the fair use doctrine – a position that was strengthened this week after the Fair Use Project announced it would defend the filmmakers in court.
In a statement Thursday, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project, said that the case was a clear issue of free speech, given that the "Imagine" clip appears for less than 15-seconds and was used in a manner of artistic criticism to illustrate briefly a hypothetical world without religion.
"The right to quote from copyrighted works in order to criticize them and discuss the views they may represent lies at the heart of the fair use doctrine. These rights are under attack here, and we plan to defend them," he said.
Logan Craft, chairman and executive producer of the film's production company, explained the use of the clip while emphasizing the right to free speech.
"We included the 'Imagine' clip not only to illuminate Ben Stein (the star of the film)'s commentary but to criticize the ideas expressed in the song," he said.
"Yoko Ono and the other plaintiffs are trying to redefine the Constitution and the free speech protection it affords. Our movie is about freedom—the freedom to discuss alternative views of how life began on our planet, the freedom to ask reasonable questions about the adequacy of Darwin's theory, and the freedom to challenge an entrenched establishment," he added. "Now we find that we also have to fight for our free speech rights."
"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" is a feature-length documentary film about 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.
Since its April 18 release, the film has attracted both praise and controversy in its challenge against Darwinism, while rising to become one of the most successful documentary films of all time.