Yoko Ono vs Ben Stein

Clearances for documentaries can be a total nightmare. I know these things, as I’ve been working on my LOUIE documentary for many years. Clearances and financing remains a major obstacle.

I’ve always tried to do the right thing. I’ve respected the rights of musicians, fellow filmmakers, and those that own or manage certain properties whose material I’d like to license. It takes time, patience and diplomacy to do things correctly.

This week, it’s Yoko Ono vs. Ben Stein. Ben Stein recently created a film that challenged the concept of evolution, and used John Lennon‘s “Imagine” without permission.

Here’s an interesting comment on this case that I found at James Boyce‘s blog entry on Huffington Post:

I work in the film industry and know that although these guys may be dumb, they’re not dumb enough to think this would fly.

They didn’t license this on purpose – it’s a costly publicity stunt. I’m sure they have a huge line item category called ‘lawsuits’ in their budget. There is no such thing as a “momentary use” and anyone in the biz knows this. Every film is required to carry E&O (errors & omission) insurance. It usually covers the film up to 1 million dollars but you must provide a statement saying that you have obtained all of the necessary clearances so that your coverage is clean and that there are no exclusions. No distributor (foreign, domestic, TV, dvd sales, etc.) will pick up your film if there are exclusions. I just wonder if the insurance would even kick in on this kind of thing if you blatantly didn’t obtain the license. I have never had that issue because I, like everyone else in this business, practice good ethics when it comes to licensing copyrighted material. We license, pay and credit the artists their due. I thought Christians were supposed to be honest? I will do some digging with insurance companies and see what the ramifications are.

This is very sad. I really hate this kind of hypocrisy. A film that tries to channel Christian ethics, but uses dishonest tactics to make their case.

Apparently, this is not the only ethical blunder they did in producing this film. From what I’ve read, they lied about the premise of their movie to get interviews, licensed music from other musicians under false pretenses of “academic freedom in schools,” copied Harvard/XVIVO’s cell animations, and then threatened XVIVO with a lawsuit.

Not exactly good Christian ethics, you know?

With any luck, Yoko’s lawyers should be able to “win Ben Stein’s money.”

This film opens on Friday. I’d tell you the name of the film, but why bother?

More information about this situation at:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,2477,Yoko-Ono-Filmmakers-Caught-in-Expelled-Flap,Ethan-Smith
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/04/the_sleaze_is_growing.php
http://www.prefixmag.com/news/update-ben-stein-did-not-acquire-the-rights-to-the/18179/

P.S. Ben Stein used to be a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon hated John Lennon, and tried to deport him from the USA. There may be a connection there…

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