A Movie Can ‘Imagine’

Ben Stein got some good news: John Lennon’s “Imagine” can be used in his anti-evolution documentary. But it’s too little, too late.

Former Richard Nixon speechwriter and “Ferris Bueller” foil Ben Stein co-wrote and narrates “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” which argues that scholars who believe the universe was created by a supernatural being are discriminated against.

One scene shows footage of Joseph Stalin, suggesting intellectual devolution is created by atheistic governments. Fifteen seconds of Lennon’s “Imagine” lyrics – “Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too” – are played.

However, a news release from Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project states Yoko Ono and EMI Group have dropped copyright infringement lawsuits against the makers of the documentary, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, the decision comes too late to keep the song in the DVD release, the WSJ said.

Premise Media Corp., the movie’s production company, has been forthright about not seeking permission for the song, contending that the brief snippet falls under “fair use” rules, the paper said.

Ono, Lennon’s widow, has been especially protective of her husband’s musical legacy and made news when she granted filmmaker Michael Moore use of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” for the documentary “Bowling For Columbine.”

And it’s not just Ono: The soundtrack for the 2001 movie “I Am Sam,” which was to feature several Beatles tunes, had to be arranged by cover artists because permission for the originals was not granted (George Harrison was rumored to have put the kibosh on it).

The 1982 movie “The Big Chill” got a similar rejection.