Yoko Ono has sued the producers and the Utah-based distributor of TV personality Ben Stein's documentary that supports teaching the theory of "intelligent design" to children, saying the film uses John Lennon's song "Imagine" without permission.
Premise Media Corp. and Rampant Films didn't get a license to use the song in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," released April 18, according to the copyright-infringement suit by Ono, Lennon's widow, and British record label EMI Group Plc.
"Defendants have intentionally and willfully used the song without authorization because they knew that they would likely be unable to secure permission from plaintiffs," Ono, 75, said in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.
"Expelled" criticizes U.S. educators for failing to teach ideas that challenge Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and argues that "intelligent design," the notion that an unseen power created life on Earth, is a viable explanation of how the universe works. Xvivo LLC, a scientific-animation company, also accused the producers of copying parts of its "Inner Life of a Cell" educational video.
Ono is seeking Premise's profit from the documentary, as well as at least $75,000 in damages and a ban on the 1971 song's use in the film.
In addition to Premise, based in Dallas, and Rampant Films, located in Sherman Oaks, Calif., the suit names Salt Lake City-based distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures Inc. Stein, the 63-year-old former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, isn't named in the suit.
E-mail messages to Premise and Rampant weren't immediately returned. A call to Roy Hardin, a Premise lawyer with Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell in Dallas, wasn't immediately returned.
Four days before "Expelled" was released, Premise filed a pre-emptive suit against Xvivo, based in Rocky Hill, Conn., seeking a court ruling that it isn't infringing Xvivo's copyright. The case is pending in federal court in Dallas.
The film drew criticism from some Stein's interviewees, including Richard Dawkins, the author of "The God Delusion," who claimed they weren't told about its anti-evolution premise, the New York Times reported in September.
Ono has tightly controlled Lennon's intellectual property rights since the Beatles member was assassinated in 1980. On April 30, a preliminary hearing will begin in Boston federal court in her lawsuit to stop footage of Lennon from being used in a World Wide Video film called "3 Days in the Life."