Thursday, August 12, 2004

Michael Moore Refuses to Apologize to Illinois Paper

By E & P Staff

NEW YORK The small Illinois newspaper attempting to get an apology from filmmaker Michael Moore for allegedly misusing the paper in "Fahrenheil 9/11" said today it has gotten a rejection notice instead.

The Pantagraph of Bloomington, Ill., disclosed today that New York-based lawyer Devereux Chatillon of the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal sent a letter to the Bloomington attorney representing the newspaper, stating Moore was within his legal right to use one of the newspaper's headlines in the movie and that no "copyright infringement" occurred. He cited several precedents.

This led The Pantagraph to conclude: "Moore apparently is not going to say he's sorry or pay the newspaper's light-hearted, if not symbolic, request for $1 in compensatory damages. But his company's lawyer was willing to spend 37 cents, to send a letter suggesting Moore did little wrong."

That letter claims Moore did nothing "misleading" when a headline from The Pantagraph ("Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election") that originally appeared above a Dec. 5, 2001, letter to the editor was changed in both font and size for the movie and made to look like a news story from the Dec. 19, 2001, edition.

Chatillon, who represents Westside Productions, which produced "Fahrenheit 9/11," did admit the date flashed in the movie "was unfortunately off by a couple weeks." But the mistake "did not make a difference to the editorial point ... and was in no way detrimental to (The Pantagraph)."

"Baloney," said Pantagraph President and Publisher Henry Bird, in response to the letter. Added newspaper attorney J. Casey Costigan, "I disagree that Michael Moore's use of the headline falls under 'fair use,' and I think the letter also takes what Mr. Moore did out of context."

Bird said he has asked Costigan to send Moore a follow-up letter, asking him to explain why a Pantagraph page was altered without permission.

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