‘Allen v. Farrow’ Filmmakers Claim Fair Use Over Woody Allen Audiobook Dispute

The filmmakers behind the new docuseries Allen v. Farrow said their use of the audiobook of Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was protected under the “fair use” doctrine after the book’s publisher attacked the series. While Allen himself did not participate in the documentary, the filmmakers use parts of the audiobook as read by Allen himself throughout the four-episode series.

Earlier Monday, Tony Lyons, president of the book’s publisher Skyhorse Publishing, claimed that the use of the Apropos of Nothing audiobook in the series was “unauthorized.” “This blatant appropriation of Mr. Allen’s intellectual property is unquestionably copyright infringement under existing legal precedent. Viewers of the series should take into consideration the producers’ unethical conduct when evaluating their so-called documentary’s sensationalist and salacious story.” (No official legal documents, however, have been filed so far.)

In response, the team behind Allen v. Farrow said, “The creators of Allen v. Farrow legally used limited audio excerpts from Woody Allen’s memoir in the series under the Fair Use doctrine.”

Lyons and Skyhorse, in turn, issued a statement saying, “We are confident that a court will not agree that it is fair use where nearly six percent of a 55-minute episode is comprised of appropriated copyrighted material.” They added, that they are “contemplating” a lawsuit, but are waiting until all four episodes of the series air to “better judge the full extent of the infringements.”

As the United States Copyright Office explains, the fair use doctrine allows for the “unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” Those can include “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.”

Allen v. Farrow was directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, and premiered on HBO over the weekend. The film chronicles the relationship between Allen and Mia Farrow, the accusations of sexual assault leveled against Allen by his then-seven-year-old daughter Dylan Farrow, and Allen’s relationship with Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. On Monday, Allen and Previn issued a statement calling the docuseries a “hatchet job riddled with falsehoods.”

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