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Local Film Company Takes Major Studios to Court
December 15, 2002

Richmond resident (and my neighbor) Pete Livingston filed suit in Federal court on December 5 to uphold his right to distribute a controversial documentary film entitled “Over 9 Billion Dead Served.” The story was carried in the December 12, 2002, San Francisco Examiner (Alexander Cockburn, Show of Force, page 9A) as well as in Cockburn’s “Counterpunch.” The story appears below:



Thursday, Dec. 5, my friend Dr. Pete Livingston filed suit in Federal Court in Oakland, Calif., seeking declaratory relief to uphold his right to distribute the documentary "Over 9 Billion Dead Served." The feature-length film, a passionate anti-war commentary, is almost entirely comprised of clips from the 25 biggest box-office movies. Pete contends that his film is protected by the fair use doctrine. The fair use doctrine is designed to protect the use of copyrighted material without permission for the purposes of criticism and education.

Livingston's company, Not the Enemy Media, is currently being blocked by legal threats from Fox Entertainment Group, Columbia and Universal Studios. Film companies have denied Livingston permission to use even a single frame of their material. Universal went so far as to demand that Pete tear apart his documentary and remove the portions of their material.

The lawyers representing Livingston are a feisty and competent bunch: Bill Simpich, Tesfaye Tsadik and Jim Wheaton. Bill Simpich says, "This film gives the filmmakers' lenses a 180-degree spin and exposes them as creators of the mindset that leads Americans to war. There is no better evidence of this than the footage itself. Nothing less will do."

This all began," Livingston explains, "as an empirical examination of feature films, but it soon became clear that the examples and issues presented in these films could not be believably addressed using words in a book or in articles. The imagery of these films are often amazing and horrifying in ways that requires the transformative use of the original (copyrighted) material to convey. Literally, you've got to see it to believe it. We believe that under the First Amendment and the rules of the fair use doctrine that this analysis is permitted and that the events like the shooting at Columbine, the September 11 attacks and the subsequent war in Afghanistan demand it."

The documentary indicates that in these movies, Hollywood filmmakers have illustrated the mass murder of over nine billion people. In the same movies, only one baby was born (and survived).

Livingston claims these movies have drawn on various stereotypes, including blacks, Arabs and Nazis, to make killing not only tolerable but often amusing. "Many of the studios that made these films take exception to my use of the images. They want to cash in on death, dying and remorseless murder, but they don't want to take any responsibility for what they've done. My position is that the cost of exploiting the corporate welfare afforded by copyright ought to be self-exposure to unlimited criticism using the copyrighted material. If the studios don't like covering that token non-cost, maybe they shouldn't indulge in the use of stereotypes to capitalize on the fanciful slaughter of billions of innocent people in the first place.

The day after Livingston filed his suit, Phil Berrigan died in the evening of Dec. 6, at Jonah House, the community in Baltimore he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. For 40 years he campaigned against war and violence, most of all against nuclear weapons.

Challenge America's weapons of mass destruction and its nuclear palaces, and the state locks you up. Phil Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison in the cause of peace and disarmament.

Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death, reciting it to those surrounding his bed till he choked on the liquid in his lungs. "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family and the earth itself."

Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus told the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount, and lo, Ronald Reagan named the MX nuclear missile the "Peacemaker."

The Berrigans and their brave comrades shed their blood on a nuclear warhead being manufactured at the GE plant in King of Prussia, Pa., recalling the blood that Jesus shed for sinful humanity, and lo, they named a ballistic missile "platform" U.S.S. City of Corpus Christi, Texas, the city of the body of Christ, and they probably knew not what they did, aside from honoring the home port of some Texan pork dispenser on Capitol Hill.

The word from Jonah House is that those who mourn for Berrigan and wish to honor his memory may make donations in Berrigan's name to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister or any Catholic Worker house.

Philip Berrigan was born in 1923 in the Minnesota Iron Range, near Bemidji, Mn., maybe a hundred miles west of the birthplace of Bob Dylan, the man who wrote "The Masters of War." He was the first priest to ride in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride.

In 1967, he poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with three others, known as the "Baltimore Four." A year later, he burned draft files in Catonsville, Md., with eight others, including his brother, Friar Daniel Berrigan. That action was known as the "Catonsville Nine." He was convicted of destruction of U.S. property, destruction of Selective Service records and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967 .

In Sept. 9, 1980, he poured blood and hammered with seven others on Mark 12A warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa. He was charged with conspiracy, burglary and criminal mischief; convicted and imprisoned. The action became known as the "Plowshares Eight," and it began the international Plowshares movement. He participated in five more Plowshares actions, resulting in seven years of imprisonment.

Call Berrigan America's most dedicated weapons inspector, its most ardent would-be dismantler of weapons of mass destruction.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Contacts: Pete Livingston, Ph.D. Voice: 510.236.3309

Web: NotTheEnemy.com