Gawker Media has a message for Quentin Tarantino, and that message is, “You don’t have a legal leg to stand on.”
In February we reported on Tarantino’s opening salvo on Gawker, whom he accused of maliciously leaking an early draft of the script for his ensemble Western, Hateful Eight. Via entertainment lawyer Martin Singer, Tarantino filed a lawsuit in U.S. District court, claiming,”Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck. This time they went too far. Rather than merely publishing a news story reporting that Plaintiff’s screenplay may have been circulating in Hollywood without his permission, Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire Screenplay illegally.”
Singer went on to note that Gawker encouraged the public to view and download the script, providing a link from the Gawker site proper to another page hosting the leaked screenplay.
Said Singer, “Their headline boasts ‘Here Is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script’ – ‘Here,’ not someplace else, but ‘Here’ on the Gawker website. There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic about Gawker Media facilitating and encouraging the public’s violation of Plaintiff’s copyright in the Screenplay, and it’s conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity.”
Tarantino seeks a court trial, an injunction against Gawker to stop further distribution of the script, and some pretty hefty cash damages to the tune of over a million dollars.
Gawker Media legal representative Robert Penchina, however, has asked a California federal judge to reject the lawsuit outright, saying that simply reading the screenplay isn’t an act of infringement, and contributory claims of infringement don’t hold water without proof of direct infringement.
“Here, the Complaint does no more than raise the possibility that some member of the public who accessed plaintiff’s script using Gawker’s link subsequently violated Tarantino’s rights by committing an infringement. Because plaintiff did not allege any facts showing that an infringing act actually was undertaken by a third party, merely accessing the script by clicking on the link is legally insufficient, plaintiff did not state a claim for contributory infringement.”
Gawker’s lawyer also goes on to cite fair use, saying “Gawker’s challenged use was transformative and for the statutorily favored purpose of reporting news. Gawker did not ‘scoop’ plaintiff’s right of first publication as the script was online prior to Gawker’s links, and Tarantino himself set in motion the circumstances by which the script circulated. Gawker made minimal use of the script – it reproduced no part of it but merely linked to another publication. Gawker’s use was, at most, incidentally commercial and did not usurp the primary market for and purpose of the script: to make a movie.”
Gawker has made a point of citing Tarantino’s Deadline interview with Mike Fleming, Jr., where he spoke of shelving the project after the script leaked internally in Hollywood, where he goes on to discuss his feelings on fans interacting with his screenplays online. Quentin was quoted as saying, “I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth, because I do like the fact that everyone eventually posts it, gets it and reviews it on the net. Frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like the fact that people like my shit, and that they go out of their way to find it and read it.”
Fleming, however, suggests that this is Gawker attempting to give themselves a pass for their behavior, stating, “Gawker is trying to let itself off the hook by taking Tarantino completely out of context. What the filmmaker told me was that he is not a hypocrite. When he is shooting his film and sees the final draft of the script online, he in the past has not been upset and likes that people seek it out. Seems to me that what Gawker is dismissing is the fact that this is Quentin Tarantino’s intellectual property creation. As he said, he owns the fucking thing, and therefore, if a website conveniently plays up an anonymous web address which Gawker readers were encouraged to use so they could “help themselves” to Tarantino’s copyrighted work, Tarantino and only Tarantino can decide whether or not he is incensed. And he alone can seek legal redress as he has done here. I don’t cover the lawsuits here, but it feels like Gawker is on a slippery slope.”
Speaking of the anonymous web address linked to in the Gawker piece, Tarantino’s legal complaint also names Anonfiles.com, the site that hosted the script, alongside his lawsuit Against Gawker Media.
There has been no new word out of the Tarantino legal camp as of yet, but it stands to reason this is going to be a contentious legal battle; one that brings to the fore various nebulous shades of copyright infringement law that prospectively need a more black and white interpretation going forward.
You can read the entirety of Gawker’s motion for dismissal here.