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Quentin Tarantino v. Gawker — can’t they both lose?

Quentin Tarantino v. Gawker — can’t they both lose?

Yikes, if linking to others creates liability.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is suing Gawker Media and related entities based on Gawker allegedly assisting in the distribution of a stolen film script:

Director Quentin Tarantino has filed a lawsuit against Gawker Media for copyright infringement. A week after declaring he would no longer make his next film “The Hateful Eight” because someone in his small circle had leaked the screenplay, director Quentin Tarantino has taken legal action against Gawker Media alleging copyright infringement for disseminating the script

Tarantino’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, alleges that the web site Gawker disseminated “unauthorized downloadable copies of the leaked unreleased complete screenplay” and “expressly refused to remove their directions to and URL links to get the infringing materials.” The director is demanding actual and statutory damages as well as Gawker’s profits in the amount of at least $1 million.

“Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck,” the complaint states. “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.”

Not being a fan either of Tarantino’s films, or of Gawker, I consider myself neutral.

I read the Complaint. All Gawker did was promote the fact that it had links to others on the internet who had the script. That seems like a tough claim of copyright liability, but hey, presumably the plaintiffs’ lawyers did the reasearch and think they have a legal claim. But still, just linking to others creates a copyright liability? Yikes, if that’s true.

Gawker is promising a fight:

Gawker had nothing to do with the appearance of The Hateful Eight script on the internet.

Tarantino’s complaint includes the following claim: “Gawker Media itself for its own benefit, itself transmitted or encouraged an infringing unauthorized full copy of the Screenplay to be posted for download on the obscure file share website” This claim is false. No one at Gawker saw or had access to Tarantino’s script before AnonFiles posted it. No one at Gawker transmitted it—or anything else, at all—to AnonFiles. No one at Gawker encouraged anyone to do so. No one at Gawker has any earthly idea how AnonFiles obtained a copy.

Gawker is not being sued for copyright infringement.

We are being sued for contributory copyright infringement for linking to a site that is being sued for direct copyright infringement. We are not being sued for publishing copyrighted information….

Contributory infringement is a legal theory that has traditionally been deployed against file-sharing sites and search engines—venues that explicitly exist as directories to copyrighted content. Gawker and Defamer are news sites, and our publication of the link was clearly connected to our goal of informing readers about things they care about. As far as I can tell (but I’m no lawyer!), no claim of contributory infringement has prevailed in the U.S. over a news story. We’ll be fighting this one.

It pains me to think Gawker might be right here. First they came for Gawker, ….

(Featured image from Pulp Fiction, a movie of no redeeming value and the only Quentin Tarantino film I’ve ever seen.)


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Is Tarantino just creating hype?

PersonFromPorlock | January 28, 2014 at 11:19 am

My one-step tort reform: loser pays half, loser’s lawyer pays half.

Hard to see how this works as a viable lawsuit.

How, for instance, does Tarantino prove up any damages? He made the decision to pull the movie.

    I R A Darth Aggie in reply to Ragspierre. | January 28, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Calculating actual damages could be interesting. Of course, he could come back with “I made X, Y and Z dollars on my last 3 movies simply to direct and produce, not including any royalties or bonuses” or “my standard fee is Q dollars for production and direction”.

    He’s also asking for Gawker’s advertising income from those page hits. That should be a quantifiable amount.

    It is were the statutory damages comes in that confuses me: US Title 17, Section 504. I’m not sure he can go for both sets of damages. On the other hand, if Gawker is found to be liable for every click thru on their site, that could add up to a tidy little sum.

      But he was the sole arbiter of his loses.

      Mitigation of his damages would be a killer defense.

      Plus, past earnings on other movies MAY be relevant, but are certainly not dispositive. Earnings on this “project” could be totally speculative.

      Naw, I hold that this is just a ploy for cheap publicity.

        Agree with your conclusion.

        My take; the script was a stinker, they all know it, and decided to see if they could salvage something. But still, a measly million bucks; isn’t that chump change to this crowd? Or, to your point, just publicity?

I R A Darth Aggie | January 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm

but still, just linking to others creates a copyright liability?

No, probably not. What the real beef is that Gawker “expressly refused to remove their directions to and URL links to get the infringing materials”, presumably after receiving a cease and desist letter from Tarantino’s lawyer(s).

And Gawker, being in the media business, should be very aware that the mere act of creation infers copyright protections, and that any alleged leak of a script is probably a) unauthorized, and b) copyright infringement waiting to happen.

If they’re not, they’re about to get a lesson.

BannedbytheGuardian | January 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Both suck. The only good thing about Tarantino was the joy to be had in showing hipsters the old Grease film . They were speechless.

I can’t think of a good thing about gawker.

Please make good on your “threat” Quentin

Pulp Fiction is a great movie