Quentin Tarantino has filed a copyright lawsuit against Gawker Media for allegedly facilitating the dissemination of copies of his unproduced script, The Hateful Eight.
Last week, the famous director was outraged after details about the Western circulated. He was so irate that he told the media that he wouldn’t be making the picture as his next film.
Soon afterwards, Gawker’s Defamer blog linked to the 146-page script under a post titled, “Here Is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script.”
“Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck,” says Tarantino’s lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Martin Singer and Evan Spiegel at Lavely & Singer in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, emphasizes the whereabouts of the script.
According to the complaint, “Their headline boasts… ‘Here,’ not someplace else, but ‘Here’ on the Gawker website. The article then contains multiple direct links for downloading the entire Screenplay through a conveniently anonymous URL by simply clicking button-links on the Gawker page, and brazenly encourages Gawker visitors to read the Screenplay illegally with the invitation to ‘Enjoy!’ it.”
In the past, Gawker has toed the line when it comes to sensitive material. The website has sparked lawsuits, for example, over sex tapes from Hulk Hogan and Rebecca Gayheart. It also faced off against Lena Dunham over the posting of a book proposal. After Dunham’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter, Gawker removed the book proposal from its site. “We ran too much of it,” Gawker founder Nick Denton later admitted in an interview with THR.
This time, according to Tarantino’s lawsuit, Gawker has refused to back down from “repeat demands for the removal of the posted URL links” and “submissions of DMCA notices of copyright infringement.”
The lawsuit seems designed to counter Gawker’s potential defense of “safe harbor” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The dispute also figures to raise issues of contributory liability as explored in the Supreme Court’s Grokster ruling. An examination of the liability of linking to copyrighted material also came up in adult entertainment publisher Perfect 10’s legal battles with Amazon and Google. That dispute went up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which remanded the issue of whether in-line linking with knowledge of copyrighted material could be unlawful.
“The reason for the Copyright Act is to protect against the Defendants’ conduct,” states Tarantino’s lawsuit, which demands actual and statutory damages as well as Gawker’s profits in the amount of at least $1 million.
UPDATE: Gawker editor John Cook has responded to the lawsuit. He says that the website didn’t leak the script, that Tarantino deliberately turned the leak into a story and wanted Hateful Eight published online, and that Gawker published the link because it was news. Here’s the full response.
by Eriq Gardner