Tarantino Sues Gawker For Sharing Leaked ‘The Hateful Eight’ Screenplay
Last Tuesday came the news that Academy Award-winning writer/director Quentin Tarantino was shelving his latest project, a Western called ‘The Hateful Eight’, after his screenplay had leaked. As Deadline Hollywood reported:
“I’m very, very depressed,” Tarantino said. “I finished a script, a first draft, and I didn’t mean to shoot it until next winter, a year from now. I gave it to six people, and apparently it’s gotten out today.” He learned that when his longtime agent Mike Simpson began getting phone calls from agents looking to pitch their clients for roles in the ensemble Western.
At that time, Tarantino said that he was considering releasing the screenplay in print form, and then “maybe revisit[ing] the prospect of a movie in the next five years.” A mere two days later, Gawker posted links to download the entire screenplay, and yesterday, Tarantino responded by filing a lawsuit against Gawker. The Hollywood Reporter uploaded the complaint, and there’s plenty to take in. The reasoning behind the suit is laid out early in the filing:
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… 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 [sic] conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity.
The complaint makes two claims. Firstly, federal copyright infringement is asserted against the site that is hosting the document, and various unknown defendants. Next is the claim of Contributory Copyright Infringement against Gawker Media. In both counts, DMCA Notices were sent and apparently ignored. The harm mentioned for both counts is the same:
As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ infringing activities, Plaintiff has sustained and will continue to sustain further substantial injury, including damage to his business and profession and loss of value of the Screenplay, in an amount not yet known but to be determined according to proof at trial.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Just days ago, Gawker received a court victory in the matter of the Hulk Hogan sex tape, which it posted in October 2012, so they’re no stranger to courtroom battles. Here, Gawker did not host the document on their own servers, but “merely” linked to it elsewhere. Perhaps this will make a difference as the matter progresses – it certainly has in cases we’ve written about before, but this is where the contributory infringement claim will be tested. Here’s Gawker editor John Cook’s initial response to the lawsuit.
As for Tarantino, his last couple of screenplays both showed up online a long time before production began, and the final products still managed to perform pretty well, making $120 million and $162 million domestically, plus they earned Tarantino one, and Christoph Waltz two, Oscars. So, while the leak may not ruin the potential box office prospects of ‘The Hateful Eight’, Gawker’s actions certainly raise some serious copyright concerns, and we’ll be watching closely to see what develops.