UPDATE, 4:14 PM: Gawker has responded to Quentin Tarantino‘s legal complaint (read it here) on its website. Since writer John Cook invokes the original story by Deadline Hollywood in two places, I’d like to shed a little context to where Cook has gone wrong in a reply that seems to excuse Gawker’s brazen and cavalier behavior by lumping us into the mix. But he’s wrong. Writes Cook: “Last week—before the publication of the script online but after it had begun circulating in Hollywood—Tarantino loudly turned The Hateful Eight leak into a topic of intense news interest by speaking about it at length to Deadline Hollywood, which had itself obtained a copy. Tarantino’s very public complaints about the leak—which named the six parties (of varying degrees of celebrity and potential culpability) that he believes had access to it—were picked up and amplified afterward by dozens of news sites, including Defamer. It was Tarantino himself who turned his script into a news story, one that garnered him a great deal of attention.”
Cook is wrong. I did not obtain and still have not obtained The Hateful Eight. Why would I read a work that made Tarantino, the copyright holder, angry? It was a first draft, and his process is to show that work to select actors, get feedback and dig back in and do a draft that is closer to what he will shoot. The document that Gawker gleefully cites and invites its readers to help themselves to is nothing close to a finished version. In addition, the piece was published because Tarantino wanted the town to know he had changed plans on his next movie, hurt by what he considered a betrayal by a handful of people he gave a first script draft to.
More from Cook: “Quentin Tarantino wanted The Hateful Eight to be published on the internet. This is what he told Deadline, in the course of complaining about the then-small-scale leak to some unknown number of reporters and Hollywood types: “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.”
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, and while it might well be difficult to prove whether the website got the script and put it online under an untraceable website–Tarantino’s lawyers say the site asked its audience if anyone had the script draft–there are lots of people in Hollywood who are salivating over the prospect of seeing this case move forward, possibly becoming a cautionary tale that might give bloggers and others on the web second thoughts before they traffic in stolen goods.
EARLIER, BREAKING, 8:19 am PST: Quentin Tarantino is taking Gawker Media to court after the snarky website brazenly posted a link to The Hateful Eight, the first draft screenplay whose leak prompted Tarantino to say he would shelve the film. Tarantino has filed a formal legal complaint this morning in U.S. District Court, Central District Of California Western Division (read it here). The legal complaint charges Gawker with copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement. Tarantino’s case will be led by hard-nosed litigator Martin Singer.
Here is the crux of the legal complaint obtained by Deadline: “Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s right to make a buck. This time they’ve gone 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. Their headline boasts, ‘Here is the leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script’ — 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 an invitation to ‘enjoy’ it. There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic about Gawker Media facilitating and encouraging the public’s violation of Plaintiff’s copyright in the screenplay, and its conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity.”
The complaint alleges that Gawker declined to take down the post, or the URL that encouraged readers to download Tarantino’s screenplay.
This development happened after Tarantino told Deadline Hollywood exclusively that he was so frustrated to learn that someone among a handful of people to whom he gave the first draft script, leaked it. He had planned to write another project, and direct the two movies back to back. Instead, he said he would publish his Hateful Eight script, an ensemble Western, and revisit its movie prospects several years down the road. He said he will make that other project next.
In the legal complaint filed by his attorney, Tarantino maintains that Gawker solicited its readers to provide a copy of the script. Shortly after, the post in question appeared with an invitation to its readers to help themselves to the screenplay. I’ve not heard of a lawsuit quite like this one, but in this day and age when digital theft of copyrighted intellectual property is rampant, it will be an interesting scrape to follow, particularly if this becomes a full blown lawsuit. I’ll have more, soon.
In 2012, Gawker was asked by Lena Dunham’s attorney to take down a post that published Dunham’s 66-page book proposal that sold to Random House for $3.5 million. The site did so “on the recommendation from Gawker’s legal department.”