EXCLUSIVE: More than a month after Quentin Tarantino slapped Gawker with a copyright infringement lawsuit over its promotion and dissemination of his leaked and now-shelved The Hateful Eight script, the website today responded in court — and it wants the whole thing thrown out. “Because there was no primary infringement to which Gawker’s links contributed, plaintiff has failed to state a claim for contributory copyright Infringement,” said Gawker Media LLC’s lawyers in a 26-page motion for dismissal today (read it here). “Even if plaintiff had been able to establish the elements of such a claim, Gawker’s use of links to materials already posted to the Internet by third parties was privileged as a fair use.” Gawker has requested an April 14 hearing before federal district Judge John F. Walter on their motion.
On January 21, my colleague Mike Fleming Jr. exclusively reported that the director had decided to halt efforts to make Hateful Eight his next pic after the script to the Western leaked online. Two days after that the script hit the Web and on January 27, Tarantino launched his copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement suit against Gawker for its post “Here Is The Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script.” Represented by Marty Singer, Henry Self III and Evan Spiegel of Lavely & Singer, Tarantino’s complaint said Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck. This time they went too far.” Asking for a jury trial, the complaint seeks at least $1 million in damages. “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,” added the 14-page federal court filing. That same day, Gawker fired back online that Tarantino made the leak news by talking to Deadline about it and that all it did was point to the AnnonFiles site where the script was posted. “We’ll be fighting this one,” wrote then Gawker editor John Cook.
True to Cook’s words, today’s response to Tarantino’s complaint certainly reeked of a brawl. “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,” said the defendant’s filing. “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.”
Even before the legal response from Gawker, the case had seen some changes and trimming from Tarantino’s January 27th complaint. Late last month Tarantino had Gawker Media Group Inc. dismissed as one of the defendants in his action. On February 19, Gawker claimed that because Gawker Media Group Inc. is based in the Cayman Islands and doesn’t have a single employee in California it is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Robert Penchina and Thomas Curley of the NYC and Washington DC offices of Levine Sullican Koch & Sclutz are representing Gawker Media LLC and Gawker Entertainment LLC. Kevin Vick and Jean-Paul Jassy of LA’s Jassy Vick Carolan LLP are also attorneys for the defendants in the case.