Film director Quentin Tarantino has filed a copyright complaint in U.S. District Court in California against Gawker claiming infringement over this Defamer post, which included a link to a web site that was hosting a copy of The Hateful Eight, an unproduced script he has written.
The complaint, crafted by Hollywood power lawyer and occasional angry-letter-to-Gawker-writer Martin Singer, accuses Gawker of "predatory journalism" and "violating people's rights to make a buck," because we published a sequence of characters that will direct web browsers to a server somewhere else on the internet where readers can find a copy of the script.
A few points:
Gawker did not "leak" Quentin Tarantino's script.
So when you read, say, the Daily Caller headline announcing, "Quentin Tarantino suing Gawker after it leaked 'Hateful Eight' script," you should know that that claim is false. Someone unknown to Gawker put it on a web site called AnonFiles, and someone unknown to Gawker put it on a different web site called Scribd. Last Thursday, Gawker received a tip from a reader informing us that the script was on the AnonFiles site, after which Gawker published a story reporting that the script had surfaced online.
Quentin Tarantino deliberately turned the leak into a story.
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.
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 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 AnonFiles.com." 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.
Gawker published a link to the script because it was news.
Defamer covers what people in Hollywood are talking about. Thanks to Tarantino's shrewd publicity strategy, the leak of The Hateful Eight—and the content of the script—had been widely dissected online and was a topic of heated conversation among Defamer readers. News of the fact that it existed on the internet advanced a story that Tarantino himself had launched, and our publication of the link was a routine and unremarkable component of our job: making people aware of news and information about which they are curious.
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.
Update: I mistakenly believed that Deadline Hollywood had obtained a copy of The Hateful Eight prior to the online leak. Deadline editor Mike Fleming says that is not the case: "Why would I read a work that made Tarantino...angry?"