As Hurt Locker Producers Sue Thousands For File Sharing... They Claim Free Speech Rights To Copy Story Of Soldier

from the for-us,-not-for-thee dept

While there's lots of attention being paid to the somewhat suicidal decision by Hurt Locker's producers to sue thousands of fans, and to call anyone who suggests this might not be the best business strategy "morons" and "thieves,", it's also worth remembering that the producers themselves have been sued for "pirating" the story. As we noted at the time the lawsuit was filed, we don't have much sympathy for the guy suing.

However, it is entertaining to read the response from the producers to the soldier who claims that Hurt Locker was based on his life story with no compensation. In response, the producers claim that they have a First Amendment right to use his story. There are plenty of other arguments made in the filing (and most of it is a technical dispute about venue), but it still does seem rather ironic that the producers can so blatantly mock people for file sharing, calling it "stealing," when they refuse to pay the guy whose story was the basis for the movie. Now, I think they're legally in the right on this particular case (and at the same time ridiculously overreaching in their own lawsuits). But it still is quite a contrast that they can claim that a personal, non-commercial download of a movie is the same thing as "stealing" and deserves jailtime, while an attempt to take someone else's life story and make millions from it is somehow perfectly justifiable. Double standards.


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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    "Double standards."

    Nope, just one standard: profit. Not paying the real soldier for his story gives the producers more profit. Suing copyright infringers gives the producers (and lawyers) more profit.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:51am

      Re:

      "Suing copyright infringers gives the producers (and lawyers) more profit."

      Once you factor in losses from boycotts of this and future movies, the court costs, lawyer fees and the fact that most of the infringers probably won't be able to pay the demanded amounts, I actually doubt that.

       

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        Ima Fish (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:22am

        Re: Re:

        I totally agree. But we're not blinded by greed, er, profits.

         

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        xs (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:10am

        Re: Re:

        They "Think" suing infringers gives them profit.

        But everyone knows what we THINK may happen is often not what WILL happen.

         

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        The Informer, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

        Re: Re:

        Wrong - USCG is filing one lawsuit and grouping all the defendents into one group. This means they file one lawsuit fee, and see all the people who fight this lawsuit in court located in DC at one specific time. This means that they will probably get 4 million (if half settle) in settlements, and then sue the rest in one court trial - losing relatively little in court costs and lawyer fee's compared to the defendents.


        Obviously, this is being challenged, and the USCG has until the 21st to explain how this is reasonable.

         

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      Ryan, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:35am

      Re:

      I don't think they're doing this for profit so much as out of spite and/or stupidity (or to give idle lawyers a job).

      Obviously, suing people isn't going to increase profits in the long run(or even the short run necessarily), and most investors out there are perfectly aware that mutual profit/enjoyment is symbiotic.

      If you read the producer Chartier's response, it seems more like this guy's just an asshole.

       

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      Richard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      Not paying the real soldier for his story gives the producers more profit. Suing copyright infringers gives the producers (and lawyers) more profit.

      The really silly thing about this is that both statements are not even true.

      If they had got the soldier on board he could have made an enormous boost to their promotion.

      Suing copyright infringers, as is frequently pointed out here, is also usually counterproductive.

      These giys are not defending their bottom line - they are defending their egos and desire for control at the expense of their bottom line.

       

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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:41am

    I don't get it though

    how exactly is taking someone else's story and making a buck on it a free speech defense? I don't get how those are related.

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:43am

      Re: I don't get it though

      No one owns facts, not even the facts of one's own life. So you have a right to write a book or make a movie about someone's life story without paying them.

       

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        Hmmm..., Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:59am

        Re: Re: I don't get it though

        So if I compile my life story in a database, then in the UK they'd have to pay me, right?

         

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          Ima Fish (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:21am

          Re: Re: Re: I don't get it though

          Well, of course, facts included in a database deserve protection. We can't let those facts running around free or someone might not get paid.

           

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        Richard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

        Re: Re: I don't get it though

        So you have a right to write a book or make a movie about someone's life story without paying them.

        True - but it is usually good manners and good sense to get the subject "on board" if possible.

        You get better information and better publiciy that way.

         

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      Robert Ring (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:57am

      Re: I don't get it though

      Yeah, Ima's right on this. Imagine if such a law banned telling others' stories without permission. Journalism would become a farce.

       

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      fogbugzd (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:59am

      Re: I don't get it though

      Hollywood and book authors traditionally do pay people to use their stories, although there is no actual legal requirement to do so. However, there is a danger that if the source of the story is obvious and they get a fact wrong, then they might possibly be sued for libel or defamation.

      Paying people for their stories does get the studio or author a few benefits. 1) They usually get the person and their family as technical consultants. 2) They avoid bad publicity for exploiting the person or family. 3) Protection from lawsuits due to liable or defamation issues.

      In this case I don't think the link between the person and the story were obvious. In fact, I think it is the soldier's own complaint that made the link in the minds of anyone who cares. That would probably have been enough to get the film makers off the hook for any type of libel or slander issues. However, it looks like the film makers are now acknowledging the link. In that situation I hope they got their facts straight about the soldier because that might be enough to open them up for a legitimate lawsuit.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:51am

    This goes back to the question of whether a movie based on real life events would be within fair use.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:10am

    in the end, the story isnt any one soldiers story, but a collage of events and situations that many soldiers faced. if you take anyone in the same platoon, example, they probably all had similar experienced in theater.

    as it typical here, this is mike playing "gotchya" politics with an issue. should he more be outraged and demeaning to the soldier who claims to own facts? or do we only get uppity against corporations and businesses?

     

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      Dementia (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:30am

      Re:

      Actually, I think his response is accurate in both cases. He does say he doesn't think the soldier has much, if any, kind of a case, and he also thinks the producers and the US Copyright Group are idiots.

       

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      Any Mouse, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      You are as idiotic as you are incomprehensible. Didn't bother reading the article, did you?

       

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    Richard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    Point?

    Why would they try and sue so many people? I understand that they are having a bit of a hissy fit for the film being a bit of a flop at the cinema, but why blame pirates? Seems like an excuse. If a film doesn't do well....we'll just blame it on piracy. Fucking morons.
    They can't honestly expect to make up for lost earnings for people not wanting to watch the film by suing people.
    If the film was any good then I'm sure a lot of the people who downloaded it would end up buying it on bluray/ DVD any way. I'd rather see a rough copy of a film first before deciding whether or not I thought it was worth spending £12 on a ticket and drink per person to watch it at the cinema.
    FYI I didn't download it, but watched it at the cinema and didn't think it was all that.
    There are plenty of films that do fantastically well at the box office and still get pirated, so blaming pirates for your film not doing well is just a piss poor excuse.
    I know people probably won't agree with me but that's just my own personal feelings on the matter

     

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      fogbugzd (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:30am

      Re: Point?

      In this case the stated intent is to "monetize" piracy. The main purpose of the lawsuit isn't to discourage piracy. The objective is to make money by suing people for piracy. The people who put this out on the internet actually hoped that the movie would be pirated as much as possible so they would have more people to sue.

      Long story short, the movie was a box office failure, and this is a method to try to use the courts as an alternative to selling tickets or DVD's.

      Honestly, at least 90% of the people they are suing probably did something illegal. I have no objections to those people getting sued. I do have a few objections to the Hurt Locker lawsuit. It is clearly set up as an extortion racket, and they have hit people with lawsuits who are completely innocent. Those innocents really don't have any recourse but to pay up. The lawsuits are generally filed in a venue that is too far for them to go and defend themselves or to hire a lawyer to do so; it is simply cheaper to pay up. Second, this isn't what the courts are set up for. The filmmakers are not trying to get redress for a wrong; they set up the situation to foster mass lawsuits. Third, the way the lawsuits are filed appears to violate court rules that are intended to prevent exactly this type of abusive lawsuits.

       

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        Richard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re: Point?

        (Incidentally - note that I'm a different Richard)

        Honestly, at least 90% of the people they are suing probably did something illegal. I have no objections to those people getting sued. I do have a few objections to the Hurt Locker lawsuit. It is clearly set up as an extortion racket, and they have hit people with lawsuits who are completely innocent. Those innocents really don't have any recourse but to pay up.


        You are right about the way the lawsuit is set up - however this has consequences for your other point.

        Because the scheme is set up to make money by extracting pre-settlement payments they really don't want to actually take anyone to court. That means that they actually don't need to be accurate in collecting infringing IP addresses. The innocent are as likely to pay up as the guilty. Therefore my guess is that in this case your 90% guilty guess is probably a big overestimate.

        However the fact that they aren't in reality going to take anyone to court also means that the accused have no need to pay up. All you need to do is simply provide a stonewall denial to every accusation. If they keep sending letters then you can sue them back. One person in the UK has done this and won his case against ACS law (the equivalent UK operation).

        See http://www.cableforum.co.uk/board/34690659-post287.html

         

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          Richard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Point?

          Actually it was Davenport Lyons - not ACS law - but they were doing the same scam - and some of the personnel were the same.

           

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      ac, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:41am

      Re: Point?

      incidentally, it was a great movie. Were it not for the producer suing people I might have bought it on bluray...

       

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        Call me Al, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:46am

        Re: Re: Point?

        Pretty much my thoughts too. I saw it in the cinema and really enjoyed it. I fully intended to pick it up on DVD in due course. Now they can get stuffed.

         

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    Duh, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    No $hit Sherlock!

    Cause copying movies and distributing them and receiving them without PAYING for them is ILLEGAL!

     

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      Ryan, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:30am

      Re: No $hit Sherlock!

      And you have committed online harassment by utilizing a telecommunications device, that is a computer, whether or not communication ensued, without disclosing your identity and with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, and harass any person who received the communication.

      Which is illegal.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:19am

      Re: No $hit Sherlock!

      How's about backups?

      Can't I lend a backup (copy) to a friend and then receive it back?

      Is that a crime?

       

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      go, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 10:43pm

      Re: No $hit Sherlock!

      No, copying movies is NOT illegal.

      In fact many movie makers place their work into free distribution and the distributing networks have no way of knowing who is and isn't doing this .

      Therefore the congress made a law that distributers must first be TOLD the work is illegal and given the opportunity to delete it BEFORE the owner can sue under the digitial millenium copyreight act safe haven clasue which wa srecently enforced by the judge who threw out the Viacom lawsuit against Youtube.

      A collection of people in a bittorrent swarm is a distributor network which does not know if a work is intended for free distribution or not unless the copyright owner first makes them each aware and gives them the opportunity to remove the work. Therefore no copyright owner shoudl be able to first sue without telling every person who they have discovered downloaded and shared it that the copyright is not free and given the opportunity to remove it.

       

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        geo, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 10:47pm

        Re: Re: No $hit Sherlock!

        also remember no copyright notice embedded in the film is visible until the work is downloaded and simultaneously shared in a swarm therefore just identifying someone who has participated in a swarm of a movie who has NOT received prior notice from the copyright holder with a demand to remove it, thus from the copyright holder has NOT fulfilled the take down notice requirement of the digital millennium copyright act and cannot sue the distributors in the swarm.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Why they are dumb...

    The few thousand they sued are a small fraction of the people who downloaded and uploaded the movie. This is like shooting plastic pellets at a charging rhinoceros. The pirates won the war with media copyright the minute two modems started swapping 1s and 0s.

    Suing people into submission has been tried and deemed a failed tactic by every major media corporation in the US. This is because the so called "pirates" are also just normal people who can and will pay for media that they feel deserves their money.

    We understand that the 21st century is a new and scary place for big media, but the first company to wake up and adapt to the changes taking place, instead of whining about legal technicalities will do well, while the monolithic corporations who have gotten used to releasing crap and expecting people to pay out the ass for it will stagnate and crumble. It has nothing to do with the law, it has nothing to do with right or wrong, its just the way the world works.

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:49am

    can't wait for this day

    when they sue you for not seeing there film.
    siting that your piracy is spending money on something else

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    ELAINE: You know, a friend of mine almost got beat up at that place by the Van Buren Boys?

    PETERMAN: (Interested) You don't say.

    ELAINE: Yeah. The only think that saved him is that he accidentally flashed their secret gang sign.

    PETERMAN: Well, that's pretty exciting. (Pause) Let's put that in the book.

    ELAINE: But, that didn't happen to you.

    PETERMAN: So, we pay off your friend, and it becomes a Peterman.

     

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    Comboman (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    Expert witness

    The soldier should offer his services as an expert witness in the trials of the downloaders. A jury would be hard pressed to award a huge damage claim to the producers who took advantage of a decorated veteran, and he gets the satisfaction of a little payback.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Expert witness

      The soldier should offer his services as an expert witness in the trials of the downloaders. A jury would be hard pressed to award a huge damage claim to the producers who took advantage of a decorated veteran, and he gets the satisfaction of a little payback.

      Most judges are too pro-copyright industry to allow something like that.

       

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Thanks, but no thanks!

    Because of the noxious behavior of the producers of Hurt Locker, they have lost at least a few sets of eyeballs (all of my family) and subsequent income. Piss on them!

     

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    jilocasin0, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Rights are only rights when they are difficult to make use of.

    Why is it that corporations only want to "allow" you to have a right, when that right is difficult to actually exercise? (setting aside for the moment the lunacy of requiring some one else to "allow" you to exercise a 'right'.)

    Try this little thought experiment:

    A show is aired on television (free OTA).
    You purchase this nifty little machine called a VCR.
    You use said VCR to tape said show.
    Media producers go ballistic (Boston strangler references and all).
    Supreme Court rules time-shifting, media-shifting for personal use LEGAL. (Hooray!).

    Set VCR to tape show when you're away, O.K.
    Ask wife to tape show for you. O.K.
    Give taped show to grandfather to watch (he still can't get it to stop blinking 12:00). O.K.
    Ask someone at the office, if they taped last nights show so you can watch it, your VCR broke and you bought a new one. O.K.

    Fast forward to today.... DVR replaces VCR, DVD+-/R/RW or files replaces VHS tapes.

    Copy show for yourself? Maybe O.K., maybe 'protected by broadcast flag', maybe DVR set to wipe it 24 hours later, whether you've watched it or not.

    Have your wife copy show? Maybe (see above) At least as your wife she doesn't have to testify against you.

    A copy for grandpa? If you can get a copy onto a disk or file, and you walk it over, maybe. If someone catches you though..... :(

    Asking someone if they have a copy you could watch? $150,000+ lawsuit.

    What the @#)(!*@$!&#) ?

    You could do the same Gedankenexperiment with music, but you'd have to include mixtapes, and taping off the radio.

    Same result.

    Lots of us (and I'm dating myself here) grew up with it being perfectly legal to swap VHS copies, mix tapes, tape off the TV or radio. Then the N.E.T. Act (No Electronic Theft Act 1997) made non-commercial copyright infringement for personal use illegal. The DMCA (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) made it trivially easy for media companies to prevent you from even using your rights. A simple, not terribly effective, digital lock and now magically 'legal' non-infringing or otherwise Fair-Use of media that you own was a crime. They didn't say you couldn't make that legal backup, but if you broke their 'encryption' you could still go to jail. And to add insult to injury, it's now illegal to talk about, or build the means to actually make use of your rights.

    It's like saying you have the right to bear arms, as long as you can build the guns yourself, and you can't tell anyone else how you did it...

    So as long as it was impractical for you to make use of your rights, it was O.K. But as soon as it becomes easy and convenient, it's illegal.

    I guess Prohibition didn't teach these people anything. Why do people 'break the law' en masse? Because what they are doing wasn't illegal, and shouldn't be illegal.

    just a thought....

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:53am

      Re: Rights are only rights when they are difficult to make use of.

      And something that's always confused me:

      Steal CD from store. Get caught. Pay small fine. End.

      Download one music (not a CD) from a torrent. Get caught. Pay thousands and end up in jail. End?

      WTF? Physical theft gets less punishment than copyright infringement.

       

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        RD, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re: Rights are only rights when they are difficult to make use of.

        "WTF? Physical theft gets less punishment than copyright infringement."

        Oh it gets even better than that. The jail time for infringement is now MORE than for dealing some drugs, and even manslaughter. You can KILL someone and get a few years (or suspended) but you get 5-10 for infringement now. Things have gone way, WAY too far in this area.

         

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      Fushta, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:01pm

      Re: Rights are only rights when they are difficult to make use of.

      I'd like to add to your thoughts, jilocasin0.
      Let's say, I have a Netflix sub and can stream Paul Blart, Mall Cop over my computer/Wii/PS3/etc. However, instead of streaming the movie, I download it from the Internets instead. Same movie...I've already paid my sub, but I risk a pre-settlement instead.
      I've paid my dues (to Netflix), so if I can get the movie (disc or streaming) from Netflix, I can download it, too. No difference.

       

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    Sean T Henry (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Why not they do it.

    "In response, the producers claim that they have a First Amendment right to use his story."

    So to avoid law suites and spread the movie all I want all I need to do is take there story get several theater friends together and recreate the production. Have people donate to the boycott Hurt Locker by seeing "Locker Hurt" they would have no issue.

     

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      aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Why not they do it.

      I was wondering that. What if I got the blessing of the soldier (not that I think it's necessary, but for the sake of argument) and he helps me create another movie based on him and his friends? Would that be alright, or would I be set upon by a bunch of lawyers trying to keep anyone from seeing the film?

       

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    Brad Hubbard (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Just being an "Artist"

    This is a fairly common reaction from most people who consider themselves "artists" - they over-value their own contribution and undervalue the influence or contributions of others.

    The end result is the kind of things we see here. When anyone undervalues THEIR work (for example, by not paying full retail price for it) - they're liars and thieves. But when it comes to someone else's works, well "It wouldn't have any value without my artistic contribution."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:54pm

    when did techdirt get these fancy new buttons?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:08pm

    More double standards by the wealthy

    The rich and their shills are rife with double standards such as this.

    Give healthcare to all citizens? Oh my God, that's socialism! Give bailouts to private mega-corporations that screwed up fully due to their own accord? That's not socialism....THAT'S solid economic policy.

    Criticize the government when pro-rich Republican shills are in charge? You're anti-American! Criticize the government a few years later when some people running it want to benefit the average Joe...you're not anti-American, YOU'RE just defending the Constitution!

    Intellectual property is no different. I love listening to Corporate America go on and on about how important intellectual property laws are, yet they seldom adhere to them themselves. Seems like every other day one big business sues another one for an alleged trademark or patent infringement. Didn't the MPAA violate copyrights on "This Film is Not Yet Rated" a few years back? And lest we forget the story of inventor Robert Kearns and patent infringement, dramatized in the 2008 film "Flash of Genius."

     

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    ravious, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:08pm

    Its not about file sharing.. Never was.. They don't give a shit who downloads their movies.

    The real issue is.. Its much easier to have a judge paid a relatively small fee ORDER a consumer to buy their product at a HUGE markup than it is for them to WIN over the consumer from conventional means and encourage them to buy their products at the regular retail value. They dont have to worry about making trash anymore, they can get twice the amount of money from lawsuits from just a handful of people rather than expecting thousands of people to buy their trash from the store.

     

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    John Doe, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 5:41am

    u say he made millions from it...the reason he sued thousands is cause he lost millions not made millions. It cost 19mil to make and he only got 15mil from sales

     

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      Richard (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 7:24am

      Re: John Doe

      So if I make a mediocre film that costs me $100m to make and it only makes $20m at the box office because people didn't want to see it because it was, let's face it average at best; I can suddenly start running around like a headless chicken screaming, 'the pirates have stolen my earnings', or should I go back to the drawing board and make a better film next time round.
      Just because a film costs a lot of money to make, doesn't mean it's going to make a profit or even break even. If every film that was released did this then the worlds courts would be congested with dumb claims made by dumb people who make average run of the mill films.

       

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    corberlaw (profile), Jun 17th, 2010 @ 2:06am

    Tyne v Warner Bros says they're right

    The case of Tyne in Florida some years ago dealt with this issue, involving the real person portrayed by George Clooney in "The Perfect Storm." Both the Fed Ct and State Ct allowed the use without compensation to the family. Free Speech was the cornerstone of the decisions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mose, Jun 17th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Filmmakers

    One of the unfortunate lessons I learned at film school is that many filmmakers are morally dubious, greedy hypocrites. They'll happily employ your skills for nothing, but should the project actually make money (prize money for example) you'll never hear from them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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