Fox Sues Woman For $15M Because She Aggregated TV And Movie Scripts She Found Online

from the ouch dept

In the latest example of copyright law gone mad, it appears that Twentieth Century Fox is suing a woman for $15 million, because she aggregated various scripts she found online as a resource for screenwriters (like herself) to learn from. The key issue is that apparently one of the many, many scripts she had put together was of a movie that is still in production, and Fox doesn't want anyone to see it. Apparently she was told of the lawsuit by "private investigators," who questioned her for two hours (it's not clear why she didn't throw them out or refuse to answer their questions).

Of course, those who support the current copyright regime will note that these scripts are, in fact, covered by copyright. However, it's difficult to claim that these scripts are somehow likely to act as a substitute for the actual movie for anyone. It's hard to see any losses from such a collection, frankly, but thanks to the fun of copyright law and statutory damages, actual harm doesn't much matter. All that matters is a giant Hollywood corporation has sued a struggling screenwriter for $15 million because she thought she was helping other screenwriters by aggregating example scripts she found elsewhere online for them all to learn from.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    link says 12 million

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:07am

    Beyond just not acting as a substitute, I imagine almost nobody wants to read a script for a movie without watching the film before or after. If you are a screenwriter (or director, or cinematographer, or what-have-you) it seems like the educational benefit would come from comparing the movie-on-paper to the movie-on-screen.

    I'm guessing the vast majority of scripts are read by people who already know the movie well, and the remainder are actually driving new sales.

     

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    Pixelation, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    Yet another reason to stop supporting the movie industry.

    No DMCA notice? Hopefully they lose.

     

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    Moses Avalon, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Not copyright, trade secret

    It's not copyright gone mad. They are suing her for violation of a trade secret. There is a mammoth difference. This would be the legal equivalent to writing reviews of an iPhone, using a stolen (or lost) iPhone before the phone was released to the public.. It has nothing to do with illegal P2P.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:55am

      Re: Not copyright, trade secret

      Is there such a law? I could understand violating an NDA, but that definitely doesn't apply here. Plus, why would she be in violation of a trade secret law (if one does exist), she didn't disseminate the script, she got it from someone else who disseminated it already. Shouldn't they be the one in violation? Plus the lawsuit is for copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement.

      This is the problem with Copyright law, it encourages fixing of the symptom not the problem. Someone leaked a script Fox didn't want out, so they sue the person who happen to find the script, not the person who is truly responsible.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:59am

      Re: Not copyright, trade secret

      It says the movie is called Deadpool, which is based off of a comic book.

      What trade secret? I mean, it's already in comic book form, where's the secret?

       

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        PRMan, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re: Not copyright, trade secret

        Well, hopefully they handle Deadpool better than they did in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where they ruined him.

        Or am I allowed to discuss movie plots anymore...?

        Wait! I'm sorry! I didn't realize already-released movies are trade secrets now... Don't send me to Guantanamo...

         

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:07am

      Re: Not copyright, trade secret

      As a struggling screenwriter myself, you can get your hands on any script of any movie at any time, and it's been that way for a number of years. It hasn't hurt the movie industry (if anything it's helped), and it's a joke that a studio would sue anyone for this.

       

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      Berenerd (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:35am

      Re: Not copyright, trade secret

      Just sayin, but perhaps go after the site THAT POSTED IT TO BEGIN WITH? its online! anyone can find it! So if I stumble across a diamond ring in the middle of I95 when i stopped to piss on the side of the road, I should be sued for stealing it?

       

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      Eugene (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:49am

      Re: Not copyright, trade secret

      There is no trade secret, this is not the equivalent of reviewing a stolen iPhone, nothing you said was correct.

      Scripts are freely available to be read everywhere, of released films, films in-production, and even ones that haven't yet been picked up. Their method of construction is not only also freely available everywhere, but exceptionally rigid and standardized - if an aspiring scriptwriter hands in a script that deviates from the structure, their script won't even be read. Guaranteed. Resources for viewing scripts of other films, therefore, are very important.

      Furthermore, scripts are not the movie. They are rarely even enjoyable to read, because they lack stage direction and emotional cues. Many good scripts end up as bad movies and vice versa.

      This lawsuit ridiculous.

       

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    Cowardly Anon, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    Fox states that P.J’s actions “harm the fans who do not want their enjoyment of a movie or television show to be spoiled by knowing the story ahead of actually being able to watch it.”

    Yes, indeed. I'm sure her posting already avaialbe scripts will defantly harm the fans. Also, will the fans be receiving any of that 12mil, since they are apparently the ones being harmed?

    The movie is Deadpool for all those wondering. It's going to be released in 2012. I for one won't go see it now. I guess my enjoyment of the movie has been has been spoiled by knowing that the company producing it is off it's blooming rocker.

     

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    Yogi, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Iran

    If the US is determined to adopt insane, draconian laws, than why not learn from the best medieval lawmakers in the world - Iran.
    I suggest death by stoning for this viscous lady. All the RIAA and MPAA lawyers and their senators can take part in the public stoning which will be held, filmed and broadcast live on PPV, from Hollywood.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    The real reason Fox is blowing a gasket over this is because if someone collected all their scripts in one place, they'd realize that they're all basically the same.

     

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    Andrew, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    You do realize you can legally BUY movie scripts online if you want? This woman willfully hosted and distributed pirate copies of them. And that makes her a victim?

    If you don't want to be held liable for copyright infringement, don't pirate content you don't own without permission.

    It's not that hard. No one forced her to open or run the site.

     

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      Berenerd (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      I may be wrong, as my work blocks the site that has the news article, but were they not just links to the scripts? not actually posting the scripts themselves?

       

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      Eugene (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 6:30pm

      Re:

      ....uh, you can...buy a script to produce it. That's sort of the point. If you want to use the story in the script, you buy the right to use that story from the scriptwriter, or whoever the scriptwriter sold that right to.

      But scripts themselves are not published works. They have no inherent value, aside from the cost of paper. Which is of course negated when digitizing them.

      Now, if they go ahead and take a script from a popular film, pretty it up, print it on fancy paper, maybe add some director's notes, behind-the-scenes info, some fancy set photos and bind it in a hard cover for your coffee table...then you've created what Mike would call a "scarcity". Which of course you could sell and probably make some money from. No one else could do it, because they don't own the rights.

      But again, they could still just go online and read it with no repercussions.

       

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    The eejit (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Well, this should get interesting....

    ...Considering the copyright to the Deadpool movie is owned wholly by Marvel Studios, Inc. which is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.

    The fallout from this should be amusing to watch.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Oh boy I'm glad I didn't buy anything from them and don't watch Fox.

    This is the kind of news that makes me more resolute in not consuming or mentioning their offers to anyone.

    Those people are not part of my world and they can take their stuff and shove it where the sun don't shine.

    Law or no law this is just wrong.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    The reason why you copyright scripts isn't simply to prevent them from being generally consumed via reading and thus spoiling the need to see the movie, it is to prevent someone from making a movie after plagiarizing the script and beating the original scrpt owners to the box office.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      My Deadpool movie is already made. Best $15 I ever spent. You can expect it nationwide any day now.

      I just have to convince 4,000 movie theaters to play the damn thing.

      I based my original Deadpool movie off of the original Deadpool comic book.

       

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      Eugene (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 6:43pm

      Re:

      Oh yeah because ideas are sooo valuable!
      Like when Dreamworkz beat Pixar to the punch with their fish movie by making "A Shark's Tale". That really ruined Pixar - oh wait, nobody watched "A Shark's Tale" because it was rubbish and a transparent money grab. :|


      Seriously though, I only ever hear that concern from new scriptwriters "oh noes everyone wants to steal my idea!"

      Nobody wants to steal your idea. Nobody cares about your idea. Your idea sucks. Everyone's ideas suck by default so don't beat yourself up over it. But don't expect studios to want what you have. The reason movies need to be pitched is because most ideas suck worse than the worst movie Hollywood has ever made. Only a select few ideas are good enough to become a bad film. But even though there are only a few, they're still a dime a dozen. And it's a fake dime made out of cheap plastic. Recycled from diapers.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Books are freely available but are also copyrighted. As I recall copyright was applied to the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" not for the actual movie which had fallen into pblic domain but because of the actual physical script which was copyrighted and this was applied to the "story" in the movie and therefore brought royalties to the heirs of the writers.

     

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    Todd Eastman (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 10:37am

    Fair Use

    I'm not an attorney - but doesn't this fall under the description of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes under the copyright laws?

     

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      Darren (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 6:45pm

      Re: Fair Use

      That would assume that fair use stands up for dammit-all, which is seldom does, alas.

      There's no money in fair use, thus no lawyers to cry its merits, etc, etc.

       

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    Smartestonehere (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 10:41am

    Libraries beware!

    Libraries beware, they should really rethink about what they are all about. I mean they lend out millions of copyrighted books to the public, BEFORE some of them were made into movies! AND FOR FREE!!!!!!!!! GASP!!!! Shame on Fox!

     

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      Rich, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 11:42am

      Re: Libraries beware!

      I truly expect to see libraries to become illegal in my lifetime. THEN you will finally see ordinary citizens get upset over the state of copyright law. Of course, I think by then it will be too late.

       

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        Darren (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

        Re: Re: Libraries beware!

        Yeah, because even though many people claim no one uses libraries, that's not at all correct. They may not use them for books so much, but they are chock-full of people checking out DVDs, audio books, comics, and magazines.

         

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    v00d00m4n, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Bustards suing wrong person, they just found 3.whipping-girl

    Damn i knew that FOX have some idiots who cant handle their own franchises well and cant keep good level of security of their IPs, but its news for me that they are so stupid to use some innocent woman as scapegoat for fault of others.

    Actually by any normal law, she is innocent - she wasnt source of leak, she just found script online, and she was not aware that this script is leaked and in-production, it wasnt she who published this script originally, she just republished copy that someone else published before.
    She only could be a witness to help find original source of leak, she cant be sues, so i believe she have all legal rights to sue-back FOX company for using her as scapegoat, wasting her time, nerves and money instead of searching for real source of leak.
    And if judge would not be dumb like many other USA judges i heard of, she would have more chances to get 1-5 millions of compensation from FOX rather than FOX could have anything from her.
    FOX actions could be compared to this:
    Someone stolen item, and sold it to you, when you was not aware it was stolen - FOX sued you for stoling it from them, but you not thief, you just victim of circumstances and they need to investigate fist before suing. But in this case FOX surely knows that you not thief, and when they know it and suing you its kinda sort of crime like slander\backbite because they they deliberately accused an innocent person and was aware of this - thats pretty clear criminal intent of FOX.

     

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    Andrew, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    Not directed straight at this case, which I do find disgusting, but here in the UK if I found a ring by the roadside (that had been stolen) and then took it myself, I would in fact be committing a crime. Though perhaps that says more about our legal system than your mistake...!

     

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    v00d00m4n, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 4:25pm

    well

    1st she is not in Uk
    2nd when you found ring you obviously knew that it had owner, so that case have criminal intent, since instead of searching for owner, you decide to own it instead. In case of this woman and in case i typed for example situation is different - "item" was acquired without acknowledge that it was "stolen" and without criminal intent. And in this case FOX have criminal intentent, because they suing person, which they know, have nothing to do with script leak.

     

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    Ben, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 5:25pm

    holy crap the script for deadpool is online?

    Damm I'm gunna have to go find that.
    Cheers fox, I wouldn't have realised if you hadn't let me know.

     

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