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Lionsgate Claims That Reviewing A Fake Script Is Copyright Infringement

from the and-how dept

Khyle points us to an interesting situation in which movie studio Lionsgate threatened a blogger for reviewing a script which purported to be for a movie called Hunger Games. Admittedly, the link here is from the blog in question, Forever Young Adult, and (for reasons totally opaque to me), the blogger chose to paraphrase the conversation with Lionsgate lawyer Liat Cohen -- so take this with at least some grains of salt. However, the gist of the conversation appears to be that Lionsgate claims that (a) the script that the blog reviewed was fake and (b) that review violated the studio's copyright. The blog caved and took down the post, so we can't see the full post to see if what was written really infringed on the copyright, but if the script is fake, simply reviewing it shouldn't infringe on anyone's copyright. The blogger claims that she never posted the actual script or anything -- just a review. There could be other (potentially serious) legal issues with reviewing a fake script, but I'm trying to see where the copyright infringement claim comes in.

Either way, the blogger complied with Lionsgate's demand to take down the review, and issued the following, quite amusing, retraction and apology:
Last week, we received a movie script from an unnamed source. That movie script appeared to be the script for the Hunger Games movie. Acting in good faith, we read the script and then offered up very general thoughts about the direction and tone of the script. At no time did we offer the script up to the internet, nor did we forward the script on to any other bloggers or websites. (Nor do we ever intend to. Frankly I don’t even plan to hang on to it for my own enjoyment, cause it sort of sucked.)

Lionsgate has claimed that this script is actually a fake. We have been given no further information than that, and I’m not really sure how they know that what we have is a fake since our post was so very general in nature. I can only hope that as soon as they read the words "Gale becomes a hobo" that they knew something was off, and if that’s the case, then THANK YOU, LIONSGATE.

With no other knowledge to go on, and our dwindling champagne budgets in danger of being seized by a multi-billion dollar company who you would think have better things to do than send nasty emails to YA blogs, we are hereby retracting our opinions on the possibly fake Hunger Games movie script. We take it all back, Internet! Hunger Games movie? What Hunger Games movie? What’s the Hunger Games? Is it, like, Battle Royal but for Americans who hate foreign films?
Of course, all this just makes me think that Lionsgate is a bit too itchy on the trigger finger against anyone who says anything even remotely critical about one of their films.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Seems clear

    for reasons totally opaque to me), the blogger chose to paraphrase the conversation with Lionsgate lawyer Liat Cohen

    He was probably concerned about copyright infringement. The conversation was by email and likely included a copyright notice on the C&D itself.

     

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

  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    Let me get this straight. If it is fake, if some third party wrote it, what copyright claim does Lionsgate have over it?

     

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

  3.  
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    The eejit (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    YOU PIRATE-EATING BLODDSUCKING LEECH!

    ...sorry, now that I've got the trolling done, becuase law.

     

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  4.  
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    John Doe, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Someone set me straight here...

    If the blog did in fact review a fake script than how can Lionsgate claim any copyright at all? If it is fake, then it isn't theirs to claim copyright over. Am I missing something?

     

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  5.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:47am

    Re: Re:

    Your response is astroturf.

     

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

  6.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    We really need penalties for filing baseless DCMA takedown notices with an extra SLAP provision for when the takedown is an attempt to stifle free speech.

     

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

  7.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:54am

    I GET IT!

    Suddenly, it makes sense! Those pictures of a bear and Lincoln with an automatic rifle and a caption that says "Your argument is now invalid" or "This kitten is pushing a watermelon on a lake your argument in now invalid" are made by lawyers--it reflects the way they think!!

    Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

     

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

  8.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    The reason why...

    I only buy movie DVDs from the remainder (bare-assed cheap) bins, or download ripped copies from the internet. If these pinheads weren't so egregiously avaricious, and intent upon pwning their viewers, I would be more inclined to financially support them. Lionsgate, the producer/distributor of all those really stupid, but great, action videos of JCVD et al, deserves to be "ripped" off for this sort of shiat.

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There must be more to this story of astroturfing. Obviously, the govt. can do no wrong, and the govt. is run by big industry such as the movie producers. Ergo, the movie producers are right in this case.

    Also, bloggers aren't really people, but rather punching bags for lawyers....

     

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

  10.  
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    Joseph K (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:40am

    Are they lying about it being fake?

    It makes sense, if the script in question is actually a real script that's in development and Lionsgate is just lying in order to prevent word from getting out. In other words, all that's going on is that they're trying to stop a leak and aren't embarrassed about using a little bit of Kettle Logic to do it ("Not only have you violated our right to that script we wrote, but we never even wrote that script").

     

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

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:43am

    Well...

    Obviously, the blog has a painfully obvious fair use argument, though they likely didn't want to pursue costly litigation (something needs to be done about this issue - but that's a discussion for another time).

    However, just because the script is a fake doesn't mean Lionsgate doesn't hold the copyright on it. Everyone is assuming that "fake" == "we didn't write it". Another way of looking at it could be "fake" == "not the one being used for the movie but we still wrote it".

     

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  12.  
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    FUDbuster (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    The blog caved and took down the post, so we can't see the full post to see if what was written really infringed on the copyright, but if the script is fake, simply reviewing it shouldn't infringe on anyone's copyright.

    Whether it's real or fake, the script is copyrighted since it's a creative work fixed in a tangible form. Either way, though, I don't see how reviewing it is copyright infringement.

     

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

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: Well...

    Just thought of another scenario, too:

    "fake" == "honeypot scripts we generated to find an internal script-leaker"

     

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

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Lionsgate = Sony


    why is any one surprised.

     

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

  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Well...

    ""fake" == "honeypot scripts we generated to find an internal script-leaker""

    Oooooh, I really like that one. Sort of a Mission Impossible mole-hunt type of thing....

     

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

  16.  
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    John Doe, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    Yes, it is copyrighted, but by who? If it is fake, then it most likely doesn't belong to Lionsgate so their claim is bogus.

     

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

  17.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:10am

    Re: Someone set me straight here...

    Maybe Lionsgate created the fake script?

     

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

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:10am

    This sounds a little familiar

    Didn't Scientology do this back in the day? People were posting "classified" OTIII and above materials online (or elsewhere, I can't remember) and then started suing one of the posters. They tried to claim both that the materials were copyrighted, and yet somehow fakes. The courts didn't allow that lack of reasoning then, and this is how the world verified that the Scilons actually believe this crazy stupid shit. They had to say in a court of law that the leaked materials were actually their "doctrine of faith."

     

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

  19.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Hungers Gate....

    Also known as Ironchef: Ethiopia...

    Sorry...I had to...

     

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

  20.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    retreiving original post

    Mike, The original post is still available, but may not be for long:

    1) Search on Google for:
    http://www.foreveryoungadult.com/

    2) click on:
    more results for: http://www.foreveryoungadult.com/

    3) click on cached for:
    Forever Young Adult Presents: A Highly Intellectual Discussion of ...

    This includes the comment from Lions Gate

     

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

  21.  
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    MrWilson, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    I would think that their reasoning is that a fake, unauthorized script is a violation of the copyright on the book and the rights that they acquired to make a movie from it, but I still don't see that there's anything possibly wrong or in violation of any law in regards to a review of a fake, even unauthorized script. A review is an original work presenting factual and subjective information about another work. The composition of the review is not related to the copyright violation of the work which it reviews.

     

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

  22.  
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    Joe Publius (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thank you DH for dispelling the FUD that this article was clearly intended to foster.

     

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

  23.  
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    btr1701, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    Script

    > There could be other (potentially serious)
    > legal issues with reviewing a fake script

    Not sure I see what they would be. I mean, this review was so general, they could have been reviewing the book itself.

    Have we reached the point where just saying, "I hope they don't do X when they make a movie out of this, 'cause that would suck" is a copyright violation?

     

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

  24.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Re: Review

    > If it is fake, if some third party wrote it,
    > what copyright claim does Lionsgate have over it?

    Even better question: what copyright claim does Lionsgate have over someone merely talking about it in general terms?

    Even if the script was real, what copyright claim does Lionsgate have over someone merely reviewing it in general terms?

     

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

  25.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Re: Are they lying about it being fake?

    > In other words, all that's going on is that
    > they're trying to stop a leak and aren't
    > embarrassed about using a little bit of
    > Kettle Logic to do it

    Yes, but even if the script was real, they don't have the right to enjoin people from reviewing it. If they could, all movie reviews could be banned.

    Doesn't matter whether the script is still in development or not. Copyright law makes no such distinctions.

     

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

  26.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:16am

    hmmm?

    Liat Cohen Esquire April 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Please be advised that I represent Lions Gate Films, Inc. which holds all copyright and intellectual property rights to “The Hunger Games”. Your story and excerpts provided in the link below is a completely inaccurate fabrication. Your source is unreliable and this is not the script.

    http://www.foreveryoungadult.com/2011/04/06/a-highly-scientific-yet-sorta-vague-analysis-of-the-hung er-games-script/

    You are doing your readers a disservice and losing journalistic credibility. Additonally you are violating Lionsgate’s rights. Please withdraw and take down the article immediately and issue a retraction.

    If this is not done within 24 hours, Lionsgate reserves all rights to pursue and seek all legal remedies and damages as allowed in law and equity. All rights are expressly reserved.

    Liat Cohen, Esquire
    Senior Vice President
    Business Affairs & Litigation
    Direct Line: 310 255 4986


    Well, if it isn't the script, then how do you have copyright over it?

     

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

  27.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:17am

    Re: hmmm?

    Oh, right. The webcache: http://bit.ly/fv8NVn

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Plan Bee, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Re: Someone set me straight here...

    "Am I missing something here?"

    Yes. You are missing the requisite insanity to function in our dark society of eternal debt, warfare, porn, and fast talking goons with degrees and bow ties calling themselves lawyers and lawmakers - where might makes right and reason is treason.

    Most of the world is insane, with a few exceptions (thou & me?). Life in this Cosmic Petri dish has gone South, big time. Abandon hope, all ye who incarnate here, where pond scum rules.

    (Oops. Sorry. Having a bad hair day today.)

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    So since it was a fake script, could the blogger claim it was a fake review and thus a parody and told Lionsgate to STFU?

     

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

  30.  
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    Joseph K (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    The Book Rights?

    Since the script is an adaptation of a book, it appears Lions Gate owns the book rights. They are listed as a production company for this movie, which is in pre-production, according to the imdb. That doesn't make their legal claim any more sensible, since that would mean they just own the rights to make it into a movie. I think the NFL has a disclaimer that you can't even describe their games, for commercial purposes, without their written consent (to prevent unauthorized people from reporting on their games), which seems like a dubious extension of the term "copying." This is even more dubious because even if they own the book rights, they don't own a copyright on the book and thus can't enforce copyrights on a derivative work or a review of a derivative work. If they produce a script, they'd own copyrights on that, meaning they could prevent distribution of the script, but the lawyer, "Liat Cohen, Esquire," claims it's a fake, so they can't own copyrights on a fake script (though producing a fake script might violate the original author's copyright). Additionally, the blogger's not distributing the script, just giving a review, which falls squarely into fair use.

    Then again, there's no reason to think it actually is a fake. How does the lawyer, Liat Cohen, know that it's a fake script? The review simply doesn't give enough information, and it's doubtful this lawyer really has any special knowledge about what's going on in pre-production of the movie. In fact, there's a long discussion thread at the imdb discussing the script, which was started after the blog post was removed. This would mean, they could enforce copyright and prevent the script from being distributed, but again this is a case of a review of a script, which falls into fair use.

    Most likely, the lawyer has been hired to protect Lions Gate's IP, stumbled upon this blog post, thought it sounded like the type of thing she's supposed to prevent and then posted a comment in the comment section (why didn't she send an email?) that was scary and threatening and filled with legalistic mumbo-jumbo to try and stop this perceived threat. And she's just claiming it's a fake to stopper the leak of the script, which wasn't supposed to have been leaked.

    This highlights another big problem in IP, which is when these companies outsource their IP protection to these lawyers who have no business sense. The lawyers threaten and intimidate people, who are usually potential customers, into submission and completely tarnish the company's reputation.

     

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

  31.  
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    BongoBern (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    Fake Scripts

    Reviewing a fake script is a rather worthless pursuit on the face of it. If it's a fake script, how could it be copyrighted? That would make it a real script wouldn't it? It's like sending in a blank tape with a list of song titles and copyrighting the music.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    wayne martin, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 4:01pm

    I wasn't sure if I liked the casting for hunger games so At first I didn't like her but I have definitely changed my mind about Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She really gets the character and I think she's gonna be perfect! http://bit.ly/gnbaOA far, but after reading this interview w/ gary ross and suzanne collins I think they are gonna do it right! http://bit.ly/fBnTlR

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    jjray, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    fake script

    I highly doubt the Lionsgate attorney used the term "fake". The blogger may have received an early draft or a script from a writer non-accredited by the WGA from which Lionsgate is developing a screenplay. Lionsgate bought the rights from the non-accredited writer then handed it over to its staff writers. Botton line is that Lionsgate could have truthly said to the blogger that the document you the blogger have is not a real movie script; however, they may very well own copyright to the contents of the document. From the studios POV, they may be spinning industry terms by saying that its not a real script until it's a production script, which the document held by the blogger most likely is not.

    My comment, of course, assumes several facts. What if the Lionsgate script in development closely tracks an earlier script written by a non-accredited writer who was not compensated and this is the script held by the blogger. Lionsgate by claiming copyright protection is admitting that its script matches in substantial part the document held by the blogger ... which was independently created (in my hypothetical). The independent writer may have sent the script to the blogger to put pressure on Lionsgate.

    These scenarios are starting to sound like a script! All we need is a a dead body. Maybe Lionsgate will write Techdirt claiming it currently has this script in development. Let's call it "Spec Script". Memo to Lionsgate: I can be bought off cheaply.

     

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

  34.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 5:07pm

    Re: retreiving original post

    404ed already.

     

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

  35.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 5:11pm

    Re: fake script

    Spoiler: The blogger did it.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Someone set me straight here...

    Man, if your hair can do that to you, I shudder to think what you look like when something goes really wrong...

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    ntlgnce@yahoo.com, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 7:12pm

    Mail the script annomously to every blog on the internet.

    Dont do a digital trail. use snail mail, and untrackable paper.. Dont forget to mail a copy to lionsgate too. Set an example, so the next time they try to bully the little guy, they will think twice.

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:40pm

    Is Lions gate attorney LIat Cohen for real?

    There is one lawyer licensed to practice in California with the name of Liat Cohen (there is another one in Israel). This woman has a small law office in Encino, California and practices law in the following areas;
    Motorcycle accident
    slip and fall accident
    personal injury
    litigation
    employment labor

    It seems rather odd to me that this person would also be

    Liat Cohen, Esquire
    Vice-President Business & Legal Affairs
    LIONSGATE
    [from at least June 2009 to present]

    In June, 2009, Nurse K of the Crass-Pollination blog sent an email to LionGate questioning whether the show was taking stuff from her blog. She received a reply from a Liat Cohen, Esquire of LionsGate.

    I am just wondering if THAT Liat Cohen is actually an attorney. It might be true but it seems really strange for an attorney to contact someone via a comment in a blog.

     

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

  39.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 9:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Well...

    'Barium Meal Test' was the first thing I thought of when I read about this.

    Though would be interesting if the blog didn't fold and counter sued on entrapment, fraud, misrepresentation et.al not to mention their absolute defence of fair use since it was a REVIEW that by definition cannot be a breach of copyright since a review is in itself a copyrightable work created by the reviewer based upon what they have witnessed and/or read of the item they are reviewing. Its not even transformative, but absolutely distinct from the reviewed work.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Poshdeluxe, Mar 26th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Seems clear

    I run the site you're discussing (Forever Young Adult) and yes, this is exactly why we paraphrased the emails. There was a confidentiality notice at the bottom of each message we received from Liat. But believe me when I say that our paraphrasing is VERY close to the actual text.

     

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

  41.  
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    poshdeluxe (profile), Mar 26th, 2012 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Seems clear

    I run the site under discussion (Forever Young Adult)and yes, this is exactly why we paraphrased the emails from Liat Cohen. Each one had a confidentiality warning/notice at the bottom, and we didn't want to risk further Lionsgate wrath.

     

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

  42.  
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    poshdeluxe (profile), Mar 26th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Is Lions gate attorney LIat Cohen for real?

    When all of this shizz was hitting the fan, we (Forever Young Adult) contacted the Lionsgate legal department and asked for Liat Cohen. They transferred us to her office, so she definitely exists AND works for Lionsgate.

    Although why they would hire such an insane beyotch is beyond me.

     

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


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