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.

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Comments on “Lionsgate Claims That Reviewing A Fake Script Is Copyright Infringement”

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btr1701 (profile) says:

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?

Plan Bee says:

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.)

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

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.

Joseph K (profile) says:

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”).

btr1701 (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:


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“.

G Thompson (profile) says:

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 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.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.”

aldestrawk says:

retreiving original post

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

1) Search on Google for:

2) click on:
more results for:

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

This includes the comment from Lions Gate

MrWilson says:

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.

btr1701 says:


> 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?

Any Mouse (profile) says:


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.

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?

Joseph K (profile) says:

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.

wayne martin says:

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! far, but after reading this interview w/ gary ross and suzanne collins I think they are gonna do it right!

jjray (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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
employment labor

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

Liat Cohen, Esquire
Vice-President Business & Legal Affairs
[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.

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