Disney So Desperate To Stop Leaks It Subpoenas ImageShack Over Single Blurry Still Image Of New Star Wars

from the and-creates-a-streisand-effect dept

Yes, of course, Disney is trying to keep the lid on the new Star Wars film and is extra careful to try to stop any leaks coming out about the new film, but this seems like a pretty expensive and silly way of doing things. The company’s expensive lawyers at Latham & Watkins have sought a subpoena to serve on ImageShack because someone — a user with the name “Darth_Simi” posted what appears to be a single blurry cropped still image from the film (shown here as a thumbnail):

The focus, obviously, is on trying to track down the leaker:
And while I recognize that Disney thinks it’s incredibly important to figure out who leaked that single blurry image, this whole thing seems questionable for a variety of reasons. First, it seems highly likely that the blurry, cropped single frame image is not, in fact, infringing because it’s fair use. It is a very tiny portion of the copyrighted work, it was not used for commercial reasons and certainly isn’t going to impact the market for the film. As such, the attempt to subpoena ImageShack to identify the uploader should be denied, as it’s not infringement.

Second, if Disney really wanted to stop such things, going to court seems like a fairly dumb way to do so. As the Hollywood Reporter story above notes, the image only had about 6,000 views when its story on this image went live. By the time I saw it, the number of views of the image had doubled, and it wasn’t that long after the story had gone up. Disney clearly isn’t using copyright law to stop this particular use, but rather as a separate tool to try to track down a leaker.

Third, it’s hard to see how this effort could possibly be worth the money that Disney is paying its expensive lawyers for. Preparing the filing and going to court isn’t cheap. And all over what, exactly? A tiny fair use, blurry, cropped frame from a movie that is only likely to get fans more excited to see the actual film?

Oh, and just to make this clear, we believe that our use of the thumbnail above is fair use for the same reasons that the original posting on ImageShack was fair use, and we’ll add that, in this case, it’s more so because we’re commenting on the image itself in a press report — and the image is newsworthy because of Disney’s lawyers’ own actions.

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Companies: disney, latham and watkins

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Comments on “Disney So Desperate To Stop Leaks It Subpoenas ImageShack Over Single Blurry Still Image Of New Star Wars”

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49 Comments
Violynne (profile) says:

By sending out the DMCA, Disney confirmed the character rather than leaving it to rumor.

Disney gets more stupid by the minute, though this action should surprise no one considering the inhuman corporation also went after a day care for its unauthorized painting.

Unfortunately, the public just gave this corporation billions in profit for a movie called Frozen, so there’s no such thing as “expensive” lawyers for this inhuman corporation.

PRMan (profile) says:

So different...

This is so different from the way Lucasfilm used to handle these things.

I mean, Weird Al wrote a whole song about the Phantom Menace before the movie ever came out just by what he read on the internet. And it was 99% accurate.

Lucas made a billion dollars understanding that this kind of thing is just fandom.

The takedown definitely makes me less excited to see the movie.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Not Fixed

There may be another reason that this image would not be infringing: it’s not clear the that the film is fully finished yet. There’s likely a lot of post-production details to be cleared up between now the and date the film is distributed to theaters. Copyright takes effect when the work is first fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Before then, is the work really copyrighted at all?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Negative publicity can be a good thing for movies. Disney’s had a thug mentality for decades, and it doesn’t make people avoid their films or merchandise – not enough for them to ever worry about.

I have no interest in more Star Wars but I know a week won’t go by for the next year that I won’t see a Star Wars reference somewhere (the next 5 years? The rest of my life?) This week it’s on Techdirt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not sure its wasted money

Everyone keeps assuming that this is another ‘stupid ploy to try and suppress information’. Is it? I’d like to see figures on advertising costs for this level of exposure vs. the cost of their lawyers on this case.

I REALLY hate to say this, because it makes it feel more likely, but if news outlets keep talking about the ‘streisand effect’, some companies are going to realize that publicity is just a lawsuit away….

Reveal a leaker >and

DB (profile) says:

The statement of purpose should be their undoing.

They are invoking the copyright and DMCA for an improper purpose — tracking down leaks and/or enforcing a NDA, rather than enforcing their right to make commercial copies of the entire work. They come right out and admit that they primarily want to identify the person, and taking down the content is strictly incidental.

They presumably are doing that to avoid the issue of fair use. This image may well be fair use — the point is at least arguable. Normally an anonymous commentator may retain their anonymity through a judicial decision on that point (although they may lose it while determining damages, years later).

Anonymous Coward says:

Disney is hoping that whoever it was is discovered and is an ordinary person, with no job, no money, no prospect of getting any and therefore no prospect of putting up any sort of defense! in other words, if the judge is prat enough to allow this ridiculous fishing expedition to go forward, Disney just wants to expand it’s bad name of bullying the underdog!!

Anonymous Coward says:

If I understand the law correctly, Disney or LucasFilm doesn’t have standing to bring a copyright infringement claim for leaked materials from the unfinished work unless the work has been preregistered with the Copyright Office. A search for Star Wars at http://cocatalog.loc.gov/ doesn’t turn up anything of note for this movie, other than the teaser trailer. If the database is current and I haven’t missed anything, it seems to me that anything they are doing under the auspices of the DMCA is indeed abuse of the system, at least for now.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I understand the law correctly, Disney or LucasFilm doesn’t have standing to bring a copyright infringement claim for leaked materials from the unfinished work unless the work has been preregistered with the Copyright Office.

Works are automatically copyrighted in the US. Registration affects what damages can be sought, but not whether a suit can be brought in the first place.

Anonymous SW7 fan says:

I am the person Disney is seeking

I am actual the person who uploaded those images on imageshack. I wasnt part of the filming nor do I work for Lucas/Disney and therefore have no NDA’s with them. All I did was upload a screengrab of the image from StarWarsUnderworld.com who originally reported on the leaked image back in October. I am a longtime star wars fan and was seeking to put all of the SW7 fan images in one place for other fans. Not sure why Disney is looking for me. Not sure if they think i can identify the real leaker or if they want to use me as some example but Im trying to get ahead of this and appreciate any advice you have!! This is real. I deleted my account around 5pm est today!

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t see the resemblance. Anyway, “Song of the South” is one film that Disney surely won’t dare to make a copyright claim on, since it’s extremely “politically-incorrect” by current US standards (although reportedly still sold in other countries) due to the film’s [alleged] depiction of 19th century Negro-American slaves/sharecroppers as happy people.

I was curious and wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about, but being a ‘banned’ film in the US, obtaining it requires breaking the law.

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