Quentin Tarantino Loses Big In Trying To Paint Gawker As A Copyright Infringer

from the nice-try,-quentin dept

We didn't write about this case when it came out because it just seemed so ridiculous, but filmmaker Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker Media earlier this year for linking to a script he had apparently been working on. There had been a bunch of media coverage over the fact that his script for The Hateful Eight leaked, and was being shared around Hollywood, though not online. Gawker then asked anyone if they'd seen a copy, leading to a followup post which included a link to the newly leaked script.

Tarantino argued that by soliciting from the public a copy of the script and then subsequently linking to it, Gawker was guilty of contributory infringement. Thankfully, a federal court that actually understands copyright law has quickly disabused Tarantino of that bizarre interpretation of copyright law, granting Gawker's motion to dismiss. The big problem: at no point anywhere in the process above, did Tarantino's lawyer show how Gawker's actions resulted in anyone infringing on anyone's copyright. That makes it quite hard to pin "contributory infringement" when there's no direct infringement in the first place:
However, nowhere in these paragraphs or anywhere else in the Complaint does Plaintiff allege a single act of direct infringement committed by any member of the general public that would support Plaintiff’s claim for contributory infringement. Instead, Plaintiff merely speculates that some direct infringement must have taken place. For example, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to allege the identity of a single third-party infringer, the date, the time, or the details of a single instance of third-party infringement, or, more importantly, how Defendant allegedly caused, induced, or materially contributed to the infringement by those third parties
In a footnote, the court further notes that even if Tarantino's lawyers could dredge up some example of direct infringement based on someone reading the script, the lawsuit still wouldn't make any sense:
Even if Plaintiff alleged that individuals accessed the links contained in Defendant’s article in order to read Plaintiff’s script, such an allegation would still not support Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim against Defendant. Simply viewing a copy of allegedly infringing work on one’s own computer does not constitute the direct infringement necessary to support Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim. See Perfect 10, Inc., 508 F.3d at 1169 (where alleged primary infringers merely view pages containing infringing images, but do not “store[] infringing images on their computers,” there is no infringement). In addition, based on the allegations of the Complaint, there can be little doubt that Plaintiff has a strong claim for direct infringement against Doe 1, a/k/a AnonFiles.com. However, Plaintiff has not alleged and it is highly unlikely that Plaintiff will be able to plead facts demonstrating that Defendant somehow induced, caused, or materially contributed to the infringing conduct by publishing a link to the screenplay after it was wrongfully posted on AnonFiles.com.
The court notes that Gawker spent a lot of effort explaining why this is fair use but notes that, "albeit persuasive and potentially dispositive," it doesn't even need to bother with that argument since there's no infringement to defend against fair use here anyway.

Once again, it seems like people who grow up totally immersed in a world of copyright maximalism automatically leap to the conclusion that "something I don't like" must be an infringement of copyright. Thankfully, the law (mostly) doesn't work that way.

Filed Under: contributory infringement, copyright, direct infringement, quentin tarantino, scripts, the hateful eight
Companies: gawker media

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  1. icon
    Unovis (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Re: I disagree

    "Gawker just reported about its existence."

    No they didn't. Techdirt just reported the existence. Gawker told people where to go to read it. The judge stated two things:

    1) QT did not allege anyone actually downloaded it via that link. He sent that part back to QT to fix.

    2) But then he says even if QT did prove the download that it would not be infringement because Perfect 10 allows you to view things that might infringe.

    I believe the judge is wrong as my understanding is the Perfect 10 ruling allows a site to show links to items that may or may not infringe. And it allows for a user to view the something that may or may not infringe does actually exists (IE a picture of the illegal script). I also believe that ruling allows you to have on your screen images of infringing content and not hold you liable for infringement due to the transformative case. (IE a page of thumbnails does not mean you actually downloaded all the files the thumbnails refer to)

    But I don't see the Perfect 10 ruling saying you can direct people to something you state is illegal (and the judge does believe there is a case against someone for hosting illegal content so he is not even questioning that aspect of the script). Nor does the Perfect 10 ruling state the user can further use that link to infringing content and not be liable for it; as the act of clicking on the link implies your intent to download or view it. So Gawker should not be able to wash their hands of contributory infringement based on that ruling. So far the judge IS allowing this. But I disagree....

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