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), 24 Apr 2014 @ 2:11pm

    Re: I disagree

    One of my original posts said that if they reported on it that's fine. They are not trying to claim fair use for the report about the incident that occurred (and QT's reaction) but in regards to telling people where to find the stolen script.

    if your logic is to be believed then all of the news outlets reporting on and displaying the Snowden documents would be breaking the law. They are not.

    Government documents are not copyrightable if I remember correctly. In any case, I would say for whistleblowers that for the person doing it of course it is theft which is why you need whistleblower laws in the first place. The news sites can report on "whistleblower" documents they receive because they did not entice the person to steal them. They have to be very careful in this lest they get in trouble for helping in the crime. Just because a news organization is protected in using these "stolen" documents does not mean the documents themselves are magically made legal for everyone else to have in their possession.

    Given that Gawker is also a news site how is Snowden different than the Gawker case? The Guardian and Washington Post et al use the Snowden documents to create original news stories using the documents as source material (essentially a transformation of the document besides the first amendment rights that reporters have). Unlike Gawker they do not publish news such as "some guy stole all these NSA documents. ha ha. Go here to read them". And that is essentially what Gawker did. Gawker reported the fact of the script theft which is legal but then told everyone where to get it which got them into court. I see that as much different then the Snowden situation. Additionally no news organization has ever pointed out where we can download the Snowden documents as Gawker did the QT script.

    This thread is getting away from the point I had which is I think the judge misread Perfect 10.

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