Quentin Tarantino is on the warpath. The script for The Hateful Eight, the director's long-rumored followup to the 2012 critical darling Django Unchained, already leaked earlier this month, prompting him to put the film on hold. Gawker Media's Defamer blog soon followed the news by linking to the leaked script last week. Now, Tarantino is suing the company for "blatant copyright infringement," demanding at least $1 million in damages if the case is heard in court.
"Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism."
The Hollywood Reporter obtained the full complaint, wherein Tarantino states that Gawker Media "has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people's rights to make a buck." However, the company took things too far this time in his view: instead of merely linking out to the news of the leak, Defamer "crossed the journalistic line" by, in addition to soliciting readers for access to the screenplay, promoting itself online as the first official source. Implicated in the complaint are AnonFiles.com, which allegedly ignored a DMCA takedown request from Tarantino's lawyers, and eight more unnamed defendants who Tarantino believes were involved in the leak.
"There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic about Gawker Media facilitating and encouraging the public's violation of Plaintiff's copyright in the Screenplay," the document reads, "and its conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity."
While it's way too early to tell who will come out on top, it will be interesting to see how Gawker defends itself if the case reaches court. Yes, Defamer gained access to the script and linked to it, but whether or not linking out to infringing material constitutes copyright infringement on its own is still unresolved under the law. Some legal precedent can be found in the MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. Supreme Court case, which held that file-sharing companies could be sued for facilitating copyright infringement. What's more, Tarantino's representation sent DMCA takedown notices — apparently addressed to AnonFiles.com — for the screenplay to be taken down. But, unless Tarantino's people can prove that Gawker itself is hosting the screenplay (which would hurt any safe harbor defense Gawker might have), they may have a hard time stopping the company from arguing itself out of this corner. We've reached out to Gawker for comment.
Update: Gawker Editor-in-Chief John Cook responded to the lawsuit this evening, leveling pointed critiques on Tarantino's complaint. In the post, Cook writes that Gawker was not responsible for the leak (they have no idea what AnonFiles is), that Tarantino, rather shrewdly, profited on the heated conversation the leak brought about, and that Defamer ultimately published the story "because it was news."
Defamer covers what people in Hollywood are talking about. Thanks to Tarantino's shrewd publicity strategy, the leak of The Hateful Eight—and the content of the script—had been widely dissected online and was a topic of heated conversation among Defamer readers. News of the fact that it existed on the internet advanced a story that Tarantino himself had launched, and our publication of the link was a routine and unremarkable component of our job: making people aware of news and information about which they are curious.
Cook ends the post stating simply, "We'll be fighting this one."