Update: Variety Threatens FilmNewsBrief.com Over Copyright

Hollywood trade flexes legal muscle against ex-Weinstein newsletter and film industry aggregator; web host pulls site offline temporarily

UPDATE: The site is back up. Its creator, Jessica Kantor, told TheWrap that the web hosting company told her that Variety retracted its letter demanding the site be shut down. Variety is allowing the site to use the article headline and the first sentence with a link back, Kantor said.

EARLIER

Variety has served FilmNewsBriefs.com with a cease and desist letter claiming copyright infringement — and the company that hosts the small film industry aggregation has shut it down.

Lawyers for Variety publisher Reed Business Information sent a cease-and-desist letter to creator Jessica Kantor and her Web hosting company on Monday.

“It has been brought to our attention that your website has copied Variety on almost a daily basis and displayed without permission hundreds of copyrighted articles which appear or have appeared on Variety.com,” the letter reads. “The unauthorized use of the Variety copyrighted material constitutes willful copyright infringement.”

The lawyer representing Variety did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The letter said that Kantor could be subject to “statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each infringement” — and demanded the copyrighted material be removed from the site. “If you do not, we have been instructed to take all appropriate action against you and all those associated with you forthwith to protect RBI’s intellectual property rights, and you will be acting at your own peril.”

But Kantor told TheWrap that before she could remove the alleged infringing content, her hosting company pulled the plug on the site.

The site and newsletter take up to four lines from Variety articles and provide direct links to Variety articles — pretty standard practice among aggregators. Kantor said contacted Variety in 2009 and offered to run its ads in her newsletter and her site in exchange excepting Variety’s content — not a standard practice — but that Variety said it would not be necessary.

"We pride ourselves on driving traffic back to any of our content sources," she said, "and only tease the content and link back to their site."

Variety — which put up a paywall in 2009, and subsequently watched its web traffic plummet — appears to be flexing its legal muscle unnecessarily.

The newsletter was launched in 2007 as an “internal daily news briefs” memo for executives at The Weinstein Company by Kantor, when she was an assistant there. (Kantor took the concept with her when she left.)

Kantor, who is based in New York, said the free e-newsletter has a distribution list of about 5,000, though the website gets minimal traffic. Both the site and newsletter, which she runs with one editor, have yet to generate revenue, she said. (Kantor produced a newsletter on Tuesday, but it did not include Variety content.)

“We do have very influential people on our list,” Kantor said, “but I’m shocked Variety would care about something like us.”