Quentin Tarantino: Oscar-winning filmmaker, occasional actor, and now, journalistic ethicist.
Back in January, Tarantino announced that he was nixing his plans to make “The Hateful Eight” his next big screen venture, because the screenplay — which he wrote — had leaked out into the world beyond the few actors to whom he had shown it. Then, Gawker.com posted a link to a file-sharing site that was hosting a pirated copy of the script… which led to Tarantino slapping the Nick Denton-owned site with a lawsuit.
Gawker motioned to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that posting a link to a screenplay that Tarantino himself had reported leaked was not in and of itself copyright infringement, but the filmmaker countered immediately after, offering up a lesson in journalistic ethics.
“Gawker could just as effectively have reported the fact that the script was leaked and available on a file upload site without including any specific links to the infringing copy,” his lawyers wrote, “just as a newspaper can report that a film piracy ring in, e.g., downtown Los Angeles, has obtained and is selling pirated DVDs of a-not-yet released theatrical motion picture without instructing exactly how, where and when readers can illegally buy their own pirated copy.”
Previously, his suit detailed how posting those links directly led to copyright infringement:
“The article then contains multiple direct links for downloading the entire Screenplay through a conveniently anonymous URL by simply clicking button-links on the Gawker page, and brazenly encourages Gawker visitors to read the Screenplay illegally with the invitation to ‘Enjoy! it,'” the lawsuit stated. “There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic about Gawker Media facilitating and encouraging the public’s violation of Plaintiff’s copyright in the Screenplay, and it’s conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity.”
Gawker also cited several stories elsewhere on the internet, including one at TheWrap, about the script, and in any case, their post constituted fair use and was even transformative.
“It cannot reasonably be disputed that Gawker’s linking to webpages featuring the script was done as part of its reporting about the script becoming available,” the site said, “the leaking of the script and its appearance online was the news.”
For his part, Tarantino says that Gawker refused to take the link down, even after his lawyers sent several requests.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.