Earlier this month, news publication Gawker and Quentin Tarantino traded early blows in their dispute over the the leak of a screenplay to Tarantino’s potential upcoming movie The Hateful Eight.
The background is relatively straightforward. Someone leaked the script “within Hollywood circles” without Tarantino’s permission, Gawker asked its readers for a link to a copy and was told where to find it on a file-hosting site. The publication grabbed a copy itself to ensure it was the real deal, and then wrote an article titled “Here is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script” which contained links to the infringing file.
Tarantino’s legal team asked Gawker to take down the links so that others wouldn’t be tempted to download the script, Gawker refused, and an enraged Tarantino launched legal action. Last week, however, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter kicked out Tarantino’s lawsuit which alleged contributory infringement against Gawker after the director failed to allege a supporting and necessary claim for direct infringement.
Now Tarantino is back with an amended complaint that supplements allegations of contributory infringement by going straight after Gawker as a direct infringer, claiming that the publication made use of Tarantino’s script after illegally downloading it from a file-hosting site.
“Gawker…utilized the unauthorized infringing PDF copy of the Screenplay to disseminate portions of and/or content from the unpublished work. Accordingly, Gawker is liable to Tarantino for direct copyright infringement,” it reads.
The complaint also reiterates claims that having heard of the initial leak (apparently at this point restricted to Hollywood insiders), Gawker called out to its “47 million monthly United States readers” in an attempt to find someone willing “to infringe Tarantino’s copyright” by “asking and inducing anyone to leak and provide Gawker with an unauthorized infringing copy of the Screenplay.”
Tarantino’s legal team adds that “Gawker’s solicitation and direct inducement for copyright infringement worked, as, by the next day, Gawker itself obtained a PDF of the Screenplay” which had been stored on the Anonfiles.com site. The new claims of direct infringement in this amended complaint rest on the moment Gawker accessed this file and confirmed its authenticity.
“Gawker itself illegally downloaded to its computers an unauthorized infringing PDF copy of the Screenplay — read it and learned that the PDF download document was 146 pages — directly infringing Tarantino’s copyright,” the complaint reads.
Interestingly, Tarantino’s legal team also suggest that the while the script had been stored “privately” on Anonfiles by another direct infringer, Gawker went on to make up a story claiming that the file had already been made public.
Gawker “…fabricated a ‘story’ that the script had been made publicly available online so that Gawker could then trumpet to the world and begin promoting itself as the very first source for the public to be able to obtain the entire Screenplay,” the complaint reads.
As a direct result of Gawker’s actions several other people illegally downloaded the script, Tarantino’s legal team claim, adding that even after the file had been removed from Anonfiles after a DMCA complaint (rendering the link in the Gawker article useless), the publication re-published links to the same script that had been uploaded elsewhere.
In their prayer for relief Tarantino’s legal team seek damages in excess of $1m plus statutory damages, plus an injunction against Gawker forbidding the unauthorized use of the leaked script.
Gawker is yet to comment on the amended complaint.