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EXCLUSIVE: Fox Lawyers Trying to Stop Black List Script Leaks

Today brings the Black List, Hollywood's annual annointment of the best unproduced screenplays. Will it also bring lawsuits against websites posting unauthorized copies of the scripts on the list?

We've learned that lawyers for Twentieth Century Fox are zeroing in on websites such as MediaFire, which is hosting PDF copies of all 76 of the copyrighted Black List screenplays in their entirety, including many owned by Fox. Lawyers for the studio are preparing to send MediaFire a cease-and-desist letter as part of a larger campaign to clamp down on script-trading online. The letters demand that the site owners immediately take down the scripts or face legal action from the studio.   

Screenplay piracy has been a hot topic since Fox sued a New York writer last month for $15 million for uploading hundreds of its copyrighted film and TV scripts, including the screenplay for the anticipated superhero tentpole Deadpool. That lawsuit got the attention of the proprietors of the hundreds of websites that trade in new and old screenplays because it targeted not just Deadpool but many older scripts like Edward Scissorhands and Aliens. Library scripts are freely available online, and the majority of script sites operate under the assumption that studios will leave them alone as long as they avoid posting in-development scripts or take scripts down when asked.

The Fox lawsuit suggested that so-called "legit" script sites might be targeted by studios. The proprietor of at least one such database told us last week that he wonders whether the studios might eventually put all the script sites out of business.

Now here comes the Black List, which is nothing but unproduced screenplays, many of them owned by studios (we counted at least six in development at Fox or subsidiary Fox Searchlight, including Jackie, the Noah Oppenheim script that is ranked second on the list, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the fanboy-friendly Seth Grahame-Smith script that Tim Burton is producing).

Will MediaFire be forced to take down the scripts? Will Fox sue? And will other studios join the crusade against online script trading? We have a feeling this story is probably just beginning.          

UPDATE: The MediaFire page with the Black List scripts has been disabled, probably as a result of this story.