Gawker Targets Quentin Tarantino's Motive for 'Hateful Eight' Lawsuit

Quentin Tarantino Oscar Arrivals - P 2013
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Quentin Tarantino Oscar Arrivals - P 2013

Before a California judge has his say, Gawker is getting another word in edgewise in the ongoing legal controversy surrounding the leak of Quentin Tarantino's unproduced script, Hateful Eight.

In new court papers, the Nick Denton-owned news site says that Tarantino's contributory copyright infringement lawsuit is "animated by his displeasure with Gawker's past and present reporting about him, rather than the possibility that some unknown persons may have accessed his script online."

The defendant doesn't spell out what exactly might have ticked off Tarantino besides the Hateful Eight story. An example of Gawker's past coverage of Tarantino includes a 2011 post headlined, "The Quentin Tarantino Toe-Sucking Sex Email That Will Haunt Your Dreams," which featured a first-person account of a sexual liason between Tarantino and Beejoli Shah, who later was hired to run Gawker's Hollywood site, Defamer (she has since left).

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The latest volley comes a week after Tarantino's side looked to score points by saying that Gawker had "fabricated" a news story only to "trumpet to the world without impunity exactly where on the Internet the infringement was taking place."

U.S. District Judge John Walter is set to hear Gawker's motion to dismiss on April 14.

Gawker demands an end to the lawsuit on the theory that the famous film director hasn't supported a contributory infringement claim with a viable direct infringement one. Gawker's lawyers have told the judge that readers who simply view a copy of Hateful Eight aren't committing direct copyright infringement.

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To save the lawsuit, Tarantino is connecting Gawker to the acts of third-party website AnonFiles, where the script was provided to the public. As the plaintiff's lawyers put it, Gawker "solicited and obtained a theretofore publicly unknown link," before fabricating a news article about the dissemination.

Today, Gawker responds that Tarantino "attacks the nature of Gawker's reporting" and says that it's a misdirection -- that Tarantino's true basis for secondary liability is that Gawker directed the general public to how to obtain the script after the screenplay was uploaded. Whatever AnonFiles allegedly did is deemed by the defendant to be "utterly irrelevant."

A judge will address this as well as Tarantino's other theory for contributory infringement based on Gawker's readers who clicked the links and eventually accessed a copy of Hateful Eight. In an opposition to dismiss, Tarantino's attorneys said that infringing copies were made available "only in a PDF format, which by definition cannot be viewed on screen without first being completely downloaded by the computer. Downloading a complete, unauthorized copy of a work constitutes infringement."

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To that argument, Gawker's lawyers respond that not only is the charge that readers actually did this "utter speculation," but also that any inadvertent copy being made (by way of computers not understanding the difference between a user who wants to read versus one who wants to download) is lacking of the "volitional act" necessary to carry an infringement claim.

Gawker's newest legal papers also address the fair use defense. Read here.


Twitter: @eriqgardner