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Fox Wants $12M for Aspiring Screenwriter's Posting Scripts Online

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on December 01, 2010 11:50 AM

Knowing the ending to your favorite television show or movie is a major buzz kill. Twentieth Century Fox Studios apparently thinks it is a $12 million spoiler alert.

In a recent screenplay copyright infringement lawsuit filed by the movie studio giant, the company is seeking redress from aspiring screenwriter Patricia McIlvaine. Fox claims she posted hundreds of movie scripts online. Without permission or payment, of course.

Many of the scripts posted by McIlvaine on her website were not only unauthorized but also not released yet. Included in the list of offending scripts: Aliens, Wall Street, and episodes of Glee. McIlvaine created a collection of scripts from various public sources to compile a "free" online library to help other screenwriters.

Fox describes McIlvaine's actions as an interference "and tradeoff of the costly and carefully designed creative process that produce finished works ready for public consumption. They harm the fans who do not want their enjoyment of a movie or television show to be spoiled by knowing the story ahead of actually being able to watch it," THR reports.

For her part, McIlvaine does not seem to be making too much money off the posts -- she works as a telephone flower saleswoman by day and writes scripts at night. McIlvaine claims that she simply re-uploaded scripts she already found online.

The basic premise behind a copyright infringement claim is that the offender is using and distributing protected intellectual property (in this case, movie scripts owned by Fox) without permission. In the case of screenplays, those are legally classified as a protected expression of an idea. Patricia McIlvaine's claims that she was merely re-uploading scripts might not be a viable defense. It may just mean that the infringement was occurring a couple times over.

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