Quentin Tarantino wrote a script. He gave the script, without any security precautions (such as watermarking or armed guards) to six people in Hollywood. One of the six people leaked it. Shocking.
It made it onto the Internet. Again, shocking. Tarantino complained to Deadline Hollywood about the leak.
At this point, the story became newsworthy. Even without his statements to Deadline Hollywood, his next movie would be newsworthy, but doubly so when he complains about it and tells a media outlet that he's considering postponing or cancelling the movie due to the leak.
At this point, you want to read the script. So do I. When the script popped up online, Gawker's Defamer blog, which covers the underbelly of the industry (including Tarantino's foot fetish), published a story about it, including a link.
Tarantino is now suing [PDF], claiming contributory copyright infringement.
Everyone Thinks He Has a Case
The Hollywood Reporter cites a handful of experts who think that, yes, Tarantino has a case.
Gawker used language like "Here" and "Enjoy it" to encourage visitors to download the script. Experts analogize the case to Napster and Grokster, file-sharing programs that lost legal battles over their contributory copyright infringement.
Experts cited by Fox News agree that Tarantino has "a good chance" with his claims.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
We're not saying that he has no case. It's just important to note that the analogy to file-sharing services is fundamentally flawed.
Napster and Grokster involved software with no purpose whatsoever other than downloading mostly infringing content. Gawker and its subsidiary blogs are the modern day press. In prior contributory infringement cases, there was no competing argument about press freedoms or newsworthy stories.
While their post on the script wasn't a journalistic masterpiece, and did include enticing language for those seeking to download the script, do we want a court deciding whether something is quality journalism?
Besides, the Ninth Circuit has been feeling mighty friendly towards blogging journalists lately.
Would Gawker be in a better position had they only included excerpts? Sure. But will a court risk trampling on press rights by holding a news outlet liable for contributory copyright infringement because their story included links to copies of the script?
As Gawker editor John Cook notes, that'd be a first:
"Gawker and Defamer are news sites, and our publication of the link was clearly connected to our goal of informing readers about things they care about," he wrote. "As far as I can tell (but I'm no lawyer!), no claim of contributory infringement has prevailed in the U.S. over a news story. We'll be fighting this one."
Good. And we'll be watching. This is an important case for press freedoms.