Five Lessons from Dismissal of Tarantino’s Copyright Lawsuit Against Gawker

Here are some quick thoughts in response to yesterday’s dismissal of Quentin Tarantino’s copyright infringement claim against Gawker:

  1. Sharing a link to your unpublished, prized next script to “only a few people” is a few people too many, if one of them leaks the link to the press.  Be very, very select about the number and quality of your confidantes.
  2. Pleading a claim for copyright infringement isn’t easy.  You’d think that Gawker’s posting the link for any and all to read the script is pretty clearly contributory infringement – I mean, what reader could resist?  But the federal judge in California declined because Tarantino (read:  his lawyer) hadn’t plead facts sufficient to show that Gawker intentionally induced or encouraged direct infringement.  Alleging that the site merely provided the means to accomplish an infringing activity was not enough.
  3. Plaintiffs may need the snooping power of the NSA to bring a claim like this.  The judge wrote that allegations of direct infringement are “speculative” because Tarantino admits that he cannot “explicitly identify one particular, known individual who downloaded or printed copies of the Screenplay.”  But:  How is anyone supposed to track down any of the eager fans who click on links to read an unauthorized script?
  4. You can always change the story.  In this case, the judge is allowing Tarantino to amend his pleading and take another shot (pun intended) at establishing his claim.  Whether he succeeds is anyone’s guess.
  5. Scary characters don’t scare judges.