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Quentin Tarantino files lawsuit a week after script leak

Image: Quentin Tarantino
Director Quentin Tarantino has filed a lawsuit against Gawker Media for copyright infringement.Olivia Harris / Reuters file

A week after declaring he would no longer make his next film "The Hateful Eight" because someone in his small circle had leaked the screenplay, director Quentin Tarantino has taken legal action against Gawker Media alleging copyright infringement for disseminating the script.

Tarantino's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, alleges that the web site Gawker disseminated "unauthorized downloadable copies of the leaked unreleased complete screenplay" and "expressly refused to remove their directions to and URL links to get the infringing materials." The director is demanding actual and statutory damages as well as Gawker's profits in the amount of at least $1 million.

"Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck," the complaint states. "This time, they went too far. Rather than merely publishing a news story reporting that Plaintiff’s screenplay may have been circulating in Hollywood without his permission, Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire screenplay illegally."

The issue erupted last week when Tarantino learned through his agent that details of his next western, which he wrote and planned to direct, were circulating. Tarantino told that that one of six people with whom he shared his script had betrayed him.

“I’m very, very depressed,” Tarantino told Deadline on Jan. 21. “I finished a script, a first draft, and I didn’t mean to shoot it until next winter, a year from now. I gave it to six people, and apparently it’s gotten out today.” 

On Jan. 22, Gawker "actively solicited" readers to submit the leaked script, the complaint alleges. The complaint further notes that there was "nothing newsworthy or journalistic" about Gawker's "facilitating and encouraging the public's violation" of Tarantino's copyright. 

"Their headline boasts... 'Here,' not someplace else, but 'Here' on the Gawker website," the documents state. "The article then contains multiple direct links for downloading the entire screenplay through a conveniently anonymous URL by simply clicking button-links on the Gawker page, and brazenly encourages Gawker visitors to read the screenplay illegally with the invitation to 'Enjoy!' it."

In his interview with Deadline, Tarantino also acknowledged he enjoys Internet feedback on his work. He just wasn't prepared for the chatter to begin before he even had a conversation with Harvey Weinstein about how they were going to make it, he said.

“I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth, because I do like the fact that everyone eventually posts it, gets it and reviews it on the net,” Tarantino said. “Frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like the fact that people like my [expletive] and that they go out of their way to find it and read it. But I gave it to six [expletive] people!"

Gawker Media's legal department did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News. But the site posted its reaction to the lawsuit on Monday afternoon and accused Tarantino himself of turning the issue into a news story when he complained to Deadline.

Gawker denies posting the script online and says its role was only to link to it. "Someone unknown to Gawker put it on a web site called AnonFiles, and someone unknown to Gawker put it on a different web site called Scribd," the post states. "Last Thursday, Gawker received a tip from a reader informing us that the script was on the AnonFiles site, after which Gawker published a story reporting that the script had surfaced online."

Explaining why Defamer, which Gawker Media owns, considered the matter newsworthy, Gawker went on:

"Thanks to Tarantino's shrewd publicity strategy, the leak of 'The Hateful Eight'—and the content of the script—had been widely dissected online and was a topic of heated conversation among Defamer readers. News of the fact that it existed on the internet advanced a story that Tarantino himself had launched, and our publication of the link was a routine and unremarkable component of our job: making people aware of news and information about which they are curious."