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The Strange, Twisted Tale of Quentin Tarantino's Unshot Script

The Strange, Twisted Tale of Quentin Tarantino’s Unshot Script

| On 29, Apr 2014

“The Hateful Eight” may be the most anticipated film in recent memory, and the second draft is not even complete. Quentin Tarantino usually lets the final product and positive feedback to sell a film, but thanks to leaked script, a lawsuit and a star-studded public table-read, we have some serious buzz going around.

Packed in the 1200 seat United Artists Theater in Los Angeles, Tarantino and some of his best ensemble actors read the leaked script, promising the film will go forward somehow. Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and several others performed a 3.5 hour read of Tarantino’s familiar package of jumbled acts mixed with outrageous bloody violence and a bit of comedy wrapped in a western.

“I’m working on a second draft and I will do a third draft,” he said. “The Chapter 5 here will not be the Chapter 5 later, so this will be the only time it is seen ever.”

Then a couple of days after the unprecedented public sneak peak, Tarantino’s lawsuit against Gawker‘s “publication” of the leaked script was thrown out of court.

“The Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to adequately plead facts establishing direct infringement by a third party or facts that would demonstrate Defendant either caused, induced, or materially contributed to the alleged direct infringement of those third party infringers,” said Judge John Walter in an order on Gawker’s motion to dismiss.

Tarantino’s copyright infringement suit claimed Gawker promoted and distributed the script from their site, but the true story is a bit more nuanced.

“Plaintiff merely speculates that some direct infringement must have taken place,” says Walter. “For example, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to allege the identity of a single third-party infringer, the date, the time, or the details of a single instance of third-party infringement, or, more importantly, how Defendant allegedly caused, induced, or materially contributed to the infringement by those third parties.”

The story begins in January 2014, when copies of Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” script was given to reportedly five talent agents to gauge interest from potential actors.  Within weeks, the script was leaked online and eventually showed up on Gawker as link to Scribd (and their servers), but Gawker is a bigger fish to fry and can generate more publicity for the uncompleted script.

Tarantino sued Gawker for $1 million and at the same time vowed to never produce or direct the film. Gawker responded with the motion to dismiss on March 10, but Judge Walter set a January 27 trial date and sent both parties to mediation.Judge Walter did grant Tarantino “to amend the second claim for relief for contributory infringement against Defendant,” and gave the Oscar-winning writer/director until May 1 to file an amendment. 

The problem with Tarantino’s original complaint is that Gawker never posted the script on their site or hosted the document on their servers.The gossip site simply posted a link to another site, albeit one with much smaller revenue, therefore should not be held accountable. If the Judge let the suit go through as is and Tarantino somehow prevailed in court, most websites can become liable for merely posting a link to a separate site. Never mind the strong probability the second site has links to third-party sites, the internet would become the Wild West of a new form of attorney-the “Link Chaser.”

This is not how the web was designed and it is not how the free speech works. Tarantino does have a legitimate gripe, but he should do some investigative work and see who actually leaked the script. Several questions need to be asked before the moment Gawker got into the picture.

Did the script have a digital signature specifically created for the reader? If not, then why?

Was the script leaked by one particular agent or an underling? Either way, it would be the agency’s responsibility and they should be held liable.

Was there a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between Tarantino (and his reps) and the agency? If there was, then its the agency’s fault the script got out.

Gawker and Scribd most likely did not have an NDA with Tarantino, so why would they be held liable? Was there a copyright protection notice on the script? Either way, Gawker can claim that the script had the potential to be a fake, possibly due to the fact there was no reliable source.

Is Tarantino suing Gawker for publicity for the unpublished script or is he trying to track down who actually leaked the script? Does he know the deceiving agent or is he legitimately pissed off?      

Is this ironic from a man who skillfully recreates the best attributes from a collection of old westerns, kung-fu, black exploitation and gangster films and who learned his craft working endless hours in an L.A. video store?

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