Quentin Tarantino has withdrawn a lawsuit accusing Gawker of infringing his copyright by pointing people to a copy of a leaked script for The Hateful Eight.
But the author and director indicates in legal documents that he might attempt to bring the lawsuit again, after discovering the names of people who downloaded the screenplay. “Plaintiff may later advance an action and refile a complaint after further investigations to ascertain and plead the identities of additional infringers,” he says in court papers filed on Wednesday.
Tarantino's battle with Gawker dates to January, when the site Defamer.com reported that the script had been leaked, and invited readers to come forward with information. Several days later, Defamer.com followed up with the post, “Here is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script,” which included links to the screenplay on AnonFiles.com and Scribd.com.
Tarantino then sued Gawker on the grounds that the company contributed to copyright infringement by linking to the leaked script. U.S. District Court Judge John Walter dismissed that complaint last month, ruling that merely linking to the screenplay doesn't contribute to copyright infringement. Walter said at the time that Tarantino could amend his complaint, but that he would only be able to proceed if he could show that Gawker's readers downloaded the script as a result of the links.
Tarantino responded by filing a revised complaint last week. That version of the lawsuit argued that Gawker itself infringed copyright by allegedly downloading the script from AnonFiles. But that theory was viewed with skepticism by some legal experts. Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman told Online Media Daily at the time that the amended complaint didn't offer evidence that anyone at Gawker accessed the script.
Goldman also questioned whether Tarantino would be able to prevail even if he could prove that Gawker downloaded the script. For one thing, imposing liability for the mere act of visiting sites with pirated material “would break the Internet as we know it today,” Goldman said. That's because Web users typically have no way of knowing whether particular material online infringes copyright.
Also, even if downloading the script was actionable, news organizations like Gawker would have a fair use defense. “It's completely reasonable that a journalistic enterprise like Gawker would download a copy of the script to verify its accuracy and to better understand a controversy roiling the entertainment industry,” Goldman said last week.