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In Which We Tangle With the Law (Maybe)

Erin breaks down the big ole legal clustercuss over the Hunger Games script.

In Which We Tangle With the Law (Maybe)

Keen-eyed readers of this website (which had better be all of you) may remember reading a post yesterday that contained our take on what we believed to be the official Hunger Games movie script. You may have even commented! For that we thank you, as ever, with imaginary champ cans and cupcakes.

We took the post down today.

Last night, a person claiming to represent Lionsgate Films, Inc, the movie studio which is producing the Hunger Games films, left a comment on that post asking us to cease and desist. They were quickly shamed and mocked, because honestly, who leaves a Cease and Desist letter as a comment on a blog? Are law schools not teaching an Internet 101 class? They really should, if for no other reason than to direct copyright lawyers to photos of lolcats. Even the toughest lawyer needs pictures of cats and cheeseburgers to brighten his or her day.

But I digress. That person, Liat Cohen, then got with the 2000s and emailed us a Cease and Desist letter instead. Let's all learn about the law together, shall we?

Before I post our exchange with Lionsgate, I'm going to attempt to suss out the scene of the supposed crime. We received a copy of what was purported to be the Hunger Games movie script from a source that will remain anonymous. I will say that this source does NOT work at Lionsgate. We didn't ask where the source got the script. We have no intention of doing so. Hey, we aren't Woodward and Bernstein. We aren't even Gizmodo. My journalistic integrity usually extends about as far as the nearest bar, but we at FYA make this promise to you: WE HAVE NOT, NOR WILL WE EVER, INTEND TO DECEIVE OUR AUDIENCE. In other words, we posted about a script that we believed, in good faith, to be real.

Liat Cohen, who claims to work for Lionsgate, says it's a fake. That's fine. Frankly, that's awesome, because I read that script, and if that's what's passing for mega-million-dollar movie scripts these days, I am in the wrong damn business. We all are. The kids who set up a lemonade stand down the street are in the wrong business. It's not that well-written, is what I'm saying! So I actually hope that Lionsgate is right about the script being a fake -- although they have offered no evidence that it is nor asked us any questions about where this fake script originated -- because I love the Hunger Games and I desperately want the movies to not actively suck.

But man! They're kind of angry about this fake! Let's read the first email they sent us! Feel free to use a vaguely superior tone of voice in your head -- for my part, I read it in an approximation of Helen Mirren's accent:

From: Liat Cohen <[xxxx]> (info in brackets redacted)
Date: Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Subject: copyright infringement
To: [email protected]

Please be advised that I represent Lions Gate Films, Inc. which holds all copyright and intellectual property rights to "The Hunger Games". Your story and excerpts provided in the link below is a completely inaccurate fabrication. Your source is unreliable and this is not the script.

You are doing your readers a disservice and losing journalistic credibility. Additonally you are violating Lionsgate's rights. Please withdraw and take down the article immediately and issue a retraction.

If this is not done within 24 hours, Lionsgate reserves all rights to pursue and seek all legal remedies and damages as allowed in law and equity. All rights are expressly reserved.

Liat Cohen, Esquire
Senior Vice President BusinessAffairs & Litigation
2700 Colorado Avenue, Ste. 200
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Direct Line: (310) 255-4986
Facsimile: (310) 564-0360

(Editor's note: we have chosen to include Liat's contact info as that is how the original blog comment was written)

Whoa! Fancy! I think I read somewhere that you haven't arrived as an internet destination until someone has tried to sue you, but honestly, I could do without it. I mean, if there was like a law somewhere that said that people could only sue you for what you own, then va bene; Lionsgate is welcome to the 14 dollars in my bank account. But it turns out they can sue you for way more than that, including, but not limited to, YOUR PRIDE. But we'll get to that a bit further down.

But, wait! We were confused. They're saying our script is a fake! That we are losing our journalistic credibility! (And that part's actually sort of sweet; it's like Liat's really concerned about our reputations! Thanks, Liat! Champ can for you!) But how can a fake script -- if it is a fake script -- infringe upon Lionsgate's rights? I mean, that's sort of like saying that fanfiction infringes upon a tv show, book or movie's rights. It infringes upon my rights to not be grossed out by your weird Dumbledore/Harry slash fic, Internet, but I don't think it's really hurting the Harry Potter franchise.

But, hey. What do we know? If we were lawyers, we'd be so much closer to realizing our dreams of living on a boat.

So we asked Lionsgate!

From: sarah [xxxx] [mailto:[xxxx]]
Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2011 9:30 AM
To: Liat Cohen
Subject: Re: copyright infringement

Dear Mr. Cohen,

Please point me to the copyright law that declares it illegal for a site to post a fabrication.

Sarah [xxxx]
Forever Young Adult

[info in brackets redacted]

This is where I get to summon up my former, back-talking, 16-year-old self and point out that no where in this email do we claim that what we posted was a fake. We're just wondering whether it's illegal to do so. AGAIN: WE HAVE NO IDEA WHETHER THE SCRIPT IS A FAKE. Lionsgate tells us it is, so that is what we are going with. Though, if you ask me, for someone so concerned with our journalistic credibility, Lionsgate hasn't really given us much to go on except for their word. So they're basically asking us to further forgo our journalistic credibility, but this time in their favor. Okie dokie!

(Also, we assumed from the name that Liat was a man, and now I think maybe she is a lady? If so, that probably accounts for the rather shirty tone that is adopted in the second email. Liat, I get the same thing all the time, so I'm with you there. My sincere apologies!!)

So Liat replied to us again. Because we're playing nice -- and because the email signature gets all growly about forwarding the email to other people -- we're only going to publish the general tone/info of the email. If Lionsgate feels we're misrepresenting them, we'll be happy to post the original email we received, but, um . . . it kinda makes them look like jerks.

(AGAIN, JUST WANT TO SAY: the below is an approximation of their email, because we didn't want to post their email without their impression. Their original email was jerky; I have attempted to make them sound nicer using my love of capslock and exclamation marks.)


Everything that has anything to do with the Hunger Games (characters, scripts, plots, the color of Katniss's eyes, etc) belongs to Lionsgate, under Section 102(a) of the 1976 Copyright Act.YOU ARE VIOLATING US.

Wow. I guess that could be interpreted to mean that anyone discussing anything related to the Hunger Games -- characters, casting decisions, speculation on what the Crafts Services folks are going to serve on set -- could be considered copyright infringement. The internet's a big place, though, so it'd probably take a while to get to all of that. I can see why you don't, and it's a good thing you guys are so nice about that, since without internet buzz no one would care about this movie at all. I mean, we sure try to do our part here at FYA to excite people about The Hunger Games, but we don't want to step on your toes with all of our excitement! We'll be more mild-mannered in the future. Less enthusiastic exclamation points; more Joyce-esque long-winded monologues.

You've said your post is a lie! But you still are violating us! You can't use or misuse facts and materials that belong to the Hunger Games movie, under Feist Poblications v Rural Telephone Service 499 US 340 (1991).

Also, bee tee dubs, under Gershwin Publishing Corp v Columbia Artists Management, Inc 443 F. 2d 1159, infringement activity includes people who induce or materially contribute to the infringing conduct of others! Other blogs have picked up your post! You're liable for their behavior.

Well, now, again Liat, let's not put words into our, er, emails. We didn't concede that it was a fabrication. We don't know if it's a fabrication or not! We took the script on good faith, much as we're taking your declaration of that same script's counterfeit status. Also, even though I didn't post the line from your actual email, there should really be a comma . . . you know what? Never mind. Let's leave the grammar nit-picking to the self-published Regency vampire romance books, shall we?

And you learn something new every day! I honestly had no idea that my saying one thing could be held legally accountable for someone wholly unrelated to me saying another thing! Man! The law these days! Runaway judges, am I right, Tea Partiers?

Lionsgate totally doesn't want to harsh your Hunger Games-loving buzz. It's so cute, you guys on the internet! We totally want you guys to talk about the movie, particularly since that makes good press for us. But we don't want bad press! And we don't want fake scripts floating around, even though you never once posted the actual script for anyone to see! And even though we won't give you anything but our dubious word that it's actually a fake! Stop stepping on our toes; we just got a pedicure done!

But feel free to write a new post about how awesome we are.

Really? You want people to talk about the movie? Which parts?! The details of opening day? Where to purchase your latest Hunger Games action dolls? Awesome. We just shouldn't, say, write about our growing concern that you are going to tear our the heart and soul of this series and produce schlocky crap just so that you can capitalize on a buzz largely influenced by the cute little websites who write about the Hunger Games?

Well, okay.

And then there is this:

My email has been super-filled with legalese! But if you have the brains of Katniss's grooming crew, maybe I can instead convince you of our legal prowess by showing you this video of a child who we sued and forced to apologize -- ON YOUTUBE -- as part of his settlement!

Wow. Game, set, match, Lionsgate. You successfully shamed a child on Youtube. Bully for you. This isn't sarcasm, either. I think it's totally awesome that you sued a minor child and forced him to make a public apology on a website viewed by millions of people. It almost puts me in mind of this book series I read once (okay, five times), where this super-rich, super-powerful group of people would punish an outlying set of people, over whom they had all power and control anyway, by forcing their children to endure humiliating, shameful acts for public consumption and enjoyment. I can't quite think of the series' name off the top of my head . . . maybe you guys at Lionsgate could remind me?

We did respond to Liongate's second email with a request for a verification of credentials (after all, it is the internet, and everyone knows you can't believe what you read on there), which was met with an unveiled threat to have private investigators track down our addresses and then have court officers serve us with lawsuits. (I'm not really clear on whether the lawsuit would be for copyright infringement or for asking a lawyer to prove that she actually represents Lionsgate. Maybe both!)

Lionsgate has demanded a retraction of our previous post, for us to tell everyone it was a fake (and here is where law school could also afford to teach a Grammar 101 class, because "it," being our post, is not a fake. We wrote it. I think they mean "it," as in, the script we VERY VAGUELY AND WITHOUT ANY SPECIFICS reviewed, and this is why indeterminate pronouns will get you, kids). They have flat out told us we will be sued if we do not comply to their demands. Their replies to our (pretty polite, I'd say) emails have become increasingly threatening, and, hey, I need those 14 dollars in my bank account to buy milk for my child's cereal, so I don't really want to get sued.

So here's our retraction, in full:

Last week, we received a movie script from an unnamed source. That movie script appeared to be the script for the Hunger Games movie. Acting in good faith, we read the script and then offered up very general thoughts about the direction and tone of the script. At no time did we offer the script up to the internet, nor did we forward the script on to any other bloggers or websites. (Nor do we ever intend to. Frankly I don't even plan to hang on to it for my own enjoyment, cause it sort of sucked.)

Lionsgate has claimed that this script is actually a fake. We have been given no further information than that, and I'm not really sure how they know that what we have is a fake since our post was so very general in nature. I can only hope that as soon as they read the words "Gale becomes a hobo" that they knew something was off, and if that's the case, then THANK YOU, LIONSGATE.

With no other knowledge to go on, and our dwindling champagne budgets in danger of being seized by a multi-billion dollar company who you would think have better things to do than send nasty emails to YA blogs, we are hereby retracting our opinions on the possibly fake Hunger Games movie script. We take it all back, Internet! Hunger Games movie? What Hunger Games movie? What's the Hunger Games? Is it, like, Battle Royale but for Americans who hate foreign films?

Thanks for all the threatening emails, Liat Cohen of Lionsgate. But I think maybe you might be a little nicer if you looked at some kitties on the internet? Or had a champ can? Just a suggestion!

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.