BitTorrent sites operators are used to receiving takedown requests from Hollywood, it is part of their daily business. Usually the notices concern rips of DVD quality or leaks that were camcorded in theaters. Twentieth Century Fox, however, has surprised several site administrators with a notification for a film that is far from finished.
Hollywood insiders have a habit of sharing things with both their peers and the public. Every year, many of the DVD-screeners that are sent to Academy members find their way onto the Internet and end up being shared by millions of people.
Leaks can be even more advanced than that though. There is also a ’scene’ of script aficionados who share movie scripts, often before the movie in question has started filming. There are even entire blogs dedicated to this type of reading material.
One of the scripts that made its way onto the Internet a few weeks ago was that of the upcoming Twentieth Century Fox film “Water For Elephants“. Starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson and based on Sara Guen’s novel, the film tells the story of a traveling circus.
As is the fate of many Hollywood scripts this one also ended up being shared on the Internet, on several file-hosting sites and on BitTorrent. What’s quite new though, is that the Fox Intellectual Property department has been sending out takedown notices in an attempt to stop the script from being shared.
Below are some quotes from an email that has been sent to several site administrators in recent weeks.
We have recently learned that ***** and/or its users (hereinafter “You” or “Your”) has posted scripts and/or links to downloads thereof purportedly from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation’s (“Fox”) “WATER FOR ELEPHANTS” motion picture (the “Film”) on the following Internet pages without authorization from Fox:
Such unauthorized use infringes the intellectual property rights in and to the Film owned by Fox and its associated entities. Therefore, we must demand that you immediately remove the scripts and/or links to downloads thereof from your website. We further request that you provide written acknowledgment to the undersigned that you have ceased the infringing conduct complained of herein.
The email further states that Fox will take action against the site when the torrent files or other links to the script aren’t removed by a certain date. As we know from previous cases, Fox doesn’t shy from extreme measures when it comes to leaked material, especially when it’s in an unfinished state.
Last year, an unfinished copy of the highly anticipated “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie leaked online before it came out in theaters. 20th Century Fox wasn’t happy with this global sneak preview and asked the FBI and MPAA to investigate the case.
At the time Fox had also been sending out takedown notices to various torrent sites, hoping to keep the damage to a minimum. Most site operators were kind enough to take down the links, but in many cases new ones are already uploaded before the requests are processed.
It is doubtful that Fox will involve the FBI this time, especially since Hollywood lobbying for tougher, criminal copyright laws didn’t extend past actual motion pictures. Unlike the Wolverine case, scripts are usually widely available online to those who know where to look. “Water For Elephants” meanwhile, started filming two weeks ago and is expected to be released somewhere next year, in theaters and on BitTorrent.