What I Hate About Studios [And Why I ‘Get’ Some Pirates]

About 5 years ago, Sheridan Cleland of MyPDFscripts wrote the below article on his blog.

Soon after, the site disappeared.

I wanted to keep the memory alive, because these practices by the studios have not changed. They have only become worse.

Concerning MediaFire and the Current Lack of Scripts…

So, you may have noticed a serious lack of scripts on the site recently. In fact, there are none currently. Don’t worry, though, that will change very soon… but probably in a way that will greatly disappoint many of you.

First, let’s tackle what happened with MediaFire and all the scripts. In short, it’s all my fault. Yes, I’m owning up to my own mistake here. I fucked up. The short version is when the Twentieth Century Fox DMCA notice hit my inbox, I decided that rather than change the text of each script entry on the site to read something like “Script removed at the request of Twentieth Century Fox,” that I would instead just delete the entire script page. Some people were getting a little frustrated when loading a page in hopes of finding a script only to find a “removed” message instead. Understandable. It would piss me off, too, so I just deleted all of the offending script pages and their respective download links. Meaning, I changed my usual routine for removing scripts, so what I didn’t do because of that was delete them from the MediaFire account as well. At least, not all of them, I think. You can already see the problem here, I’m sure…

So, one morning last month, MediaFire sent me a DMCA notice regarding one script. I didn’t react immediately because that wasn’t out of the ordinary. I routinely received notices from them. Most of the time, their DMCA notices were from the RIAA thinking our PDF files were actually mp3 files masquerading with alternate file extensions. I’ve had to contest the removal of files like “Freebird.pdf” and “Fury.pdf” more than once, especially considering those are Amateur Scripts and I’ve been given explicit permission by their authors to post them. Annoying? Yes. Anyway, a little later that day, I received another DMCA notice from MediaFire. Then another. Then a list. At that point I realized what I had done, but it was too late. I tried to login to my account only to be greeted by this wonderful screen:

Part of me wanted to contest it with MediaFire, to get them to allow me to log in to my account, so I could prove that no one had downloaded those scripts since I had removed them from the site, but then another part (the really pissed off part that knew I would inevitably make a mistake like this) decided to hell with it. Contesting wouldn’t have mattered anyway, the scripts were there in my MediaFire account among all of the other scripts and, in the end, that was all that did matter. So, I’m an idiot, and it was my fault and mine alone.

I will now pause briefly and allow you to curse my name and hurl vile obscenities in my general direction. It’s okay, I deserve it, I can take it…

You good?

No?

Okay, keep ‘em coming…

So, how am I choosing to move forward with scripts on the site? Excellent question.

With all of the DMCA notices from the studios and their e-mails and the legal brouhaha surrounding screenplays and scripts at the moment and my increasingly busy schedule, I think it’s time for a change of pace, a different approach, a new direction. I’ve done some serious soul-searching and I’ve come to a conclusion. But before I tell you that conclusion, let me explain how it is that I came to it.

You see, I love this site. I created it for a reason, because I love screenplays. I love writing and reading scripts. I love helping people find screenplays that they’ve desperately been searching for. I love to talk about the process of screenwriting with other writers. Simply, I love all things screenwriting. I do. I spent two-and-a-half years working really, really hard to post all of the scripts that were here and molding this site into what it has become today. Well… what it was a couple months ago… So, what I don’t like is spending hours upon hours upon hours posting screenplays only to be told to remove them days, weeks, or months later. I don’t like receiving DMCA notices. I don’t like receiving e-mails from individual writers who ask to have their scripts removed. I don’t like feeling like a “bad guy.” I don’t like silly producers who call me a “clown” and threaten legal action. I don’t like the ring-around-the-rosie that I get from studio legal departments and their lawyers. Most importantly, I don’t like to be bullied, so why would I choose to continue to do something that ultimately leads down a path that intersects with all of those things that I don’t like? Doesn’t make much sense does it?

Every week I spend my hard-earned money on some film-related media, whether it’s going to a theater or purchasing a DVD, Blu-ray, screenplay, book, what have you. But I’ve realized something: why should I support a studio that’s more concerned about the online availability of a forty-three-year-old script than they are about releasing a good movie today? Does it matter if the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screenplay is freely available online? I mean, does it really,really matter in the greater scheme of things? The movie is sitting here on the shelf next to me, and it’s my third copy. I owned it on VHS, then I bought the very first version of the DVD, before upgrading to the latest DVD release. Twentieth Century Fox has gotten money out of me for that single film not once, but three times! I would buy the Blu-ray to make it a fourth, but you know what, I’m not going to. I wanted to, and had planned to, but dealing with Fox has left such a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t want to buy it. F**k them. There’s protecting copyright and then there’s just being ridiculous. Currently in production scripts are understandable, I get it, that makes sense. What I don’t get, and what doesn’t even remotely make an ounce of sense, is being asked to remove How Green Was My Valley. I mean, c’mon, really? And guess what, I’m not stopping with Fox or Butch Cassidy. No, sir. There’s a whole list of movies here on The myPDFscripts No-Post Script Index that won’t see a single red cent from me ever, or ever again.

That said, I’d much rather support writers and artists who “get it.” Sometimes I’ve spent my hard-earned cash because of people I’ve interviewed or made contact with in some form, either through or because of this site. These purchases I do not regret in the least (except The Thing, which Fox made me remove):

Why did I purchase Faintheart? Because David Lemon is a cool guy. Why did I purchase Brick and The Brothers Bloom? Because Rian Johnson is a cool guy. Why did I purchase Harry Brown and Madam Samurai? Because Gary Young is a cool guy. Why did I purchase The Losers? Because Andy Diggle is a cool guy. Why did I purchase 3:10 To Yuma? Because Derek Haas is a cool guy. Why did I purchase The Thing? Because Eric Heisserer is a cool guy. Why did I purchase X Films? Because Alex Cox is an amazing guy (for reasons I will soon illustrate). They all took time out of their day to share their thoughts and their work, and I don’t mind repaying that gratitude by purchasing their products. I’m happy to support writers and artists who “get it.” And you can bet for damn sure that I’ll be purchasing Grabbers the moment it hits DVD/Blu-ray. Why? Because Kevin Lehane is a cool guy! Add to that list the film Deviation because writer/director J.K. Amalou and producer Lara Greenway personally sent me their script for inclusion on this site. They get it!

And that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to: I want to support the people — and only the people — who get it.

Thing is, it may not work in every instance, which brings me back to Alex Cox. After the Universal DMCA notice and subsequent removal of scripts, Mr. Cox contacted me and had this to say:

I am the author of the screenplay REPO MAN. I believe you have received a ‘takedown’ notice from Universal to remove the script. I do not agree with this. I’m very pleased you have my script on your site and would like to see it remain. If you would like to add any other of my scripts, get in touch. You are welcome to post them.

Did I want to immediately repost the script? You bet I did, but what kind of legal ramifications would that cause? I decided to check with Universal. Their response?

Mr. Cox is the author of the Repo Man screenplay; however, his rights to and interests in the screenplay for the film were granted to Universal Pictures, which is the exclusive owner of Repo Man throughout the world in perpetuity, including, without limitation, all copyrights in the film and in the underlying screenplay. Accordingly, Universal stands by its request that you take-down the Repo Man screenplay from your website.

Fair enough, I suppose. The more adept of you might point out that the script is actually available on Alex’s personal website, which is where I’d actually gotten it to begin with. I decided to mention this to Universal and ask if it would be okay to link to the script on Alex’s site, knowing full well what their response would be, but wanting to actually see it in print.

Sure enough, they responded.

Ready for this?

You sure?

It’s disgusting…

Please don’t post the links. I don’t believe Mr. Cox is authorized to post the script on his personal website either.

It’s a sad, sad state of affairs when a screenwriter asks me, nay gives me FULL PERMISSION, to post their script and I can’t because if I did I would get sued by a studio. It’s an even worse state of affairs when you’re told a screenwriter can’t even post their own script on their own website because some legal “expert” somewhere thinks that the screenwriter doesn’t own it.

Why is it again that we want to be a part of this industry?

This correspondence with Universal absolutely disgusted me. It made me physically ill. The only — with a very strong emphasis on the word “only” — thing that gave me any hope afterward was Alex’s response to it:

Sheridan,
Your site is extremely valuable – yesterday I downloaded several scripts including BONNIE AND CLYDE which I’ll use next semester in my screenwriting class (unable to make a living as an independent filmmaker I’m also teaching film at Boulder, CO). You are welcome to download any and all my scripts at

http://alexcox.com/writing.htm

and re-post them. Since you’re doing this for no money as far as I’m concerned it’s obviously FAIR USE and very beneficial to film enthusiasts, students and academics.

The studios, including Universal, are pretty clearly a criminal enterprise, operating an illegal blacklist and functioning as a price-fixing cartel. They actually have legislation which permits them to operate as a cartel abroad (the law is called Webb-Pomerene) but absolutely no right to operate as a cartel domestically. They do so because they’re powerful and have politicians in their pockets. If the cops ever went after them using the RICO statutes the whole studio cartel would collapse like a pack of cards, and individuals like their “litigation counsel” would have to look for honest work.

It’s unlikely that this will happen, but we can dream.

See what I mean about Alex being an amazing guy? After that e-mail I’m an Alex Cox fan for life… and I’m seriously considering moving to Boulder for some film classes.

A couple e-mails later and Alex had this to add:

Univesal are both right and wrong. Right because in many cases writers do cede all their rights to a purchaser, and lose them. Wrong because REPO MAN wasn’t a work for hire, and in three years time all rights to the script will revert to me under an obscure provision of US copyright law. This may be why they haven’t sent me a takedown notice: but it’s disgraceful that your site has been kneecapped in this way. Have you thought about transferring all the material to a server outside the US — in Brazil, perhaps? I know of others who have done this to keep valuable sites alive.

Good luck, and think about a server south of the border. As an academic (!) I found your site very useful and have shared several of those scripts with my students — fair use!

Many thanks,
Alex

See, Alex gets it.

The only reason you’re reading this right now is because of Alex and those few other writers that get it. Otherwise, I would have already pulled the plug on this site, but because of those writers out there that are willing to share their work and their time with us, the aspiring lot, I’m choosing to continue on and persevere and only support the writers/artists/companies that truly deserve my support, and in a way that won’t absolutely disgust or disappoint me any further.

Again, there will be scripts on this site soon, but they will only be scripts that I’ve been given explicit permission to post by the writers themselves.

Yes, that means that there’s going to be far less scripts, but it also means far less headaches for me and, most importantly, no more DMCA notices or lawyers or e-mails or studio cartel stupidity.

If this decision disappoints you, then I apologize. I’m not saying it without a certain degree of disappointment myself. There are still other script sites out there where you might be able to find the script you’re looking for. They’re quickly dwindling, but they’re out there.

On the other hand, if you approve of this decision, then maybe you can help me and this site. Maybe you could show a fellow writer this post. Maybe they’ll want to share their scripts. Then maybe other writers will want to share their scripts, too. And maybe before long, this site will be populated with scripts like it once was, but with legitimate scripts, shared by writers, for writers, without any studio interference. That’s my new dream for this site. Will it happen? I really can’t say. It seems like the writers that “get it” are few and far between these days, but that won’t stop me from hoping for the best.

If it doesn’t happen, then I’m still proud to share the scripts of Alex Cox, Rian Johnson, David Lemon, Matthew Grainger, Craig Mazin, Jeff Lowell, Andy Diggle, Bob DeRosa, Derek Haas, Brian Bird, Gary Young, Kevin Lehane, Matt Manfredi, Dan Fogelman, Brian Koppelman, and J.K. Amalou.

You know… the guys that get it.

———————————

Recently I (Karel) have been the victim of a copyright strike on Vimeo against videos I was using for educational purposes only.

This caused tremendous stress, a massive disruption of my small business, and hours and hours of wasted time. When this happened, I remembered Cleland, and the insane amount of effort he went through in order to comply with unreasonable demands.

Ultimately he capitulated, and the site has gone completely.

I believe Cleland’s experience is an illustration of what happens when corporations keep increasing their power, and use it indiscriminately, (which is exactly the mandate of the current US presidency).

About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

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