Web Of Intrigue

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.

A couple of interesting stories about Internet-related issues broke last week that I think bear closer attention.

One is that Homeland Security is cracking down on bittorrent and other file-sharing Web sites. These sites, which post movies, TV shows, music and books for illegal downloads, run rampant across the Internet and usually are run outside of the U.S. But as the music industry has shown for the past couple of years, it could mean heavy fines for anyone caught downloading from one of these sites.

The second story hits a bit closer to home. Fox is suing screenwriter PJ McIlvaine for at least $12 million for her posting of scripts on the internet. Fox is claiming copyright infringement, even though most of the scripts she posted are scripts from movies long since released and are available at other places.

McIlvaine, who has a couple of credits on some small films, certainly doesn't have $12 million or even the money to combat a media conglomerate. She hosted the script site as a means of educating other writers by giving them a host of successful scripts to learn from.

McIlvaine is hardly the only person to do this. You can find published scripts at dozens of sites, such as Drew's Script-O-Rama or IMSDBpro. It's a valuable source for novice writers learning how to write a script.

So why is Fox suing McIlvaine? Because one of the scripts she published was the still-in-development script for "Deadpool." Fox, which got burned when someone put out an unauthorized cut of "Wolverine" last year before the film had been fully edited and effects added, wants to avoid losing money on a script that hasn't even been finished yet.

"Wolverine" got negative buzz when it was released because many people illegally downloaded the watered-down movie and didn't like it. Potentially, it cost Fox millions of dollars.

"Deadpool," which hasn't shot a frame of film yet, is even more precarious since the script could undergo many changes before it is locked. Or, perhaps it is the locked script and posting it on the Web gives away the movie's secrets. Imagine if someone had leaked the script for "The Sixth Sense" before the movie came out, spoiling the major twist in that film. It's not as if the film could have been re-written.

I don't think McIlvaine was trying to spoil the movie and she wasn't making any money from her site, but it was a poor decision on her part to post it. As a writer herself, I think she wouldn't appreciate it if someone had leaked one of her scripts to the Web without her permission. At the same time, if she had published one of her own unproduced scripts, she wouldn't be in the trouble she's in now.

Fox is obviously trying to make an example of McIlvaine, since it knows she doesn't have that sort of money to collect if it wins the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Fox has sent a strong message out to the rest of the Internet community about copyrighted material.

To read more about this story, there are several postings around the Internet. Here's one that will link you to others:

It's sad when a media giant has to pick on a single person for doing something that was more bad judgment than criminal. Hopefully, the courts will work out a more reasonable and equitable solution.

RIPs: To Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian actor of such comedy classics as "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" series, as well as a semi-regular on "Due South." Nielsen, who died Sunday at 84, got his first big break as a dramatic actor in the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet."

Also, director Irwin Kershner, the director of "Empire Strikes Back," died Monday at 87.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Like any good Thanksgiving meal, the networks are mostly giving us leftovers. However, there are a few new things tonight.

NBC is all-new, with Linda Hamilton and Timothy Dalton returning to "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.), followed by "The Event" and "Chase."

ABC has "Skating With The Stars" at 8 p.m., followed by "CMA Country Christmas" at 9:30 p.m.

Fox has a new "Lie To Me" at 9 p.m., following a repeat of "House." The CW has new episodes of "90210" and "Gossip Girl."