Getting the scoop is what helps get reporters out of bed each morning. But for Marvel (and its new Disney Co. masters), it’s interfering with their business and they are looking to have it stop.
And it’s all the fault of entertainment blog Latino Review.
Robert Grosser, vice president of loss prevention at Marvel, wrote an email to Latino Review asking them to reveal their source that allowed the site to publish details about upcoming films “Iron Man 3” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” ahead of the official announcement planned for San Diego Comic-Con.
“The executives at Marvel are extremely upset regarding the release of this information and they have instructed me to find you and ascertain how you received it,” Grosser wrote to Latino Review, according to a letter posted on that website. “My goal is to accomplish this in a quiet manner. I do not want to see you or anyone else get into trouble, nor do I want to see anyone’s career be tarnished because of this. However, I am very confident that through your efforts and mine, we will be able to work through this together.”
A reporter at Latino Review, who posts under the moniker of “Da7e,” ignored the email, and instead decided to share it with his readers.
“I understand a company wanting to protect their property by independently investigating information leaks, but unless that leak is of something they own — say a photo from a closed set or a prop someone found on a, I dunno, street? In the bay where they dumped all the extras for the ‘Iron Man 3’ plane stunt? It is hard to argue that disseminating information is illegal,” Da7e wrote.
Although Grosser does not specifically call any actions by Latino Review illegal, he does imply it.
“If you provide me with your source, I will make it worth your effort,” Grosser said. “I want to work with you. As I stated above, I do not want to see you or anyone else get into trouble. That would be a lose-lose for everyone. I would hope that you are now realizing that this is a very serious matter, and the consequences will be quite severe if I do not find out how you obtained the ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ information.”
Marvel would not comment on the report to The Hollywood Reporter, but Grosser’s attempts to bully a media outlet on behalf of a studio or actor is not new.
During the late 1990s, studios tried to shut down various fan sites and digital news outlets, claiming they were violating copyright. Airlock Alpha, which was then known as SyFy World, was one of the sites targeted, but one of the few that fought back (and successfully), asserting usage claims under the Fair Use clause of American copyright laws.
The site has since been asked to step in and make public later claims from attorneys, including an attempt in June 2011 by Los Angeles attorney Bryan J. Freedman trying to remove modeling photos of “Teen Wolf” star Colton Haynes that showed him making out with another boy.
In that incident, Freedman — who didn’t represent the copyright owners of the pictures, thus couldn’t make a copyright claim — demanded from sites like DoorQ to remove the pictures or face consequences of posting “private” pictures he said depicted child pornography. The photos, by the way, were shot for and published in a gay youth magazine at the time, so were not private, and did not feature any nudity of any kind.
Freedman tried to keep those efforts quiet by adding a clause to his letter stating that the letter was confidential, and that anyone receiving it could not publicly discuss it. However, any binding legal agreement (without a judge’s order) requires the full consent of both parties. And since Freedman sent that letter to an outlet he knew was a news outlet, he automatically waived any expectation of privacy or confidentiality without a prior agreement.
That’s the same issue Grosser is facing now, with his full letter published and his tactics questioned. News outlets, even blogs, are protected under federal shield laws. Reporters are not required to disclose sources of information, and it’s not illegal to report information ahead of official announcements, except in extreme circumstances when an outlet knowingly reports information that is false and damaging.
“To condescend with ‘Like many fans out there, you just wanted to be the first one to post something on the Internet,’ come on,” Da7e said. “I’m not just a fan (imagine your hell if I was the typical fan) and I wasn’t ‘one of the first.’ I was the first. And, as we see through Hall H [at Comic-Con] and this letter, completely factually correct in my assertions.”
Da7e added that he is not responding to the email outside of the post “because I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“A representative of my favorite comics house just stepped into my life with no legal authority to demand anything, and threatened my career for doing my job well,” Da7e said.