Latino Review, the news and rumor site who first confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy would be Marvel Studios’ big Comic-Con announcement this year, has posted what it purports to be a letter from an investigator working with Marvel, hoping to figure out who is leaking information about Iron Man 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy to the press.
Digital Spy reports that Marvel declined comment for their story on the Latino Review post, so while it’s not entirely clear that this person was acting with authorization on behalf of Marvel, Latino Review reports receiving the message from a Marvel.com e-mail address, and typically these kinds of things will be denied outright if they aren’t true.
“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,” the letter says, and elaborates that the writer takes the position that posting the story without Marvel’s consent was illegal.
That’s a common assertation in cases like this; back when Bleeding Cool and a number of other sites posted early looks at Before Watchmen on Christmas 2011, DC Entertainment’s lawyers sent a similar message, claiming that proprietary information leaked to journalists in violation of the leaker’s non-disclosure agreement was not legal for the journalist to post. In the case of Bleeding Cool, they removed the art from their site but remained steadfast in their position that they hadn’t done anything wrong–just that they weren’t willing to go to court over it.
In the case of Latino Review, though, they weren’t actually presenting any art, film or other content that Marvel could claim intellectual ownership of; all they were publishing was reports from sources who had fed them information meant for publication.
“I understand a company wanting to protect their property by independently investigating information leaks,” Latino Review writes. “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.”
They’re right, of course; in the same way that Marvel might not like people taking set photos of Iron Man 3, but can’t do anything about people taking photographs of what’s happening openly on a public street, our system is simply not set up for intellectual property owners to take journalists to court for reporting what they’ve been told about a film, even in the context of big, tentpole films where hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.
What irks Latino Review the most, though, is what they call a condescending tone from the writer of the letter, who says, “Like many fans out there, you just wanted to be the first one to post something on the internet.” For an advertiser-funded news site with a substantial reach, that’s a pretty inflammatory comment by the writer, essentially charging a professional writer with doing his job as a hobby.
That’s a common problem, of course, as more of the news goes online-first or online-only. Old-world organizations with wealth and influence, like Walt Disney Studios, often fail to understand the online press–or if they do understand it, they have trouble accepting the reality of new media. The entertainment establishment–like so many of the world’s newsmakers–still perceive “blogger” to mean some teenager cranking out fan rants in his basement and tend to believe that sites built on WordPress aren’t real reporters and will be easy to bully into submission.
The film industry is used to working in an environment where there are only a smattering of influential publications with which they have to do business–and those publications can be leveraged to do what the studios want because they rely on them for coverage opportunities (the same can be said of the comics industry’s relationship with the comics press, but that’s another conversation entirely). Sites like Latino Review or Bleeding Cool, then–who report unofficial information, rumor and speculation, often with far more accuracy than the establishment would like the readers to believe–tend to be a thorn in the side of movie studios and comic book publishers–and one that they’re not yet equipped to deal with effectively.