They call them spoilers. Little bits of info that reveal a plot detail in an upcoming book, movie, or TV Show that negates any authentic surprise for the viewer, or spoileree. LOST has certainly been one of the most spoiler plagued shows of recent memory. It’s murky characters and slow plot advancement has sent zealous fans searching for any scrap of info they can find to piece together the puzzle. During season one, it was not uncommon to visit mainstream sites like TvGuide.com or E!Online and find vital pieces of upcoming plot lines baldly revealed. The second season fared much better. Instead of spoilers, many of these sites, mostly through the relationship with the producers of the shows (who are persuasively nice guys, believe me) have tempered their wares from being outright spoilers to intriguing teasers. Those days, sadly, have come to an end.
Every year the LOST producers labor tirelessly to come up with what will be their final – and hopefully most memorable – twist. This year was no different, except instead of the tradition of naming the twist after a Jewish bread product, this year’s LOST finale zinger was name “The Snake in the Mailbox.” A decidedly more sinister name.
For a while there was speculation, along with the new league of well tempered ‘hints’ so vague that they were more conversation spoilers and talking points than actual spoilers. “The Snake in the Mailbox” relates to something we don’t know about Jack. “The Snake in the Mailbox” will change the game. “The Snake in the Mailbox” will leave us wondering how they could go on. All perfectly delectable tid-bits, non fitting the classification of “spoiler.” Last week that all came to an end.
AintItCoolNews, arguably one of the most popular independent movie news blogs on the planet, published an expanded list of vague bullets that began to shed a more specific light on what some of the big twists may be centered around. It was a lot, more than average, but still did not go as far as to give away the finite details. just enough, however, for fans to start putting the plot together. Then, the unthinkable happened.
A fan claiming to be the originator of the info that inspired the bullets posted a complete synopsis of both last weeks episode of LOST “Greatest Hits,” as well as a blow by blow for “Through The Looking Glass,” the LOST season finale. Word of what the LOST season finale’s big twist would be circulated through LOST message boards and commenting systems at break-neck speed. Often times without even as much as a good natured warning. Those places that did place the spoilers behind a protective link did so in vain; after all, whomever tempts the imp of the perverse is doomed to fail.
The incident gave way to a voracious debate from both the pro and anti spoiler community. Those who opposed spoilers of this magnitude pointed to the release of the information as an afront to the creative process of the show; voiding the months of hard work by the actors, writers, directors, composers, and editors; robbing viewers of the aesthetics of suspense and shock that can only be achieved in the unknowing state. At the extreme end, many argued that releasing such detailed information violated the copyright laws.
Those on the pro-side of the spoiler argument defend themselves by stating that spoilers constitute free speech, and that exposure to the material is a matter of free will; so anyone who claims they were wrongly impacted by spoiler material are, therefore, hypocrites. Enforcement as a copyright issue, has been met with as subjugation of the first amendment. Since free speech does descend from the guarantee of a free press, it is governed in many ways. Copyright laws, however, make allowances for ‘fair use’ that inadvertently protect the spoiler.
The issue over the legality of spoilers has actually been put to the test in court when several individuals spoiled the surprise ending of “Million Dollar Baby” with apparently hostile intent. The court ruled that the spoilers were protected under fair-use. Naturally this has generated a cry from the creative community to amend the antiquated copyright laws. The laws were never meant to function in the information cloud we live in today.
A fair alternative would be something called “First Use.” Essentially, this would give copyright holders the right to be the first to utilize the copyrighted product. With a “First Use” amendment, “Fair Use” would be tempered by whether or not it compromised the creators ability to benefit from the finished product. Until the copyright holder publicly displayed their copyrighted work, “Fair Use” would be suspended. This could eliminate a lot of headaches for the creative community including spoilers, reviews of early script drafts, unauthorized set photos of actual design elements, and more.
The question, of course, is would such measures stop the spoilers from doing their thing, or the public from having an even more voracious appetite for the material. The more forbidden the fruit, the more desirable it becomes.
– Jon Lachonis, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image © 2007 ABC)