How Spoilers Work

Spoiler Suits
"Survivor" loser Russell Hantz got in a spot of trouble for selling spoilers to a blogger.
"Survivor" loser Russell Hantz got in a spot of trouble for selling spoilers to a blogger.
Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Maybe you're finally just getting around to watching this HBO show about dragons and whatnot, and you're midway through the first season when somebody happens to tell you about the terrible thing that's going to happen to your favorite character's head. Suddenly you're in a horrible funk. Is there any point in watching the remaining episodes? Is there any point in anything anymore? Can you sue this worthless blabbermouth for ruining your life?

No. Or, yes and no, but really no. Yes, because in theory you can sue anybody for anything. But is there any likelihood you would win? That's where the no comes in, because no, there's no chance. The usual invocation of the First Amendment aside, you'd need to be able to show that you really, really suffered in some way, and plot disclosure just doesn't meet the necessary legal standards, because, as we all know, the American justice system is deeply flawed.

But wait, wait, wait, hang on now, there might just be a way. It all depends on who spilled. Did you get your unsolicited information from someone named Sean Bean? Or Lena Headey? Or Peter Dinklage? These are specific names. Specifically, they're the names of actors in "Game of Thrones." That's because if your informer is a GoT cast or crew member or anybody who signed a production contract for the show, they also very likely signed a non-disclosure agreement. And if they signed it and then disclosed something to you, you would have grounds to sue them — although you'd have to get in line behind HBO.

The point isn't just academic. In 2011 CBS sued a man named Jim Early for posting spoilers about the reality show "Survivor" on a website called "Survivor Sucks." The spoilers accurately gave away key information about two seasons of the show. The network dropped the suit when Early revealed that his source was a cast member of the show named Russel Hantz. Before joining "Survivor," Hantz signed a non-disclosure agreement that punished any breach with a $5 million fine [source: Dehnart]. Hantz appeared on subsequent seasons of the show and whether he was ever forced to pay up remains unknown.

It's not clear whether reality shows are particularly prone to spoilers or reality show producers are particularly litigious, but for whatever reason, suing for spoiling is a reality show thing. In 2011 a man named Stephen Carbone was peacefully running a website called dedicated to updates and spoilers about reality TV, when he discovered he was being sued by ABC, the makers of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette."

The claim was that Carbone was contacting cast members of the show and offering them money to breach their confidentiality agreements [source: Gardner]. There's been no further word on the outcome of that kerfuffle either, leading one to deduce the point of these lawsuits might not be to win or even settle, but rather to scare. Well, consider us scared. We're saying nothing. What happens to Ned Stark at the end of "Game of Thrones?" I dunno.

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