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Firefly Fans Fight Back Against Universal 294

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the back-lashes dept.
Gossi writes "What happens when a film studio and a fanbase get into bed? Fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly, and the movie by Universal Studios — Serenity — are not amused. After being encouraged to viral market Serenity, the studio has started legal action against fans (demanding $9000 in retroactive licensing fees in one case and demanding fan promotion stop), and going after Cafepress. The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services."
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Firefly Fans Fight Back Against Universal

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  • Missing the point (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:16AM (#16621572)
    From TFA:
    In other words, this site should not be taken as an attempt to actually bill Universal Pictures for all of our time, energy, and effort, nor encouragement for any fan do try to do so. We just believe that there is a point to be made.
    • Main point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:18AM (#16621886)
      For Universal, don't mess with the kind of people who have a lotttt more spare time than you do. The group is the kind of group that *will* get into a good television show (especially as good as Firefly was). These fans were and still are super-dedicated to the show and have and will have a lot of energy to spare for the show that is practically their religion.

      However, that being said, Universal will disregard everything that they (and anyone else) do. It's going to take a hot poker to get Universal to do anything pro-consumer. Remember, all of the decisions are made by a group of women and men sitting at a table trying to figure out how to maximize profit. And that they are going to try to do, even if they are shortsighted about it.
  • Serenity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 56ker (566853) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:16AM (#16621574) Homepage Journal
    If anyone doesn't think viral marketing works - then they should read this. The first I heard about Serenity was on a friend's blog. I think they'd got into a preview screening on the basis that they'd blog about it. I then watched the first eight minutes of it which was being shown to promote the film and enjoyed it. I then went to see the film and enjoyed it and thought it was worth it too.

    There are very few films I go see at the cinema and because I don't have a TV most of the promotions for them pass me by - and a lot don't appeal.
    • Re:Serenity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zarniwoop_Editor (791568) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:20AM (#16621598) Homepage
      Step 1: Get fans to promote us
      Step 2: Allow viral marketing to create a demand for our product
      Step 3: Sue the people from step 1
      Step 4: Profit!

      This has to be the most cynical thing I've ever seen.
      • Re:Serenity (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @11:37AM (#16622440)

        So all this time, the "..." was just "Stab the guys who helped you in the back to make more money"? Damn, it's so obvious once you've seen it...

      • It's an interesting flashpoint, I think: the point at which a people's culture and the system whereby someone else can actually own that culture, meet.

        It's a point that the limited times of the early copyright laws directly addressed, and which has repeatedly been swept away by the rich, the greedy and the powerful, for their own mean and selfish ends.
      • Oh bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:33PM (#16623504) Journal

        There is a line between blogging about the movie and showing trailers on your web site, and marketing licensable items (like shirts). The first two are viral advertising, the latter is, well, marketing something that someone else owns as your own products.

        From the fucking article:

        Members were encouraged to form regional groups to promote the film and perform activities that would help generate word of mouth, like creating bumper stickers and gift cards to accompany the DVD release.

        I don't see any mention of marketing t-shirts as viral advertising.

        Now while I generally think of movie executives as dick heads, but to be fare, they put up a lot of money to finance a movie that returned not so much. If they make a few million dollars on this, then good for them. They put up US$39 million dollars in production costs, around US$15 million in advertising costs, and about US$8.5 million in distribution costs [leesmovieinfo.net]. The film made US$38.3 million GROSS at the box office (meaning before the theaters take their cut). If the movie ran over production budget, or flopped, etc. You wouldn't give a rat's ass about the folks who would have lost their shirts. They paid for the right to market shirts.

        Just because you REALLY REALLY like something, doesn't mean you can take if for your own and do whatever you want with it. This is also the reason we have patents (real patents, not business rules patents). If someone spends time and a lot of money to develop a new something, whether directly as an investment, or in their own time (so they can't earn money elsewhere), why do you think it should be OK for someone else to profit off of it. Or is it a matter of "if it's the little guy getting ripped, then defend the hell out of him, but if it is the big guy, or they have something you really really like, then fuck it, rob him"?

        Man on the street to another guy: "Excuse me, but do you know what time it is?"
        Second guy: "It's three P.M."
        First guy: "Thank you... and I really really like your watch... I want to sell it to that guy over there."
        Second guy: "What? Excuse me, it is my watch, I paid for it."
        First guy (gathers a mob around him): "We don't care. We want it , and we're going to sell it."

        I know this can easily be called a troll since there are going to be a lot of fanboys reading this thread, but really. And I happen to really really like Serenity (saw it twice in the threater), and watched and really really liked Firefly when it first came on TV... and was supremely disappointed when it was canceled. But I still think that showing trailers on your web site is one thing and selling someone else's idea as your own is another.

        • Re:Oh bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:42PM (#16623552)
          yes it is a troll.

          1) When it comes to advertising, t-shirts are indeed... "like creating bumper stickers and gift cards"

          2) Man on the street to another guy: "Excuse me, but do you know what time it is?"
          Second guy: "It's three P.M."
          First guy: "Thank you... and I really really like your watch... I want to sell it to that guy over there."
          Second guy: "What? Excuse me, it is my watch, I paid for it."
          First guy (gathers a mob around him): "We don't care. We want it , and we're going to make our own and sell it."
          Second guy: "Ohhhhh....well, I'm glad that I could spark your creativity. Good luck. (shakes second guy's hand)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by eno2001 (527078)
            Quit being stupid.

            THIS is NOT what we're talking about here: "We don't care. We want it , and we're going to make our own and sell it."

            If it were, the t-shirts would have been "spin-offs" from the original. They would have been more like Fan Fiction, in that they would have featured NEW characters that didn't exist in the original. They would have had different names instead of Firefly or FIrefly related names. THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN HERE. Wake up and stop decieving yourself.
    • Re:Serenity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Maestro4k (707634) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:03AM (#16621810) Journal
      If anyone doesn't think viral marketing works - then they should read this. The first I heard about Serenity was on a friend's blog. I think they'd got into a preview screening on the basis that they'd blog about it. I then watched the first eight minutes of it which was being shown to promote the film and enjoyed it. I then went to see the film and enjoyed it and thought it was worth it too.

      It was indeed a great viral marketing campaign, and most of the people/groups who participated will either be directly affected by Universal's actions (by getting a letter from Universal's lawyers) or know someone who was (often through being participants on a site that has been targeted). The thing that Universal isn't considering is that viral marketing can work to put out the negative word at least as easily as it puts out the positive ones. (It's likely it will be even more effective because people that are mad about something tend to complain to more people than they would if they were complementing something.) This will affect the sales of Serenity going forward, but Universal probably doesn't care about that as they've made the majority of the money from it already (or at least they think they have). I don't think it'll stop there though, people are going to look up what current and future stuff (as well as past titles) Universal owns, and they're going to tell others what those are and what Universal has done to fans of Serenity. It's going to have a financial impact, although it's hard to say how big of one. Univeral's throwing away future income here. I know I'm not going to be going to see any of their movies or buying any of their DVDs from now on and I doubt I'm alone.

      Of course Universal will attribute any drop in sales to piracy and never figure out it's their own damn fault.

      • Of course Universal will attribute any drop in sales to piracy and never figure out it's their own damn fault.

        Not a problem. They'll just get their lapdogs in Congress to pass a video tax that every citizen will have to pay --- because we're all pirates, ya know.
      • Oh, they will figure it out. Its just they will still claim its piracy, to help push the anti-digital-freedom agenda along.

        Looks like the lawyers took over there too.
    • Re:Serenity (Score:5, Informative)

      by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @11:06AM (#16622180) Journal
      And here's what Joss thinks about "free advertising" (It's an excerpt from an interview, posted [whedonesque.com] by original submitter gossi at Whedonesque):

      Q. You've also done an absolutely smashing job of ignoring the massive amounts of bootleg "Firefly" fan merchandise. I'm thinking specifically of BlueSunShirts.com... [now closed -gossi].

      A. I'm a Deadhead, and where I come from, bootlegging's a good thing.

      Q. If the movie's a hit, and more official merchandise starts coming out, do you think there's going to be a crackdown?

      A. I have no idea. I never have a piece of merchandising; I haven't reached a place in the Hollywood DNA chain where I can actually ask for that. So it's not like I'm losing money. But even if I was? You know, I'm doin' fine. I have a job. I'm doing just fine. And the fact that people are making this stuff? You can call it "bootlegging" or you can call it "free advertising."

      Q. Let's hope they keep calling it the latter.

      A. You can also call it "the fact that people are taking it to their hearts." It's no different than fan fiction or any of these online communities. It's important to them and they wear it -- and that makes me proud. And I don't give a good goddamn who's makin' money off it.

      Q. Now, do you have a favorite piece of fan -- I'm sorry, "free advertising"?

      A. [laughs] A favorite.... You know, I have to admit, when I first saw the Blue Sun t-shirts, I thought they were pretty cool -- because it didn't announce itself, and I think it had a really good logo.

      • Re:Serenity (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gossi (731861) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @12:11PM (#16622766)
        Here's some hilarity - that interview was published under a picture of a Firefly fan poster. Designed by 11th Hour. The person being sued by Universal.

        Also, some of 11th Hour artwork was used in the prepublicity material from Universal, and it's seen on the Serenity DVD in the special feature on fans.

        None of 11th Hour's artwork is from the movie. It's all original. It doesn't feature characters, screen shots or anything like that. You can view it here: http://www.cafepress.com/11thhourart [cafepress.com].

        Basically, what's happening here is slightly retarded. Universal's lawyers are digging themselves into a hole by not understanding what they are doing in the scheme of things.

    • Viral marketing actually didn't work very well; the movie bombed at the box office.

      On a lighter note, if you liked Serenity, you should watch Firefly, the TV show it was based off of. Same actors and everything, and it's every bit as good (IMHO, better).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pharmboy (216950)
        The movie didn't bomb. It wasn't a smash success, granted, but it did mediocre at the boxoffice and very well with DVD sales, as did the one and only season with DVD sales. According to IMDB [imdb.com], it cost $40 mil to make and made about $39mil worldwide, plus an unknown amount in DVD sales. They didn't get rich, but they made money. It would have helped if they actually promoted the movie, and if the new Fox execs who cancelled the series (after showing it out of order at different times) were not such asshats
  • Rule number one: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zadaz (950521) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:17AM (#16621580)
    Don't annoy someone who has more spare time than you do.

    And this group has a lot of spare time and energy and has shown they'll fight for something they believe in.

    But of course no one is required to have any social literacy to head a major corporation. Obviously.
    • Free time is one thing, but financial resources are another. I really like their response by retroactively invoicing Universal for marketing and promotion--it's funny, clever, and ballsy. But will that spirit translate into meaningful legal protection? It's doubtful.
      • by garylian (870843) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:01AM (#16621794)
        I don't think resources are an issue for the fan base. They've already shown a willingness to go to bat for a show/movie they liked, and did it all for free.

        It can be pretty amazing what people can accomplish out of pure passion for the work, as opposed to the profit to be made from it. In this case, the fans are more than willing to make the effort. The question is, will it be for or against Universal releases of the future?

        If it goes against, there could be some problems for future TV and movies from Universal, as this loyal block will remember and potentially boycott. Universal knows that the potential loss of revenue from a rabid base of fans in that much coveted "18-35 male without an understanding of credit card debt" demographic would be something advertisers would look at closely. It would certainly cost them more than the 9,000 they are looking for in liscensing fees.

        Then again, the MPAA and RIAA are dumb enough to cut off the hands that feed them all the time. Why should this be any different?
        • by swelke (252267)
          If it goes against, there could be some problems for future TV and movies from Universal, as this loyal block will remember and potentially boycott. Universal knows that the potential loss of revenue from a rabid base of fans in that much coveted "18-35 male without an understanding of credit card debt" demographic would be something advertisers would look at closely. It would certainly cost them more than the 9,000 they are looking for in liscensing fees.

          Don't fool yourself. The Firefly fanbase is an
        • Sure, we can all agree to that, but you miss my point about legal protection. Unlike the labor of fans, it takes money to buy the labor of lawyers. Promoting something by posting about it on your free personal blog about how you like it is not even close to the same ballpark as filing a motion in court. Not even close. This community you are so fond of has yet to pool together money to mount a legal defense--it is only free time they have pooled. And like it or not, money and labor are not the same thi
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by asb (1909)

      And this group has a lot of spare time and energy and has shown they'll fight for something they believe in.

      They have also shown that they will work for free for an international multimillion dollar corporation. They are not exactly the smartest people on this planet.

      Come on! They worked for free so that a corporation could make profit by selling them mind dumbing entertainment! It would be just as stupid if I worked for free at McDonalds and then went to the other side of the counter and bought th

      • That's the big cognitive gap, there: fans are only vaguely aware that the objects of their affections are, essentially, commodities. I view such fandom as a close relation of the Stockholm Syndrome.
    • Don't annoy someone who has more spare time than you do.

      Why not?

      The site is mildly amusing (very mild), but it's hardly going to cause an uprising by the people against Universal.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      I'm involved with a wee activist group that has that same power base: people with a lot of free time. It's really quite amazing what a few hundred people can do when they work together and have the time to put in; I can only imagine the power of tens or hundreds of thousands behind an "issue" like the Firefly fan base. :)

      But what I really like is the reverse invoicing -- it's a great response and 100% legal AFAIK. I used the same tactic on a doctor or two over the years. When I had to sit more than an

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Fans willing to do your marketing for you are an unpredictable bunch. It doesn't take a lot to keep them happy but God help you if they ever turn on you. Treating them like this is a good way to make that happen. Sadly, it's not too surprising that the braniacs at Universal can't figure out how to treat their loyal fan base right. They could still avert the impending PR disaster by claiming it was a mistake and making some gesture by way of apology, but I really don't see them doing that. My prediction is t
    • Don't annoy someone who has more spare time than you do.
      Yep, geeks annoying lawyers is never a good idea.
  • Fanbase Overboard? (Score:2, Informative)

    by fohat (168135)
    It seems to me a case of some people going a little overboard with the whole "promote" idea. In this day and age, you can't use a corporate trademark like that and not expect some kind of backlash. Kudos to the fanbase on the other hand for getting the word out there about this fine show(s).
  • Browncoat+turncoat=trenchcoat
  • Very soon after the "browncoats" fan site announced it was shutting down, I started getting spam to the site-specific email address at my vanity domain. So I figure someone made money off that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:37AM (#16621682)
    Ok, having only briefly looked it over... I think what Universal is objecting to is this knucklehead selling merchandise for profit, utilizing their images. This isn't promoting the film, this is promoting his bank account. If I am reading it correctly, they're not telling him to stop promoting the film, they're telling him to stop promoting his products using their IP.

    So, well, what's the problem?
    • by Warlokk (812154) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:19AM (#16621894) Homepage
      But if you read even a little (I know, I know, it's Slashdot), he points out he isn't using ANY of their property or images, he's using his original work and just making references to Serenity/Firefly in the text on the site. Their objection includes even MENTIONING their property on his website... which is, of course, ridiculous.
      • But if you read even a little (I know, I know, it's Slashdot), he points out he isn't using ANY of their property or images

        But if you read a little MORE (I know, I know, it's Slashdot) you'll see he said this:
        "The questionable image in my shop were, for the most part, already pulled down by Cafe Press after the first email notice I got last week."

        So it would appear at one point he WAS using their images. And then his wording of "for the most part" sounds like he removed some of them but STILL was trying to
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by parcel (145162)
          But if you read a little MORE (I know, I know, it's Slashdot) you'll see he said this:
          "The questionable image in my shop were, for the most part, already pulled down by Cafe Press after the first email notice I got last week."


          And if you keep reading (this could go on forever, I'm sure) there was an original C&D related to the copyright and images, which was complied with (the 'already pulled down...' part). These being images that Universal had previously encouraged use of for promotion of the movie -
    • by raduf (307723)
      As far as I can tell (if I got it right), this is the second or third time I hear the same story: fan gets letter telling him/her (nicely) that he's breaking copyright. Fan says sorry and does what the letter says. A few days later comes a different letter, from a different source inside the same corporation, telling in very not-nice terms (read threatening) that he's breaking copyright, and he'd better start dancing on a chair on the table, painted in blue, or else he'll lose his house and spend a few year
    • by swelke (252267)
      Ok, having only briefly looked it over... I think what Universal is objecting to is this knucklehead selling merchandise for profit, utilizing their images.

      So, well, what's the problem?


      No problem whatsoever, if that was in fact what was happening. The trouble is that Universal is claiming this with regard to images this "knucklehead" made himself, related to Serenity, but not using any of their copyrighted work. If anything it's a violation of trademark, not copyright. That's a more subtle case en
  • Boycott (Score:5, Informative)

    by ronanbear (924575) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:41AM (#16621702)
    I just went onto the universal studios website to find out what movies to not watch. Shouldn't have bothered.

    The Black Dahlia
    Man of the Year
    Idlewild
    Accepted
    Miami Vice

    You, Me and Dupree

    coming
    Lets go to Prison
    The Good Shepherd
    Children of Men
    Alpha Dog
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcmonkey (96054)

      I just went onto the universal studios website to find out what movies to not watch. Shouldn't have bothered.

      I don't think the boycott is going to work. How do I not see those movies any more than I was already not seeing them?

  • Invoicing? (Score:3, Informative)

    by teslar (706653) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:43AM (#16621708)
    The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services."
    Wrong. From TFA:
    In other words, this site should not be taken as an attempt to actually bill Universal Pictures for all of our time, energy, and effort, nor encouragement for any fan do try to do so. We just believe that there is a point to be made.
  • by fontkick (788075) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @09:52AM (#16621748)
    So a guy decides to print up some Serenity t-shirts and sell them on cafe press, and is surprised when he gets sued by Universal. How braindead can you be? Viral marketing means putting a mention of Firefly/Serenity on your website with a link to Amazon.

    That said, bring back Firefly. Best sci-fi series since ST:TNG in my opinion.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 28, 2006 @11:16AM (#16622270)
      Actually his t-shirts are just the chinese characters, drawn by him, that translate as "serenity". No pictures or artwork from the movie at all. Think Universal should be able to control the expression of single word? (as opposed to a substantial quote from a movie)
  • by fmwap (686598) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:02AM (#16621806) Journal
    and I hated this movie, but I still paid my $8 dollars to watch it on opening night because of all the hype.

    Can I get a retroactive refund?
    • by fdiskne1 (219834)

      I've never seen firefly

      That would be the problem. I could understand how not seeing the Firefly series would make the movie not so interesting. For me, the series by itself was okay, but not great. The movie by itself was okay, but not great. If you've seen the series, the movie makes much more sense and I think they did a great job in the movie of explaining a lot of what happened in the series. There were several "Ah-HA!" moments for me where I now understood what was going on in the series, which prob

  • by superwiz (655733) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:08AM (#16621840) Journal
    They will be guilty of fraud. Doing something for someone does not entitle you to compensation unless you have a prior agreement that these actions will be compensated for. This is equivalent to me showing up on your lawn, mawing it and sending you a bill that I deem is fair. You didn't agree to pay for before hand, so you don't owe the money. Billing someone for the money they don't owe you is fraud.
  • by Wylfing (144940) <brian@@@wylfing...net> on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:21AM (#16621902) Homepage Journal

    This is the clue bat. This is your head. This is the clue bat hitting your head.

    As others have already pointed out, it's not copacetic to sell merchandise like that. You think you can start selling Star Wars t-shirts and Lucasfilm will be OK with that? Not likely.

    But that is entirely beside the point. The point is that Universal believes this is a valuable franchise, and acts to protect it. They are not trying to shut down the fan community. Simply, there are people at Universal who think a Serenity sequel is a possibility, and they want to maintain control over that so when they fund the next movie they're going to get a proper ROI. That is all.

    It's basically good news that they want to defend this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's basically good news that they want to defend this.
      I disagree with your interpretation. While I think you're right that the fans overstepped the bounds of "viral marketing" here, my interpretation of this action is that they figure they've pretty much milked the franchise dry, to the point that the good will of the fan base is worth less to them than the $9000 licensing fee.

      Ah, well. Firefly, we hardly knew ye.
    • by swelke (252267) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @11:25AM (#16622338) Homepage Journal
      As others have already pointed out, it's not copacetic to sell merchandise like that. You think you can start selling Star Wars t-shirts and Lucasfilm will be OK with that? Not likely.

      At present, this [cafepress.com] is the closest thing I could find to an infringement of any copyright or trademark on the T-shirt site in question. The product itself has no hint of infringement, and the description of the product has the word "serenity" but it's just a translation from the Chinese character in the picture on the shirt. Maybe the site used to contain more infringing stuff; I don't know. But at present, the Universal lawyers are still demanding that he take down the site (and holding the usual obscene $150,000 per instance copyright infringement damage number over his head to make sure he does it).

      There is a danger to the Firefly/Serenity franchise here. Viral marketing works, but it works in both directions. The whole mythos of Firefly is about rebellion against a powerful government. If it looks like the franchise is in the hands a pseudo-government (big corporation) the most ardent fans will rebel. Of course, Firefly/Serenity has been in the hands of a big company since it was started, but the Browncoats might actually notice it now and become rather disillusioned rather than support it as fervently as they have done so far. No viral marketing means (maybe) no market. No market means no movie.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrJimbo (594231)
      Right back at ya.

      The key point IMO is that Universal allowed their trademarks to be infringed when the infringement served as "free advertising". Universal is not allowed to come back now and try to retroactively enforce their trademarks. In the legal world, this is called estoppel [wikipedia.org]:
      1. [Universal] has done or said something to induce an expectation
      2. The [Browncoats] relied (reasonably) on the expectation...
      3. ...and would suffer detriment if that expectation were false.

      It is perfectly copacetic to se

  • by Channard (693317) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:22AM (#16621904) Journal
    .. go after the 'authors' - and I use that word in the loosest possible sense - of all those responsible for the inevitable shitty fan fiction based on Firefly, as well as all the crappy Buffy/X-Files stuff. If I'd created or owned the rights to a series, I'd be more concerned about that. To say nothing of the really disturbing slash stuff.
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:30AM (#16621940)
    I hope somebody uses the whole Firefly case in business school one day as an example of how to fuck up something great. First, they let the guy do his stuff just enough to show everybody it is a brilliant idea. Then, they pull the plug. They piss of the guy. They piss of the fans. Then, they make one movie, and seem to have off the guy even more while doing it. And now they piss off their customers some more. These are the best and brightest that are running America's economy?

    Don't you wish Bill Gates were a Sci-Fi fan? He could just finance a whole season, no strings attached, just for the heck of it, and donate the the sales of the DVD to his charity fund. I'd buy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:42AM (#16621988)
    Watch how I sue.
  • by blue l0g1c (1007517) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @11:24AM (#16622334)
    As an addendum, Universal has stated that they also want the sky back.
  • There are THOUSANDS of shirts on CafePress for Snakes on a Plane [cafepress.com]. How many of those shirts infringe on New Line's copyrighted material? And yet, does anybody doubt that New Line would have been better off not having that fan-based for-profit marketing? New Line was even smart enough to partner with CafePress so everything became more or less legally legit.

    And here's the real issue. If Universal REALLY didn't want this person selling those t-shirts... just ASK them to stop. A nice letter with an explana
  • by AlXtreme (223728) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @12:14PM (#16622800) Homepage Journal
    Why don't they just call it Iceweasel and be done with it?

    Oh, Firefly. Nevermind, do carry on.
  • by Damiano (113039) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:12PM (#16623338)
    Looking at the postings and the takedown notice, it seems that the person being threateded with legal action might have a strong position.

    Yes, they are clearly creating derivative works and would normally be violating Universal's copyright. However, it seems that Universal specifically was encouraging fans to create derivative works to promote the release of the movie. I would personally subpoena every document involving the viral campaign and look for language that I could use to prove a grant of license to the fans.

    Disclaimer: I am not your attorney, I am most likely not even licensed to practice in your state. This is simply an academic discussion.
  • by Picass0 (147474) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:21PM (#16623402) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing stopping the mentally challeged lawyers at Universal from doing the very same thing to the fansites promoting the new Galactica. In fact, those websites would be doing themselves a favor by raising awareness of this action.

    The new Battlestar Galactica series is popular and has good ratings by cable standards, but not great ratings by new. The season premier got a 1.5 share. The CBS evening news pulls a 5, and CBS is embarrassed by the low rating. So there's some perspective.

    Sci-Fi recently encouraged fans to "Make Galactica #1" with a spread the word campaign. Sound familiar? Kinda like what the Browncoats were encouraged to do?

    Next year the marketing machine for Star Trek will ramp up to promote the new TOS based movie. Do you think they might reach out to the fans? Do you thing Paramont might be desperate for some old school Trekkie action? Perhaps it would be stupid for Paramont to sue fan sites, biting the hand and all that.

    Universal hasn't learned this leason.

  • One word: estoppel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrJimbo (594231) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:41PM (#16623542)
    IANAL but I think the browncoats have an excellent chance of prevailing with an estoppel [wikipedia.org] defense:
    • [Universal] has done or said something to induce an expectation
    • The [Browncoats] relied (reasonably) on the expectation...
    • ...and would suffer detriment if that expectation were false.
    This is one of the many defenses IBM is using against SCO. IBM claims that for 20 years the owners of the AT&T contracts let IBM publish its own home-grown code and therefore SCO is estopped from now trying to interpret the contracts differently.

    Since Universal Pictures knew about the "infringing" activities and did nothing when those activities helped promote their film, their retroactive licensing fees should IMO be estopped. I don't know if Universal's cease and desist orders can be estopped or not. Since people built business models based upon Universal's tacit acceptance of the use of their trademarks, I think a good argument could be made that Universal delayed too long and have thus invalidated their own trademarks. If trademarks are not vigorously enforced, they are forfeited.

  • by ChaoticLimbs (597275) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:44PM (#16623572) Journal
    A buddy showed me a bit of Serenity because I'm a sci fi fan. I hadn't seen Firefly because I worked nights during its run. I had heard of it but didn't see it.
    I went and bought Serenity, watched it, loved it and bought the entire DVD set of Firefly. Showed them to the Mrs., and she loves it too. Too bad it was underwritten by douchebags.
  • by Bob Hearn (61879) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:21PM (#16623822) Homepage
    "After being encouraged to viral market Serenity, the studio has started legal action against fans"

    I hate what the Internet has done to basic language skills.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gossi (731861)
      It wasn't the internet, dude - it was all those rock'n'roll songs I listen too. Either that or, you know, I just didn't pay attention in skool. Or Muslim's made me do it. Or Darth Vader.
  • by ross.w (87751) <rwonderleyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday October 28, 2006 @10:07PM (#16627766) Journal
    Serenity Now!
    Serenity Now!

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