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October 24 2006

Universal Licensing LLC closing Serenity/Firefly fan shops. Fans getting C&D orders, Cafepress have removed all search results for Firefly and Serenity. 20th Century Fox closed another site earlier in the month. Edit: Chris says 'Some shopowners have gotten notices from Universal's legal people about infringement, with some serious language (not just Cease and Desist).' Edit: Black Market Beagles closing.

It is, of course, their legal right. Still sad, as there's a lot of great artwork fans have done out there.

Perhaps the mighty boots of FOX legal has marched over and contacted Universal Legal about Merchandising Licence. We do not know to what extent Universal has the right to merchandise products in association with the movie or what might endanger that licence with FOX. If they plan to renew or if there is a review of the merchandising license with FOX, FOX might stipulate they must have merchandising under a stricter control. It would not be a surprise if FOX was actually the ones that contacted cafepress.
Nah, it's definitely Universal's licensing subdivison's legal team doing the contact now. That said, you could well be correct. I've no idea. Serenifly is a really complex legal situation as a great many companies own the rights to different areas of the franchise, and you have the Fox/Universal thing on top of that.

End of the day, I'm not saying Universal is bad at all. They're doing the corporate stuff that corporations do, and Serenifly is a corporate property. Still, like I said above, there's some really fantastic fan art out there and it's a shame to see it go.
Really sad news, but I still had to laugh at the tag, gossi. Sorry, Cafepress folk. :-(
Yep, the tag gave me the only grin of the whole sorry situation.

It's true they're just doing what corporations do gossi but didn't somebody once say that if corporations really were people they'd be jailed for what amounts to sociopathic behaviour ? Some truth there methinks (though i'm casting no specific aspersions Universal's - or even Fox's - way in this instance since they do have obligations to their licencees).
I've worked for big corporations since I was 18. That said, what are my feelings about them? Here's what they are: Angel Season 5. Everything you need to know is in that season, minus puppets (the werewolves totally rock my life, obviously). They can give you such powerful resources you can do wonderful things, but they are there to serve greater schemes than me, and if that conflicts then I'll face a dragon.

Okay, what was that disorder again? Fantasy prone Kevin disorder?
Still, like I said above, there's some really fantastic fan art out there and it's a shame to see it go


Couldn't it just be put online for free then? I know that fan art can be dubious when it comes to copyright but if people aren't charging it then the big boys are less likely to chase after you.
Oh, Simon, I completely agree. And I'd offer to do that project, but honestly, I don't have the time or the energy. At the end of the day, Universal aren't going after fan sites. They're going after people making money from it.
They didn't remove search results for "browncoat". There were 2250 results, including Firefly and Serenity products, among a myriad of others from the 'Verse.
I didn't try to purchase anything, however.

[ edited by kitt on 2006-10-24 15:52 ]
It's true they're just doing what corporations do gossi but didn't somebody once say that if corporations really were people they'd be jailed for what amounts to sociopathic behaviour?


Technically, corporations are considered as "people".
Thank your friendly lobbiests (and compliant lawmakers) for that.
(Check out the documentary "The Corporation". Perfect Halloween viewing.)
Guess I'd better seek out that Fighting Elves t-shirt while I can find it.

They can give you such powerful resources you can do wonderful things, but they are there to serve greater schemes than me,


Yep. And that scheme is money. The Corporation is bound, by law, to make money. It can't not. It is designed to serve the shareholders. Period.

[ edited by AmazonGirl on 2006-10-24 16:06 ]
I'm never a huge fan of making money off of someone else's creation without their permission, but since Joss never seemed to mind, it never seemed that bad. That said, while that stuff is his creation, they're not his belongings, so....

But hey, it's a good sign, right? That the bigwigs still think there is enough juice in the 'verse to either make money off themselves or to hurt them if other people make money. Or maybe they're just petty. I don't know.
Of course, AmazonGirl, but there are layers within companies that can work whilst making money. An example is Joss - he worked as part of the Fox corporate machine producing wonderful drama (and some art), until their paths crossed, and they blew him out the airlock as a result. (Or he jumped from the ship, depending on how you look at it).

Basically, it doesn't matter who you are, but if money is involved there will be a line of people waiting to shit on you from up high or give you riches if you are financially successful.

Anyway, like I said, Angel season 5. It was deeply meaningful for me.

Rogue - I think it's more because if they fail to enforce their copyrights on material which is being sold to licensers, it can get really messy. I don't think it's anybody trying to be a dick or from an new material interest, but I'd love to be wrong.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-10-24 16:23 ]
The other option for these 'black market' shops is to actually obtain the licensing for the merchandise. This would require a business permit and Taxpayer Identity #, but I think some of them do enough business to pay for these.
The problem is, since there is soo little of the verse, what recourse do fans have at getting stuff? Some people, not me personally, want to be able to have stuff that reminds us off of Firefly and some of that stuff is quite nice and beautiful(and NOT cheap to make!, hence necessary to sell!). For the Serenity Door Prizes in Montreal, alot of the stuff either donated by the makers or bought from the fan makers were said stuff, and its a bloody crying shame they are closing, I do not care how legal, and how the companies are supposed to protect their material.

Fact is, alot of the fans who were selling these things were at the same time promoting the tv show and movie, we all did. This feels like a kick in the gut honestly. No matter how "justified" the companies are. It just feels like, that while yes rans can produce free stuff, its not cheap and not feasible for most of it! And I am not talking about Cafepress, there is alot of other great stuff out there. ETA: And if people think FOX and Universal won't stop at bluesunshirts and cafepress, well just look at whats going on.

ETA: Plus another reason why I am angry/sad I am sooo worried that they wont stop at Cafepress but may go after other sites, maybe FFF.net, serenitymovie.net itself, just like how Fox went after the sites in the Simpsons fandom.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-24 16:44 ]

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-24 17:00 ]
kurya - don't get me wrong, I understand exactly where you are coming from, I just don't necessarily feel exactly the same way in this case as I come from a world of business.

Put it this way. If they go after fan sites, I'd judge that as a whole other kettle of wish as then I wouldn't be able to see any justification. I think that's a big if, though, at this point.
I think the fan sites all promote the actual goods being marketed by Fox, Universal, and their legally licensed partners (like they all have links to the DVDs and various books being published), so shutting those down would be counter-productive. In my experience Cafepress is more vigilant than Fox or Universal. I'm not sure the production company or the studio really knows the names of all the characters, so far they have really only gone after those shops which have been making the most money and have become the most obvious.

I want to add that I have no problem with corporations protecting their copyrighted property, but the amount of licensed stuff out there is woefully thin for the true fan. Original artwork inspired by something beloved has often been made and even legally sold in the past, and that gives fans an outlet for celebrating characters which are ignored by the 'official' stuff. Of course I wouldn't advise anyone to try to sell anything right now, during what is obviously a crack down.

[ edited by embers on 2006-10-24 20:01 ]
While I agree that they have the right to protect their property it does seem a bit rich that they tried to rely on "us" to promote the movie for them but now their cracking down on "us" for doing more or less the same thing.
“They [corporations] cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed nor excommunicated, for they have no souls.” — Sir Edward Coke, (1552–1634), Case of Sutton’s Hospital
Point of order - they're not cracking down on fans promoting the movie. They're cracking down on what they see as fans profiting from promoting the movie with copyrighted material that other companies have paid big licensing money to use. There's a difference.

[ edited by C. A. Bridges on 2006-10-24 19:57 ]
Cross-posting this from my post's comments, from shinyhappyklin re: fans getting licenses:

"YES! Yes, most of us would love to! But, they’re not giving us any opportunity to. They keep giving licenses to the big companies (QMx and Jason Palmer are exceptions) who they’ve done work with in the past and know well. It costs more than just a taxpayer ID and corporate standing to be a licenced vendor…I HAVE those things; it takes a substantial amount of cash upfront for the licensing, IF they even will consider using you.

"The problem that generally happens and that makes me so sad about this is that they give rights to those who don’t have a ruttin’ clue about the fandom and could care less."
The problem that generally happens and that makes me so sad about this is that they give rights to those who don’t have a ruttin’ clue about the fandom and could care less


The Buffy fandom has been confuzzled for a long time by 20th Century Fox's licensing decisions. But then money is king and always will be.
Yes, that's my problem with this too, C.A.B.... It doesn't bother me that they are 'protecting their product', what bothers me is that they really couldn't give a rat's ass until they see someone else profiting from it. That seems to be the only impetus they have in getting product out there for us fans to purchase.

I have some wonderful, creative shirts (not just the Serenity logo with Universal stamped somewhere on it - but actual fan artwork), that I never would have had if whomever is in charge was left to their own devices.

Beyond semi-marketing the dvds, they just don't seem to care.
That seems to be the only impetus they have in getting product out there for us fans to purchase.

That's what a licensing department is not only supposed to do, it's what people's jobs depend on in that department.
Yes gossi, I know that. But it seems to me that they don't use their licenses to make anything unless and until they see someone else profiting.

Why don't they initiate the production of shirts, hats, action figures, etc... on their own, first? And if perchance they do, why are they always so lame? Any movie logo, as an example. Gee, how creative.

I prefer the fan stuff over the corporate slap-dash any day of the week. Why can't they use their powers for good? :)
While it is annoying and (to us) counterproductive, I'd rather see a push towards "what can we do to minimize this and still promote a verse we love" and away from "how dare they."

Anyone in the verse conversant with intellectual property law? Now would be a good time to step up.
Of course, the paranoiac in me combines this with the post here earlier this week which mentioned Summer saying she and Joss may be doing a little something together, and my brain goes "a DVD commentary would be a little something" and "if we're getting a special edition they might be expecting more sales on swag".

A brain can believe without reason, right?

Yes gossi, I know that. But it seems to me that they don't use their licenses to make anything unless and until they see someone else profiting.

Why don't they initiate the production of shirts, hats, action figures, etc... on their own, first? And if perchance they do, why are they always so lame? Any movie logo, as an example. Gee, how creative.


Willowy, the thing is, Universal's licensing department don't make tshirts. Either do Universal. Universal also don't go out and force companies to make them when they want, either.

What's happening in this case is that people (not 'versal) have come along and paid for the t-shirt license. However, they presumably think they aren't getting a proper return on investment as other parties are producing and profiting from tshirts without buying the license. So, it'll get clamped down on.

Cafepress also filter the term 'Superman', and I'm willing to bet a tenner that somebody owns tshirt related rights to Superman, also.
"Willowy, the thing is, Universal's licensing department don't make tshirts. Either do Universal. Universal also don't go out and force companies to make them when they want, either."

Then why even hoard and protect the licenses (which allows them legally to produce swag) in the first place? I appreciate your business acumen here gossi, as well as you taking the time to point out those things, but that really isn't what I'm talking about.
Then why even hoard and protect the licenses (which allows them legally to produce swag) in the first place?

Because they _sell_ the licenses for a lot of money, AND usually get a profit on each t-shirt sold by licensed people.

That said, I'm not going to defend Universal after seeing 11th legal threat. It's well out of order.
I just saw a Google advert for this URL:

http://www.cafepress.com/buy/firefly-serenity

It's full of Firefly and Serenity stuff. It's still live. Cafepress are playing with fire : it becomes hard to argue they can't police it when they're paying to advertise the content.
Maybe not a particularly helpful comment, but I think the C&D orders, etc., including CafePress and 11th Hour's, are part of a massively bigger issue. It's the fact that traditional content-makers and distributors are faced with a media revolution and are running scared in a hundred different directions and looking for revenue, which includes attacking & shutting down homemade (unlicensed) content generation & online proliferation & distribution. Among many other things.

Such huge changes have come in how users get ahold of and experience their media that traditional revenue streams are changing abruptly, and all income possibilities are, I'm sure, being reviewed, protected and mined. (Costs -- including personnel -- are also being cut.) And muscles are being publicly flexed.

I don't think this is the smartest or most effective way to deal with these huge changes -- and it's certainly not humanitarian, or even good PR -- but many large entities, such as corporations, thrash around resisting the larger adaptations and innovations required, and this thrashing, in my opinion, is apt to injure folks. My best to 11th hour & others who are feeling the pain from this resistance...

Whistler: "No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does... So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are." -- Joss, BUFFY, "Becoming: Part 1"
With all the press lately on the shiny goodness of fandom and what it can accomplish - how about getting us some press on what can happen to your fandom and it's shiny goodness?? That it's coming back and biting some of us in the *ss?
I, of course, do not have a problem with a company protecting their property, but when they do not create their own merchandise and do not allow others to do the same making non-profit like, it's annoying.
Since it's been mentioned now, I'll re-post what I posted on my blog on BlackMarketBeagles.com. It may be slightly self-promoting, but since there's not going to be anything to promote much longer, I thought it might get a pass just this once.

Dear browncoats, beagles and friends of all types,

It is with great regret that I will be closing the virtual doors to BlackMarketBeagles.com this Friday, October 27. I believe that I have been careful enough in my artwork to avoid violating copyright, but Universal’s recent crusade to eliminate all fan-based merchandise (and to impose hefty fines against violaters) has made it far too risky for me to continue operating online. This is a crushing blow, which fills me with an aching sadness. This was, as many of you know, my way of giving back to the browncoat community that has given so much to me.

I will continue running my blog on the site, to talk about various browncoat-related goodness (it’s still out there, I know it is), but after Friday, the Black Market Beagle merch will no longer be available online.

I’d love to hear from some of you who have bought my products over the last year. Please feel free to e-mail me at adam@blackmarketbeagles.com. I hope to see you all in December.

Hopefully things will change in the future. Until then, fellow passengers …

Stay Shiny,
Adam

I just wish that, any time something like this happened, the infringed-upon corporation would be legally required to produce the product. Kind of like a, "If you want me to stop torrenting this rare album, put it back in print" deal. It's a dumb little dream, I know.
Mmmm hmmm. That's what I'm talkin' bout.
Well, I think it's not dumber than the actual system, Ocular. I think your dream is nothing more than fair. Copyright protecting laws in art seem to be totally wrong these days. I think on the one hand the artists are getting screwed, think McCartney for exemple, and on the other hand the same happens to the consumers (no way is taking all this down going to give us anything). And I don't think it's as if the producers make that little money or are taking that huge risks. Anyway, in my opinion, what's happening now here is just immoral.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2006-10-24 23:27 ]
*sigh*

While I understand the corporate position on all of this, it still makes me very very sad.

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