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October 24 2006

Universal's legal action against 11th Hour. As mentioned previously, Universal LLLC is starting to crack down on fan wares. 11th Hour received a pretty blunt notice that she is struggling to comply with, and I'm posting this as a separate entry to try and keep focused on her specific case rather than the larger issue behind it.

Link goes to her post at the OB, which includes language from the notice. Anyone with knowledge of intellectual property law, please contact her as soon as possible. And on a more personal note, she could use some support from the rest of us. 11th Hour has been brightening our corner of the 'verse since there's been a 'verse, I hate that she was the one drew the next bullet.

Holy shit. Uhm. 11th, you need to speak to them right now. Did they give you a phone number? Phone them if they did. Straight up.

Don't panic. It's unlikely they would file charges for something, but still, it could be a serious problem so you need to show them you are willing to discuss it. Offer to close the site and desist everything and see what they say. You will *have* to close the site, but if you put it on the table straight up they may be willing to forget it.

Also, e-hugs. This is just shitty. I think this may become my new online signature:

"That, no later than close of business on October 30, 2006, 11th Hour Art agree in writing to permanently cease and desist from the advertising, promoting, marketing, sale or distribution of any products bearing or referring to Universal Property"

I think some law firms here have fallen out of a tree and missed every clue branch on the way down.
They're demanding nearly $9,000 in retroactive licensing fees?!

I think we need a licensing panel discussion/pow-wow at Flanvention.
Think Ron Moore has an excellent case on this matter. Read here.
Hey gossi - do you still have the complete old board archives from Universal?

A couple places to visit for info;

Corrnell Law - Berne Convention text
Wikipedia - UCC
General Information About Copyright
US Copyright Office

My suggestion would be to contact a lawyer who deals in copyright laws and explain the situtation. If you have information regarding guerrilla marketing campaign and that Universal was aware of it he may be able to handle it with a few letters of intent and perception.
Oh my gosh, poor 11th. This has to be the head-up-buttist thing I've heard in a long while. I can actually understand why a company would want to protect their properties, but this goes so far beyond. We fans were used as tools by 'versal to promote Serenity, and 11th was in the front lines. And now--since Universal seems to have decided fan promotion is a no-no--even while she is making every move to follow their C&D--they send this to her?

I can understand stopping people from selling licensed property. But this? Ticking off the very fanbase that's been working so hard for years to promote the property? I don't get it.

Dark days are ahead for fans if they can't tell the difference between what 11th is doing and the fan just out to make a buck.

I am amused, however, that this development has Bix! of all people thinking “Squee! Maybe this means a sequel!” :)
RavenU, you could try, but from experience if you indicate to a law firm you are going to argue with them, they're only too happy to file charges. After all, that's when they get extra money from the client (Universal) to do it, and it's also the point where they won't back down.

Basically, you have to be really careful.

The archive I have of the old site is here.

Does anybody have 11th's email address they could email me? I've lost it.
Now, now. I have never squeed in my entire life. Also, I didn't say sequel, I said special edition DVD. ;)

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2006-10-24 22:04 ]
Agreed. This is not the time to make a case. Settle this dispute, then maybe we can figure out ways to approach Universal with our concerns. But 11th shouldn't have to pay the price.
gossi - They may not like it but if you have proof that they encouraged such actions, from my expierence, they tend to slap your wrist and tell you to stop doing it. Rather than risk dragging you into court. Cause bad publicity is worse to places like Universal, then winning a small claims case.

Also I am not saying take them on, I am suggesting to consult with someone who deals directly with this law. From the letter it sounds like general counsel trying to flex some muscle and use scare tatics. I think if 11th consulted with a copyright lawyer she's have a better understanding of the wording she would need to use to settle the dispute without sending them the money they are demanding.

[ edited by RavenU on 2006-10-24 22:14 ]
Wow, they're really going to town. Truly excellent way to generate good word-of-mouth, I mean there's no such thing as bad publicity, right ? Ahem.

This may sound daft, BTW, but I assume this is definitely legit ? I mean it's not just some scam artists having a go without any actual official backing from Universal ?

I still understand them protecting their licencees (who, let's not forget have spent a lot and by all accounts jumped though numerous hoops to buy the licence) but these tactics are just out and out bullying, plain and simple. Not on at all.

That said, IANAL and i'm all for fighting the good fight but in these cases it seems like it's whoever has the deepest pockets that's 'right' (way to go US - and following swiftly behind UK - legal system). Unless i've missed my guess i'd say that's Universal by a large margin so I wouldn't pick a fight if it's avoidable 11th Hour (unless you have categorical evidence for any case you may wish to make), i'd do the whole rolling over and showing my belly thing maintaining as much dignity in the process as possible. There's no shame in avoiding a fight you can't win.
RavenU, that would help if the complaint was about the spread-em-around guerilla marketing measures, but it isn't.

[ edited by C. A. Bridges on 2006-10-24 22:13 ]
I think this is outrageous, I've seen (I've bought) 11th Hour's work and it was all original art work. And just like the Campbell soup company could not prevent Andy Warhol from selling his soup can paintings, it is ridiculous that Universal wants to charge 11th Hour for selling her original work. Frankly I think that getting a lawyer would cost way less than $9,000 and Universal has made this worth fighting.
Is shadowcat/s'kat still posting these days? She'd be the person to ask about all this.
I feel so much anger over this, how much time, effort and love have Browncoats put into the cause over the past three years?? Without us, what would have gotten accomplished for Fox or Universal. Lately the press over 'fandom' and it's good and what it can accomplish and now there is this! What about getting our efforts organized again and getting the word out to the media that has liked us about what is going on? I can't believe that after all that we've done they would come back at us. I know someone is going to say "it's corporate, it's not personal, it's business." Well, great. We have been there for Joss and Chris B and the rest - how about them stepping up for ppl like 11th hour? How much energy did she put into her art in just promotional things for the dvd's and movie???

Also, they shut down 11th Hour and go after her - I will NEVER buy another FF/ Serenity item or Universal product again. I still don't watch the WB and Angel has been off almost 2 yrs. Can you tell I'm frustrated??
The thing that gets on my nerves is this constant state of denial the film studios have towards the internet. They claim they're losing millions of dollars when in fact, it's actually a cash cow. Sorry to vent.

"squeed"? Interesting word, I'll have to put that one away for later :)
I have a question about if they filed suit against or recieved payment from cafepress for there part in this. It would be interesting seeing as how they profited more from the sale of items. Actually CAB them acknowledging guerilla marketing efforts could be used in this case, did anyone at Universal ask for a suspennion of guerilla marketing efforts at any time. There are many ways of arguing the point but right now it is more about being prepared. Personally, I do not think they will act up on the letter if she shuts down her shop, but it's better if you are knowledgable of the actual laws and how to make them work in your favor.
Wow from "this movie would have never been made without the fans" to "fork over $9000."

If I were you I'd send them an invoice for marketing for $9000...
this is what I was worried about. anyoenw want to defend Universal now? forgive my sniping, I have her email address I can email her about this thread.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-24 22:28 ]
I find it wacky to see they're just basically sending out invoices to fans. Seriously, as business headed I am, this has pissed me off.
Kevin I sent you an email with 11th Hour's addy please check.

Just wanted to add that paying 9000US is ridicolous and most people I know do not have that lying around. I can be sure that after this I won't buy any more Serenity movies, and any more Firefly or the licensed products. I know its not helpful at all, but not much more I can do. Can someone talk to the execs at Universal? maybe talk to Joss about this(I know he wouldnt want to get involved... but this goes to the heart of guerrilla marketing and what it was about for Serenity and Firefly). How about looking to press?

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-24 22:46 ]
I've put a shout out on my LJ to see if anyone has (or knows anyone who has) working knowledge of US copyright law that can give some advice to 11th hour, giving a link to here and the post on the prospero forums. Not sure how much help it will be but something may come of it hopefully as I do have someone on my f/list who works for a law firm.

This is getting worse. If 11th hour had been using images from the 'verse for their works then I could see why they were cracking down this hard but it's all original artwork.

[ edited by rileysaplank on 2006-10-24 23:07 ]
11th Hour hs done sooooo much for the fandom in terms of guerrilla amrketing and getting fans to go buy dvds etc... and Universal and Fox have profitted from this. I am so upset over this. And I am wondering if other sites(probably will) will be hit, I am so scared for fff.net now:(
Much love to 11th Hour, because this completely sucks. Why are they suddenly cracking down, is what I don't get. Oh, yeah, I also don't get why they are s***ting on the fans who buy their movie tickets, DVDs, etc.! I don't think we are actually draining away money that the studios would otherwise earn, since they are not offering (relatively low priced) T-shirts, posters, etc., with these types of designs. And the studios certainly didn't provide guerrilla marketing stuff themselves. :-(

Yep, get a lawyer, 11th Hour; it's like having a translator who speaks D***ish, which is what you need to talk to d***s. :-(
Madhatter: "The thing that gets on my nerves is this constant state of denial the film studios have towards the internet. They claim they're losing millions of dollars when in fact, it's actually a cash cow. Sorry to vent."

Yup, I agree.. They're trying to do the "clamp-down-control" response when they may need to consider the "open-up-embrace-and-ride-the-wave-response." But only a few businesses ever get that. Those that do usually clean up.
kane 1 posted this on the OB:

Hang on - you've rec'd an E-MAIL demand for retrospective fees .... what legal body makes demands by e-mail? Treat it as a scam claim to extort money and report it to the Police and if you feel like it Universal but make the police your first stop (may be an FBI report would be appropriate in the US)


I think this is something, it was an email not a letter.
anyoenw want to defend Universal now?


I seem to remember some controversy over authors who were selling their fanfics (I think it was the Star Wars fandom) and the end result was that there might have been C&D letters etc. People might one to check into that one to see if there's any useful advice.

Personally I think this is a very heavy handed scare tactic by Universal which is deeply unfair to 11th Hour (whose art rocks considerably) and who has done a lot for the fandom. But the lawyers and the corporation take a very black and white view over this and there's sod all we can do about it.

And as to why they are cracking down now? I think they've only got round to it.
The fact that a notification came via email would not in and of itself mean it's not legit, and is often what firms will do at the same they send paper notification which will arrive later in the mail.
kane 1 posted this on the OB:

Hang on - you've rec'd an E-MAIL demand for retrospective fees .... what legal body makes demands by e-mail? Treat it as a scam claim to extort money and report it to the Police and if you feel like it Universal but make the police your first stop (may be an FBI report would be appropriate in the US)


I think this is something, it was an email not a letter.
Yeah Simon it was Star Wars. Stupid thing was that the person that did that worked in a publishing house so should have known that selling their fanfic/novel would have resulted in a c&d letter.
I think they're cracking down now because licenses for T-shirts have been sold recently.
Yeah, the legal notices which have gone out have all explicitly mentioned "shirts", so it's going to be the shirts licensing. Like I said elsewhere, I bet money whoever owns the shirt licensing has complained about the fan abuse of the property. And, you know, they do have a point. However, Universal's lawyers here are being far too heavy handed, and they couldn't have picked a worse tactic.

If the blogosphere press people don't pick up on this story, they need to think long and hard. Universal pilots word-of-mouth and viral marketing motion picture release with active fan involvement in the process, then sends the people who got involved demands for nearly $9000 in fees. It's a great story, if you look at it from a press point of view, because it shows how out of sync companies marketing departments are to their business departments.
I've been following this all day from work, but have been unable to post. I wish there were something we could do as fans to rally around 11th Hour and Black Market Beagles and everybody. As a fan, I'm sorry it's come to this. It certainly does leave a bad taste in one's mouth, doesn't it?

Gossi, I like the blogosphere angle... who can we get this story to? Is there someone in the marketing/media blog world who would be amenable to a little information?
How about the people at Ask auessillo(i know the name isnt right) and etc as a start?? How about the Jonah guy from National Review, weren't there alot of conservative bloggers who were fans of firefly, can this stuff be sent out to them?
This really leaves me bitter. To think I have actually cared, not only for Joss carreer, but also for Universal getting the reward I thought they deserved for helping the fandom. I'm really sorry for 11th Hour. I think it's very ungratefull of Universal to do this to someone who fought for their cause. I myself am very gratefull to 11th. I always loved your art, and want to thank you for all you've done.

I hope this will generate bad-mouth for Universal, and that that will teach them a lesson. Oh, and I won't be buying any Serenity DVD's anymore.
As a fan of Joss and Firefly I saw Serenity twice at sneak previews and again after it was released then bought two copies of the DVD but if this is Universals way of treating the very people who they enlisted to help promote Serenity then sod it, I won't be buying the HD-DVD when it comes out here in a few days.

I totaly understand and respect their right to protect their property but after happily watching people all around the world making Serenity T-Shirts, and much more, as part of the promotion they could at least have sent a polite C+D letter as a first step, not this draconian demand. It's the tone, and demands, of that letter than are pissing me off.

Just remember, it's completly legal to make your own Serenity shirts. With an Iron-on kit and a inkjet printer you can make your own and be happy that Universal won't be getting a penny from you.

And though a sequel seems unlikely at the moment I do hope if it, or any movie with an established fanbase, happens Universal won't ask fans to help do their job of promoting it for them. They might find the response less positive this time.
My heart goes out to you, 11th Hour.

I love my "alternative" DVD cover art...

and, since no one has said it yet... grrr. argh.
Actually all I have to say is...huh....

[ edited by angelfan6541 on 2006-10-25 07:59 ]
I hate to be negative here... but if 11th ends up actually having to pay those fees, I'd be happy to donate what I can to help her out. This is just so heart-breaking. ::sniff::
This kind of thing makes me hate living in this world.

I could go into a massive post here. It would point out all the illogicalness of these morons. It would have lots of swear words, Chinese, English and even a couple of hamster swear words. Oh such foul mouths those chaps have.

But I don't need to explain anything to anyone reading this thread.

11th Hour I thank you so much for all you've shared with us. Your amazing to a factor of 26.5.

There are so many ways to defend you. Even just pure economic reasoning, such as your advertising work.

I'm very serious in saying this; I will donate hundreds of pounds to a fund to help you. I've only a minimum wage job, sorry.

Your not alone 11th Hour. I'll lock and load, have your back if you ask. You take the 10 thousand on the left, I'll take the 10 thousand on the right. Lets go to work Browncoats. (Hmm, might have mixed my 'verses there. :/ ;) )

[ edited by Alan on 2006-10-25 00:15 ]

[ edited by Alan on 2006-10-25 00:21 ]
Twadde1 I would rather donate to her defense fund, because I think a good lawyer could win this for less than $9,000.
Yeah, you are right... a defense fund is a better idea :-)
embers - but, if she did loose, they're on about $15,000 damages per item sold. I think you're probably right - they would have a fairly hard time proving this case - but if they did win, uhm, it could work out really, really expensive for 11th Hour.
Well It would be up to her ultimately, but I would donate to a defense fund too. I mean in the least she should get legal advice.
How about the Jonah guy from National Review, weren't there alot of conservative bloggers who were fans of firefly, can this stuff be sent out to them?


John Amato at crooksandliars.com and John Aravosis at americablog.blogspot.com could also be good candidates from the other side of the political spectrum, if we're looking for bloggers to help whip up attention about this. I believe they're both Joss fans, and they've been known to push hard on what they see as outrages.

It might be worth a shot to email all three of them. Might be nice if liberals and conservatives could actually find something they could both agree on. :)
Here are T-shirts that I would like to make.

(I would/will donate to a defense or reparations or whatever fund, for 11thHour, or other similarly-situated Whedonistas too.)

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-10-25 00:56 ]
QG - ignore me, even.

Also, best usage of random quote ever.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-10-25 01:01 ]
This is bad.

However it may still be a screw up. I'm told by someone who used to work in PR for Star Wars that this would happen every so often when "they got a new baby lawyer" who didn't understand fandom and would do this sort of thing before anyone could stop them. Unfortuately defusing legal action can be complicated and take time, even by the company itself. I hope this will be what happens.
11th hour,Your art has gone a long way in this fandom and we really are behind you. As, is, I expect Joss, even if he will not be able to come out and say so now. As QuoterGal has shown, he did then.
This really is horrible. Can I ask what lawfirm sent the e-mail? That might at least be a start at figuring out whether this is legitimate or a scam.
gilraen, it'll be legit. It's quite common for licensing peeps to operate via email, especially since they won't have 11th Hour's home address.

I understand from reading the Prospero forum that people are contacting the actors, producers, Joss etc. Whilst people are obviously free to do what they want, I'm not sure what position that would put those people in. Whilst I would definitely laugh and cheer if one of them spoke out against it, I doubt it would be the best career move ever.

At the end of the day, I'm sure everybody can see this is high on the list of stupid - right up there with the Serenity DVD artwork. Hopefully somebody at the studio notices, anyway, as right now it looks like it's legal firm related.

Oh, and that firm is called Wolfram and Hart. Possibly.
Ok...posted over at the OB for 11th Hour, but I will throw down my 2 platinum (cuz UAP credits are just fancy pieces of TP to me ;D).

I think regardless of whether it becomes a legal battle to make a point or a tactical retreat to avoid Universal going all Purplebelly on our collective tuchuses (is that how you write the plural of "tuchus?"), I think we should take up a collection to help out. Not cuz we did something wrong by buying stuff from our valued colleague, but because we got a Browncoat in need of reinforcements :(

Still...I just hope this is a cruel scam or prank, or an overzealous computer-savy newbie soulsucker (aka new lawyer on staff)...cuz otherwise, there's been a big ole shift in how we fans get treated. Though I do wonder at the long-term effect boycotting Universal would do, since that would mean no financial motivation for a sequel or future 'Verse-related projects, a big ole hit for Sci-Fi Channel and things like Slither get impacted cuz of their status as Universal Studios properties. And that hurts our BDHs and ourselves in a lot of ways...
Though I do wonder at the long-term effect boycotting Universal would do,

I have to think, at this point, it would have very little affect, good or bad. I'm just not sure Uni would feel it from us.
A boycott would do nothing. Only a tiny percentage of Firefly fans actually know about this, let alone care, and we know Firefly fans can't have that big an effect on box office etc.

Basically, the next 72 hours will tell all. If they do file charges against 11th Hour or send more threats to others, there's a serious problem. I'm hoping they just drop things with 11th.

It's the business world colliding with the fan world, because the business world wants to embrace fans but has no idea how to deal with it. That's the basic problem. The media should be all over this, but the reality is it nothing to do with Wonder Woman or Joss not making a Serenity sequel so it won't get published.
As a latecomer to the 'verse, 11th Hour's art gave me some insight into what this fandom is capable of. I was already a fan, but her guerrilla marketing posters drew me into the community of Browncoats. I have since used them to convert a dozen or so friends and colleagues. This is a truly sad day, and I'm ready and waiting to support 11th in any way necessary. I don't feel much like Big Damn Thanking Universal anymore...
I think we need a licensing panel discussion/pow-wow at Flanvention.


I second that emotion. This will go down in my books as Black Tuesday. :(
I for one think its retarded that they're even asking for money. Universal is part of a mega-corporation and Serenity is the least of their financial troubles. Not to mention the fact that the property wouldnt be theirs if not for Fox or Joss Whedon.

The movie was promoted by us, thats just wrong.

Hey Joss is loaded, maybe he can pay 11th Hours fees!

[ edited by ChosenOne5376 on 2006-10-25 02:00 ]
Ditto to Lioness. This is just terrible. You deserve better! You've done so much for the verse.
Basically, the next 72 hours will tell all. If they do file charges against 11th Hour or send more threats to others, there's a serious problem. I'm hoping they just drop things with 11th.


I can't speak for others, but I'm not willing to risk my family's financial well-being on the possibility they'll stop with 11th. They've shown their teeth, and it's had its desired effect.
lexigeek - oh, I see where you are coming from, trust me. If they go after other people or websites I will have to drop certain aspects of the Browncoat site I run -- Universal's Browncoat community, feel the humour -- so Universal can't sue me.

Hey Joss is loaded, maybe he can pay 11th Hours fees!

Nah, he's not a charity.
11thHour posted this at the OB this afternoon:
"The reason I didn't see the email until almost 7 p.m. is because I was busily finishing the changes to my Cafe Press shop! I'd been working all through the weekend and into Monday to be absolutely sure the shop had no content that Universal would object to. It involved checking every single item in the shop just to make sure. Then when I checked my email and read the demand, I almost said out loud, "But I'm doing it! I'm doing it... here's me right here complying!"

How'd this get so complicated?

11th Hour

It hurts my heart, and it blows my mind.
Oh and she added this,
Hey, maybe the next DVD documentary about the fans' activities can be titled, "Done the Actionable".

[ edited by embers on 2006-10-25 02:23 ]

[ edited by embers on 2006-10-25 02:24 ]
Okay, first off, I am not practicing law, and strongly suggest that 11th hour consult one. If there is a law school nearby see if they have a legal aid office. But you do need to consult someone who specializes in copyright law for a living.

That said:

1. Can an email stand up as legal notice? Ah. Well yes and no.
Depends on whether they can prove the recipient received it, which they can just based on this thread. But since they are asking for money - they need to verify to the recipient who they are. After all it could be anyone. In which case the recipient has a legal defense - how did I know it was you?
I can't tell it was Universal from reading the letter. No, in order for money to be sent - we're going to need a lot more than an email. The letter needs to be sent by certified mail to 11th Hour's address and signed for in order for it to hold up in a court of law as "legal notice". Otherwise, 11th Hour can state she thought it was a scam to scare her. Stranger things have happened.

2. Does Universial have the right to sue based on copyright infringement? Depends on what it is. And whether they can prove the following: a) Is your art infringing on their property right in any way? What type of art is it? Does it use photographs from the movie? Or did you just draw the characters likenesses? Did you replicate exact copies of the costumes or very close likenesses and sell them? (In the Star Wars case - that is what happened, a party costume place was replicating Star Wars costumes, selling them as "Star Wars" costumes without the copyright holders permission.) There is a fine line between what is considered a copy of something, and what may be art influenced by something else. For example - did you use a photograph from the film Serenity and put it on a TV shirt? Or did you merely paint a picture of a ship that looks like the one in Serenity with the characters and sell it as being "influenced" by the show?

b)Assuming you did infringe - did you know it was infringing, did they send you a warning letter? (The Warning Letter should have been sent by certified mail - email is hard to prove receipt and as a result is NOT legal notice, any attorney worth their salt should know that.) That you ignored? Or did they just ignore you while you sold your products? If you sold your products for two years without interference - that may or may not act as defense in your favor. Particularly if you can prove that they knew and permitted it. That they were *aware of it* - and hey, if you sold them at sponsored fan conventions - you might be able to prove that. Also is it possible that they encouraged you to create fanart and sell products? If you can prove encouragement, that may work as tacit permission. In short they need to prove "intent".

c) Is your entire website/shop devoted to what they want you to cease and desist? If not, you only have to stop the portion that is "infringing".

3) Who owns the copyrights to Firefly and Serenity? I'm not sure.
I think that is a question Whedon probably can answer best if he's out there lurking. From what I've been able to grab from interviews and the DVD - I think Fox sold the rights to Firefly back to Whedon or they permitted him to sell movie rights to someone else - which is how Universial ended up with the rights. Rights are funky things, when you sell rights - you have derivative, exclusive, first time, just movie, product tie-in's, promotional, etc. Whether Whedon held onto a percentage of those rights, I have no clue. If he didn't, sending Whedon emails or bugging him or Mutant Enemy on this - is a waste of time. They have no power here and can't help you. Any more than they do regarding copyright infringement cases on Buffy or Angel.

I know, I know it's confusing, but the writers of TV shows and movies do not own the copyright to their creations, the studio producing the film or TV show does. So, it's not a *person* like Mary or whomever personally *produced* the show that is in charge of this, but rather the "corporate entity" which in this case is Universial. And corporations being what they are, I seriously doubt anyone involved in the making of the film Serenity knows anything about the cease desist order. The creative and legal departments don't discuss these things, actually they tend to avoid each other unless absolutely necessary. LOL! When Whedon got Universal to buy the rights in order to produce Serenity, he more or less handed them control over how product tie-ins. In short - they own the rights to T-Shirts, books, etc associated with Serenity, not Whedon. Although, Whedon, if he had a good contract attorney by his side, may have asked for a royalty from the proceeds of such products. In any event, he still can't help you. Nor can any of the actors on the show. Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, etc - do not own the rights to their characters, they only hold the rights to their names and personal images outside of the characters. They might get a royalty or percentage off of the sale of action figures or have some say in how they are presented, but I seriously doubt they can do anything else. Nor would they know where to start. That stuff is in the fine print of their contracts.

Assuming Universal bought the rights to Firefly, not just the rights to the movie. Then they have grounds to sue someone who uses photographs, screen stills, audio, or copies objects and costumes from the show or film. In short, if you watched Firefly, found a way to copy the dress that Kaylee wore in Shindig and sold it at your costume shop as Kaylee's dress - then yes, you are in infringement of copyright law. The question under copyright law is this: Have you copied or co-opted someone else's property and sold it for your own personal gain without their permission?

Again, my suggestion to 11th Hour before she does anything else is to consult an attorney. Now. Show the attorney everything she/he has done, everything sold. And the email. Then ask what the best course of action should be. I'd hunt one who specializes in copyright law or entertainment law.

Hope that helped.

sk

[ edited by s'kat on 2006-10-25 02:31 ]
What are Joss's feelings on this? Anybody heard? Do you think he will be going to bat for these people since they went to bat for him?
Do you think he will be going to bat for these people since they went to bat for him?

Honestly, I don't think it matters. What can Joss do? Go to Universal and say "Stop picking on my fans"? Whatever side Joss is on (and I really don't think we should drag him into this), Universal appears to own it all and thus is the only one that has any say in this whole copyright matter.
I'm still curious of his opinion on the matter.
gossi -
I bet money whoever owns the shirt licensing has complained about the fan abuse of the property.


The only boycott I could see having an effect, and this is contingent on knowing the draconian action is at the behest of the licensee, is boycotting them. We're not a significant percentage of people who watch studio movies, but we could be a significant percentage of people who buy t-shirts marketed to Serenity fans, if this issue were well-publicized across the Browncoat sites and groups. I certainly wouldn't want to target them if they had nothing to do with this, or if they were unaware of the visciousness of the actions on their behalf, but if they're countenancing this Reaver attack, and we know that, I'd have no trouble never buying another t-shirt. With a broad enough consensus, I think we could make their license close to worthless.

Of course, I don't know who they are, and have no notion of how to find out on the regular Internet, but if someone could find out, and send them our concerns, requesting a response, what would be the downside?
While I'd be shocked to find out Joss thought this was okay, I'd be even more surprised if he weighed in on it. He doesn't own the merchandising rights, so he doesn't control this. All he could accomplish would be (potentially) offending and alienating Universal, and I'm sure he doesn't need that career-wise.

And while it is deeply unfair of Universal to be going after damages from the very people they relied on to do the lion's share of the domestic marketing campaign for the movie (for free, no less), I wouldn't look to Joss to bail anybody out here. It'd set a sticky precedent for him, and I don't think he's "loaded." He makes more than I do, sure, but I'm pretty sure nine grand isn't pocket change as far as he's concerned.
Can I quote Joss here? (Sorry QuoterGal)

"Guess what else I'm not the boss of?"
Ok. Well in terms of contacting Joss, maybe they dont have to say anything but at least point the execs in charge in the direction to what the efforts of 11th Hour was in the name of guerrilla marketing and how these actions are uh souring relations. He wouldn't have to say much, but I am hoping he wouldn't weigh in publically. If its the problem of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, how about encouraging some communication? Not dictating.

And in terms of publicity, I am not all that hip on bloggers on who is good and effective and or not, but if people can contact the liberal and the conservative bloggers, well it would be nice. At least get some attention on this. So how about it???
Hey, maybe the next DVD documentary about the fans' activities can be titled, "Done the Actionable".

Good thing I hadn't yet taken a sip of my peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate when I read this.
Ithink going out and spreading the word of how a great fan base is being treated is a start. All kinds of press lately on the how fandom is growing, organizing and accomplishing things. What about the new trek adventures? How about the press of greedy corporations biting the very hands they were trying to solicit a year ago.
Well isn't this a hell of a note? You know what's really insane about all of this? IF any profit was made selling their copyrighted material, it was no doubt reinvested in promoting THEIR product. Fans do a hell of a lot of advertising for them and this is what you get. They're all dirty.
This is a bad situation all the way around. This puts Joss in a BAD place. I bet he's somewhere biting his tongue, cursing and shaking his head.
Peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate is the BEST.

I agree with BlueEyedBrigadier that a boycott would be more likely to hurt the properties that people here care about than the property holder (shame this happened the same day SLiTHER was released on DVD.) In any case, it's rather early to be making judgments on anyone... there are still way too many unknown factors at this point. Hopefully everything will work itself out amicably and the 11th Hour will have nothing more than a story ("So there was this one time I thought I was being sued...") and the support of numerous friends and fans behind her :)
Word of warning to all, but now is not the time to be drawing attention to other projects that have promoted or traded on the name of Serenity or they will probably go after them too.

So perhaps we shouldn't mention, by name specifically,other fan based ventures on here or the C&Ds will be flying to podcasters, documentary makers etc. They even have the power to order the authors of fan fic to shut down if they wanted to. I realise that they are chasing the people that they perceive are making money on their property but they might just get snotty with anyone who crosses their path if they feel they have a fight on their hands.

Just what struck me whilst feeling very disappointed in Universal. Should we start a "Screw You Universal" site now instead if the Thank You one? That's what they deserve when they go after the likes of 11th!

Edited to add: We were there before Universal and we will still care about the property long after they do. We cared about it when Fox lost faith. We got the DVDs released and kept them flying. We got the BDM made when it should never have happened. We can still do the impossible folks even if I get sued for using a phrase from someone else's intellectual property!

[ edited by fade2dust on 2006-10-25 04:19 ]
XanFan32: "Can I quote Joss here? (Sorry QuoterGal)

Everyone in all situations should always quote Joss Whedon early and often, until the Whole World speaks a kind of Jossian Lingo. At which point the Lion will Lie down with the Lamb and we can beat our Swords into Plowshares. Or words to that effect.

And your quote led to me an interview I hadn't heard before, so many thanks.

ETA: Yeah, fade2dust, I was thinking about your related-project caveat myself...

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-10-25 04:24 ]
Well, look on the bright side.

At least this guy will finally have to take his site down.
Should we start a "Screw You Universal" site now instead if the Thank You one?

No, but I have a website idea that might help with the fact that press people like "hooks" into stories. But I kind of think its worth waiting to see the next bit or two of 11th's particular situation first.
Well from her posts on the board she is seeking advice, and will make contact with the legal people, if it is the same b/s a shit storm should be raised. And a website would be perfect(but screw you universal is a bit... i dunno shooting ourselves and 11th hour essentially in the foot)... Someone mentioned on a thread somewhere, Annik, about a Florida columnist, Carl Hiaassen, who covered and loathe Disney for their legal manuerving involving copyright laws etc.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-25 04:50 ]
Also in terms of naming other ventures, fade2dust, I am sure they can do a simple internet search to find other people to trample on. But I will refrain from doing it, since caution is always best. *sigh* and I wrote a letter to say thank you to Universal and mentioning how much I appreciate them, and how I will buy anything of theirs including a special edition sequel. I feel sooo betrayed, and almost wish I could take that letter back. i feel so dirty, need to take a shower now :(

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-25 04:53 ]
Just remember, it's completly legal to make your own Serenity shirts. With an Iron-on kit and a inkjet printer you can make your own and be happy that Universal won't be getting a penny from you.

Which makes me wonder if it's possible for the artists to post hi-res files of their work on a server for users. I've wondered about this anyway, as I don't like the shirt selection on Cafepress. Fans of the ARTWORK could then make a DONATION (optional - a bit like the entrance "donation" they charge at the Met in NYC :P) in conseration for VIEWING the art?

Also, I doubt most of the fan artists out there are trying to profit from the 'verse anyway. If the proceeds from these sites were to go to charity, would that satisfy Universal??
f the proceeds from these sites were to go to charity, would that satisfy Universal??

Well, theoretically no. Because that still would not address the issue of people purchasing fan-produced shirts rather than officially licensed ones (the latter, of course, is what makes Uni money).
About best advice that really counts here is "get thee to a lawyer" and take all the paperwork.

The second piece of advice worth anything is: do not contact these people until a lawyer is consulted. Especially do not talk to them over the phone. (A paper trail is a must have.) A lawyer should draft the letter, too. There is more than copyright involved here.

Finally, blaming Universal is pointless. First, they probably directed the lawyers to seek and destroy infringers in general and don't know, or care, who they actually go after. (Which suggests that, with legal advice, and suitable humility, contacting Universal's licensing people directly might make an end-run around the worst. The lawyers are only agents, after all.)

Second, as pointed out, this may be SOP as part of licensing contracts. In the case of trademarks, they must, by law,defend them or risk losing protection. (In either case, simple C&D may be enough to appease if the right people are contacted in the right way by a lawyer.)

P.S. The lawyers who sent the email are paid to intimidate and owe allegiance only to their client (and the law, to the extent they can stretch it). They have no interest in fair or reasonable because that doesn't benefit their client. On the other hand, they have little interest in wasting time and money when it will do no good. Another lawyer, being unfair and unreasonable on someone else's behalf can help them see where they will start wasting time and money.

[ edited by Wm54 on 2006-10-25 05:47 ]
save11thhour.com is available.
Wm54 is absolutely right on all counts. I work in entertainment licensing (not on the legal side) and the studio side of the business has no contact with the legal side of licensing. No one in Universal's legal dept knows anything about Serenity or it's fanbase. I'm sure they were told to find those selling Serenity merch and to quash it. I'm also sure there were no caveats and the legal dept thinks they are doing what they were told.

This is a case of the 17th left hand not knowing what the 16th right hand of a huge conglomerate is doing.

This kind of thing happens all the time and I'm sure there is no malicious intent on the part of Universal and Mary Parent (et al.) probably has absolutely no clue that this is even happening.
To the folks who mentioned the Screw You site.

That was meant to be tongue in cheek.

Last year I organised the UK Browncoats' fan table and shindig at Memorabilia. The film company promised to help sponsor the table and to produce goodies to give away. We were given thousands of matchbooks with an incorrect web address on them. WE produced (at our own cost) materials for use to promote the movie. These were "authorised" but not licensed. The same items would now be classified as bootleg goods!

I personally lost money when UIP failed to pay the bills for the fan table as they had promised instead of wanting to thank Universal (or in this case UIP) I ceased from running activities to promote the movie and cancelled a shindig planned to celebrate the release of the movie on DVD.

Hearing about the way Universal have treated 11th Hour incenses me. Especially as they featured some of her artwork in a promo DVD from Starfury Serenity and they clearly did not have a problem with her doing that then!

My opinion of the relevant companies just gets lower and lower. I felt that they used the Browncoats last year to maximise the publicity and we have let them do it because we love the show, the BDM and the BDH. But despite all that the Screw You site was not a serious proposition. Sorry if folks took it that way.
Succatash, would that be similar to www.savekqix.org?

Lawyers pick interesting times to attack. King's Quest IX, a fan production (now called The Silver Lining) got a C&D letter four years after they started the video game and about two months before they had planned on releasing the first part.

They actually got a liscence from Vivendi games to continue, and so in that vein there's hope.
I certainly didn't take it as such, fade2dust, , but the more I think about the angrier I get, and the more that site seems a good idea, which isnt good...lol.
Some exellent advice for 11th over on the OB. Starting with telling her NOT to contact the firm that emailed her. Hopefully she sees this in time:

http://forums.prospero.com/foxfirefly/messages?msg=32591.136
I'm almost ready on my, shall we say, gentler alternative to the not-serious "screw you" site suggestion. The domain is had (tho I likely won't be putting this one of my server at home, since we've been down that road before with Verse-related sites I've put there). It's definitely something for which I will need information from the fanbase, so expect me to make that request in the next day or so.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2006-10-25 07:17 ]
Until we hear from our Captain, Joss, it has also been mentioned on the OB that we hold....it's what Browncoats do for the good of the big picture...we watch each others backs and we hold.

I am pissed off and want to do more to help 11th and Black Market and anyone else in need out there but I think the sentiment is a wise one for now...we hold.

I have revamped an old favorite to sing in our trenches as we wait:

The Ballad of Universal

Take my heart
Take my pay
Sue me til the end of day
I don't care, still found my crew
When I helped you then got screwed

Coats of brown
Here and abroad,
Know the sitch, it's on the boards
Burn my site and be greedy,
You can't take my crew from me.

There's no place I can be
Since I helped YOU make money
But you can't take my crew from me.

~Kessa (for 11th Hour and all Browncoats everywhere dealing with this injustice)
I've just come online (been sick for days) and read this.
I am honestly disgusted and so saddened by it.
11th Hour was one of the main forces behind the guerrilla campaign. In fact we in Australia used her designs more frequently than the ones given to us by Uni.

Count me and (if I may speak for them) many other Ozzie Browncoats in to help in anyway we can!
It is definitely a common thing for Universal to send out legal thingos via email. I barely dodged the bullet on my The Whedon Of Oz project.

Don't remember that? Don't be surprised - I created a DVD set to commemorate Joss' visit to Australia, and a month after (non-profit) distribution began, Universal's legal department came sniffing around ... I smelled trouble, ceased production, and have been laying low and anonymous since then.

Anyway, point is, be afraid. This ****ing sucks.

*big hugs for 11th* - you're one of the good guys here, and this so isn't fair to you. You haven't cost Universal a bloody cent, and I bet you've made them more than a little bit of money.

I will be donating to whatever fund(s) is/are created.

Big love from Australia,

Shane
canberra_boy

[ edited by canberra_boy on 2006-10-25 08:04 ]
Thank you s'kat, your post was very insightful.

Oh and Devin at Chud picked up the story.
"Take my love, take my land, take my copyright infringing CafePress store."

Well, Devin at Chud.com explains it all for us. "Browncoats are wrong and Universal is right." With that one sentence (but there's many more), and apparently after fully reviewing "basic legal junk," (without having seen 11th Hour's store,) all ambiguities of intellectual property law, copyright law and fair use are swept away for us, leaving his simple & cheering message of "you're incorrect, short-sighted and maybe both creepy and sad."

See how simple it all is when you're Devin? Cool, huh?

Is it patronizing & snarky? Why, yes, I believe it is. Should we know that it's been posted? Well, yes, I believe we should.

(I was going to post this as its own story, but then I realized I myself didn't care to promote it on our RSS feed, although mods/admins can certainly do so if they think it makes more sense. And while this topic probably isn't going away any time soon, I thought posting it separately would make it too flame-baity.)

ETA: and now I see that simon has posted it here before me, so it makes it even more appropriate to have only posted it in this thread.)

(And sorry I got all bitter in the above, but it's the lack of understanding of the fan's guerilla marketing role in promoting Serenity, and the accusations of naïvitie and inability to see "the big picture" that I find galling. And there was so much that I thought insensitive, uninformed and cynical in Devin's article.)

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-10-25 08:43 ]
Been lurking for a long time, this has brought me to the surface.
Being the sister of a lawyer makes me despair for the whole situation. Being a Browncoat makes me aware that the losing side is often not the wrong one.
I don't know 11th hour - but I'm sorry. I'm here. If there was something I could do that I thought would help, I would.
Devin is not being charitable (I would call him an "assclown" because I know that word makes 11th crack-up, but that would be attacking the writer), but he is not entirely wrong on every level.

On most levels, yes. But not on all.
Well, Devin is correct in terms of Uni having every legal right to do whatever they want in regards to unlicensed swag. Problem is, he apparently has little interest in the roguish irony of a company which encouraged fan promotion of their property now demanding nearly $9,000 in retroactive licensing fees from a fan.

He dismisses the issue as Browncoats thinking "Universal just put some money up -- the Browncoats poured their souls into it", which is a complete bastardization of the discussion, but presumably it suits his biases.

I don't much care either way where anyone comes down on this. But like with most things, it irks me to no end when people are only interested in just barely enough of the story to reinforce their own opinions and stereotypes of people, rather than being interested in the truth.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2006-10-25 08:42 ]
>>I don't much care either way where anyone comes down on this. But like with most things, it irks me to no end when people are only interested in just barely enough of the story to reinforce their own opinions and stereotypes of people, rather than being interested in the truth.<<

And this is just a confirmation that the rest of the world operates that way more than we care to admit. Won't deign to say his name, cause I am pretty sure I would be rude about it, but that fella at CHUD needs to really examine his own concept of right and wrong just a little more closely. :(
To be honest, I think Devin nails the issue on it's head quite well. With Serenity, there was always a blurring of fan and studio involvement - hell, they let me run two of the official sites, and Nixy and friends run the Oz official site. When you look at Serenity, all of the official websites are now owned or run by fans. Universal supplied artwork for fans to market the movie with, and on the US forum they ran a forum called "Exchange Stuff", which was used by nearly everybody for Cafepress shops. It was moderated by people paid (and unpaid) by Universal.

I've seen fans online saying we own the franchise. We don't. Joss does't own it either. Companies do. However, with Serenity, I can see why that line is blurred - Universal's marketing department.
I'm sorry, but does anyone find it HIGHLY dodgy that she was doing this pretty much VIA THE OFFICIAL SITE for OVER A YEAR and no one cared. Now they dont need the promo anymore, Hell the DVD's have all sold, whattever, hey lets get $8,000 out of her.

It's disgusting.
The debacle between Devin and the Browncoats last year was unfortunate. No one came out of that looking good.

Devin is entitled to write what he says, we may not agree with it but I'd expect people to tolerate it at best (or least) and not call him nasty names. And I have a feeling if any other articles come out , they'll be following the same train of thought as what Devin did.

And if anyone is keeping track of this, it ended up as an item at Fark. I can see it being a Slashdot story too.

In terms of blogs, there's some chatter about Universal cracking dowm but there's more attention being paid to Joss' six word story.
I found an excellent solution to 11th Hour's problem on the SOz forums:

We bill Universal.

We've been pimping their movie for over a year. That's services rendered, and if Universal intends to collect on merchandising then the Browncoats should collect on advertising and promotion. If someone with legal expertise could draft something like that up, it might give Universal a clear message to back off or risk incurring the wrath of the Browncoats; and we all know what happened to that comic book store that Nathan didn't like.
White Knight - funny you should mention that idea.
and we all know what happened to that comic book store that Nathan didn't like.


See...I think we should avoid that. I think Browncoats came out of that looking kind of crazy and fanatical, and I don't think a mob mentality is going to be helpful here; particularly since pestering a little comic shop in Edmondton isn't the same thing as going up against a multinational corporation with an army of lawyers and deep, deep pockets. The will of the Browncoats couldn't make Serenity a hit. I think it's kind of naive to think the "wrath of the Browncoats" is going to scare anybody.

Honestly, the only thing that's likely to help here is Mary Parent or someone similar pulling some strings--and I don't know that it's clear whether she has the juice to do something like that. CHUD's column may have been obnoxious and ill-informed, but unfortunately, he's probably 100% correct on the legality of the situation. Universal owns the legal rights to Serenity. If they want to crack down hard, they're perfectly within their rights to do so. It's crappy and shortsighted (in my opinion) but there isn't a whole heck of a lot we can do about it.
Bear in mind that if some people are going to do something, it would be best not to do in such a way as to piss off the people who greenlit Serenity and who may in the future decide that a sequel is viable.

We need them more than they need us.
There's certainly an aspect here which is simple - if you took it a marketing level, I'm sure none of those peeps would want action like this. However, a licensing department has a job to do, and that is to make money. So, there is a debate to be had about involving fans and making boundaries clear.

However, the heavy handed retroactive licensing fees legal stance is worrying for me. That's the only thing which bothers me. Somebody needs to point out to Universal's legal bods that's not how things should be done, and frankly, it probably isn't even legal - they've given her 72 hours to comply to an email, with no proof of receipt, without a proper warning etc.

If that bit is in the media, I'm cool with it. If it's 1000 rabbit fans firebomb Universal over tshirts, less so.
mental image of the cast of watership down nuking universal :p *grey matter melts*
I agree, gossi. I didn't really get worked up over the whole CafePress thing, honestly--I thought it was too bad, but I totally understand wanting to protect your copyright. It's the demand for licensing fees that I think really goes beyond the pale. There's a perception (and I know it's not a completely fair one) that Universal was willing to sit on its hands and basically let fans do their job for them when it came to marketing the movie. This isn't likely to help any with that.
gossi, I'm going to assume you meant "1000 rabid fans" because otherwise the mental image is a bit odd.

Although, possibly an accurate one. "Of course you know, this means war."
I meant 1000 fans of rabbits. Or something.
Bear in mind that if some people are going to do something, it would be best not to do in such a way as to piss off the people who greenlit Serenity and who may in the future decide that a sequel is viable.

We need them more than they need us.


Amen, brother Simon. I agree that we don't want to add to the perception of the Browncoat community being fanatical and, well, pissy. And the more I read, the more it seems they do have the legal right to crack down, even if they have the discretion to choose not to. But boycotting, name-calling, etc., may only make us look like the d**ks; let them be the d**ks in this situation. (I believe that's my curse word of the week.) And boycotts of Universal's verse will screw over innocent bystanders like James Gunn and Slither (on DVD), or Jewel and Morena on their Stargate appearances (on SciFi Channel, which is owned by Universal, right?).

It feels to me like we should support 11th Hour, like helping with legal fees or this $9000 should it come to that. And also the next time a studio comes around asking for free support from hard-working peeps like gossi and nixygirl (and b!x and 11th Hour and so on), maybe the hard-working peeps will need to say, "Sorry, been there, done that." Then we'll go to our own shindig, no Wolfram & Hart employees allowed. ;-)

Although I'm sure the people behind the C&D stuff didn't know about the Thank You website, the timing is truly ironic. Sucks. That is all. :-(
I'm with billz, those lawyers are all ducks as far as i'm concerned ;-).

Have to say I don't see an awful lot wrong with the CHUD article (though he's perhaps a bit too certain of the legal position given that, by his own admission, he doesn't know what 11th Hour was selling and admittedly doesn't exactly tip-toe around the issue with his language). The lines do sometimes blur, especially when people are being asked to market the film and when fan involvement was at least partly responsible for the film, merchandise etc. being made in the first place.

If the retrospective licence fees do end up being a legitimate request (not just a despicable scare tactic) and enforceable then i'll gladly chip in a few quid to help 11th Hour keep the Wolves (and Rams and Harts ;) from the door. IM(non lawyerish)O, though mounting a legal defence (unless it's fairly open and shut) is ill advised. As someone says above they've hundreds of lawyers and effectively limitless resources (in comparison) available to tie this thing up for years. That's a lot of risk, stress and heartache to ask 11th Hour to go through in order to fight the good fight.

And i'm a fan of rabbits though it's quite a dry meat which you can literally starve to death eating so it's only for special occasions. Like Easter ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2006-10-25 16:04 ]
The schoolyard bully intimidates because he believes no one will (not "can") challenge him. Personally, I doubt I would pursue a challenge against the lawyers at Universal were it me, but the fact that Universal HAVE shown 11th Hour's artwork in promotional material (the DVD issued with Empire magazine in Australia and on the official website shot at Starfury Serenity clearly shows 11th's artwork and they made NO complaint about using it for their own purposes) suggests that she may have some other defence she could claim that many have overlooked.
Oh, Gods! Watching the second season of Buffy again. It makes more sense than this discussion.
The schoolyard bully intimidates because he believes no one will (not "can") challenge him

Very true. Often, however, unlike in fiction, when you stand up to the schoolyard bully he turns around and beats the crap out of you because he actually is better equipped to do violence than you are (note that him being in the wrong is irrelevant). As you say fade2dust if it were you you doubt you'd pursue it (and I feel the same way). Seems a wee bit unfair to ask 11th Hour to take risks we wouldn't be willing to is all i'm saying.

That said (OK, so it's not all i'm saying ;), if 11th Hour (and her lawyer) feel they have a legitimate, winnable case then more power to her. If it seemed to be more than a quixotic last stand to salve the fandom's (rightfully) aggrieved feelings then i'd still be more than happy to throw my few quid into the hat to help with legal costs (and Universal's previous use of her art may indeed be evidence in her favour, dunno cos IANAL).

Whatever happens though, best wishes and good luck 11th Hour, I hope it's resolved to your satisfaction, with the least stress, quickly and cheaply ;).
I think 11th Hour has a hell of a case, but that's contingent on getting legal representation. Do we know if that has happened?
dreamlogic - I think she's in the process of doing that.
You know they say opinions are like as ..... well nevermind, kinda a redundant reminder.

Oh and does anyone want to inform Mr. Black & White, that according to his definition, he is violating the copyright of Universal as well, by using the logo without permission or disclaimer. Since it could be concidered as using the image for commercial use, since they do have a donate button at the bottom of the page soliciting funds from visitors.

I know it is not likely to happen but I am pointing out that copyright law is a very grey area and depending on the day and the judge the law is not black & white. It's just at what degree of interpretation the judges discression warrents it to be.
Very true, dreamlogic. Sorry, I've not been following that case, please say hey or nay on the outcome. Quite interesting. I've been keeping an eye on NBC Universal vs. Ron Moore. Several eyes are watching this. Ron has quite a case and I think he's going to win this one.

And again, I'm sorry for going off topic. My evil side is out to get me. Yeah!! That's it! Bad evil!! Back! Back demons!!
gossi say: White Knight - funny you should mention that idea.

Yes.

simon say: Bear in mind that if some people are going to do something, it would be best not to do in such a way as to piss off the people who greenlit Serenity...

Also yes.
I think she's in the process of doing that

That's good. 11th Hour, please direct your attorney to this site and to other Serenity-related sites, to show that you have some leverage. Not against Universal, because we have no leverage against Universal, but against their licensee(s), who (fairly or not) we may choose to never buy from again if Universal's attorneys continue doing things on their (and Universal's) behalf that appall us. I think if it all becomes clear they will want to back off.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-10-25 17:47 ]
Original reply was a bit 'hot', thus, the edit.

I've had good/ bad experiences with legal depts., and decided not to add more fire to the flames here and go with a cooler head.

Hoping this story doesn't go away until there's a happy ending.
And- willing to donate to the legal fees soon as the drive starts.

[ edited by harvey chin on 2006-10-25 18:09 ]
Ok, I am all for NOT invoking hatred at Universal and Devin at chud.com. His article pised me off, and it was quite patronizing. And yes the fact he didnt mention the $9000.00 fee that was charged to 11th Hour. I myself would be saddened, but had they not done that, this uproar would not have occured, but that fact they would pick on her and ask to get money from her like that, especially for all that she done... oy.

Anyway the Browncoats should NOT head into that territory of "lets make them pay for it", and a few people in the minority will do stuff that will make the fandom look bad(and I mean really bad, not just sending letters to Universal).

I would rather call attention to this situation and hope that the situation will be resolved.

ETA: In terms of boycotting, well that may be my personal choice, and yes it may seem pigheaded, but dealing with a company that will do more than jsut a simple C&D but grab for money, I am loathe to support, and just to cover my ass, since thats what all the legal stuff is, I am just tempted to not ever do any guerrilla marketting or recommend the dvd or products to anyone again. I just want to make sure no one comes and sues me or anything.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-25 18:50 ]
Just stupefied, here... absolutely cannot believe the gall.

11th, sending you my e-hug, and waves of support. This sucks beyond the telling of it. Boo-hiss at Snidely CluelessLawFirm. What's next? Lashing you to the railroad tracks?

Unbelievable.
Kurya, the thing is: it isn't even boycotting per say. I mean I can't go see movies with actors who creep me out *cough*MelGibson*cough*TomCruise*cough* because I can't bring myself to look at them on screen. I'm now feeling a lot of resentment toward Universal, I don't see that going away any time soon, and it will impact my buying DVDs for gifts. I'm not writing letters (they wouldn't read them), but I'm not going to be paying for things when I see that Universal logo on it.
Yeah... well mel gibson I can tolerate somewhat, but TOm Cruise, the guy is a wacko, and not because of the Scientology stuff, I refused to see MI:3 b/c of that. I am not much of a boycotter, since I rarely see films, once 3 months, but in terms of resentment towards Universal, well I can't help it. Again, as some people a la Devin seems to forget if it had been a simple C&D I would have understood, but this bid for 9000 is just, well infuriating, and even though the main branch of Universal may not be aware of it, well I still can't help it.

And yes anytime in the future if Universal asks for people to get all excited and invovled whether its Goners or(I really doubt it now, a sequel) whatever... count me out. Don't want to get sued.
So, like, everyone start calculating a rough estimate of how many hours you spent in 2005/2006 involved in the marketing and promotion of Serenity.

I'd prefer it if people don't just pull numbers out of thin air, but actually sit down and enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out a good estimate for themselves. Today or tomorrow, I'm going to give you contact info for sending me your hours.
Onetruebix, do you want as many fans as possible to send estiamtes to you? like should this request be cross psoted all over?
Onetruebix, do you want as many fans as possible to send estiamtes to you? like should this request be cross psoted all over?

Well, when I'm ready with contact info it should be spread around actively. For now I just figured to give the WHEDONesque crowd the advance heads-up on thinking about their hours.

No sense in spreading around a message saying "stay tuned for a second message which will give you the full information". Heh.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2006-10-25 19:26 ]
First of, I'd like to give some mental support to 11th hour, who has made some amazing art work the past few years.

I do think (and hope) this mess is due to the people of licensing not knowing how the marketing department treated people like 11th hour last year, thus whereas this is for us a case of the same big corporation first asking people to do something and afterwards charging them for it, the people involved might not know the history (off course they should, but information transfer in big organizations is not always very good).

Sadly enough this story is probably too complicated to become a press issue. While I've heard a few argue against it on this side, most people would probably agree that a company has the right to defend its copyright. Charging fans retroactive licensing money is then perhaps a bit over the edge but not necessarily completely unjustified. To understand the huge injustice here it is however necessary to know the back story of a movie which was relentlessly promoted by fans, amongst which prominently 11th hour, and this promotion being actively encouraged by Universal. Indeed they did all but ask her to start such a cafepress site. Unfortunately we all know how familiar the general public is with Serenity, and as a corollary the story behind its marketing.
Sadly enough this story is probably too complicated to become a press issue


Then dumb it down. "Universal fine fan who helped promote their movie". It's all about the spin. Oh and it'd do no harm to alert Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to the situation. "Fandom backlash over Universal's harsh tactics". It might play well in the trades (as I reckon that's where the issues should be aired - not the blogs).
Storm’s getting worse.

We’ll pass through it soon enough.

Hang in there everyone.
Simon those lines are enough. Just the fact that Universal did encourage the fans to participate in guerrilla marketing, and now beyond the C&D's which are fine and all, but the fans are upset at the demand for monetary payment. or something like that I am not good at it. Has someone contacted the blogs on the liberal and conservative side? They would be interested in this wouldnt they?
So, like, everyone start calculating a rough estimate of how many hours you spent in 2005/2006 involved in the marketing and promotion of Serenity.


Seriously?
OK, I'll mention it to the SOzers.
Are you seriously thinking of doing this? You don't think that it maybe a bit of an intense reaction?

Wow, cause we had street teams doing promotions and stuff in Oz. Although, in truth a lot of that was organised by us but utilised by UIP.

You know, it seems they have given us an enemy to band together over and fight. As previously mentioned, the irony of the Thank You letter writing campaign and this is kinda hard to ignore hey.
Bix, if I understand where you're going, it's filling in the consideration side of a contract. But there was no contract, that I can see.

I really don't think anybody wants to go to court, here. The Wolfram & Hart wannabes for Universal may think they do but I agree with the points above about them probably not knowing the history and the holes it makes in their client's case. The licensee(s) really have a lot to lose from alienating this fandom, but I agree with the voices of caution at the top of the page that putting the big dogs' back against the wall, as in going to the press, might be a mistake. If there could just be one smart representative for 11th Hour and colleagues putting the pieces together quietly for Universal's coffee achievers, that might be best.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-10-25 20:33 ]
Are you seriously thinking of doing this? You don't think that it maybe a bit of an intense reaction?

I'm not actually creating a real invoice to send to Universal, no. I'm creating a statement via website. If you look through this thread, you'll see I kept suggesting there was a lighter/gentler way to make the point than doing something confrontational towards Uni. This is not going to be confrontational or an attempt to actually serve them with a bill.

Trust me. ;)
Trust me. ;)


Would it be cliche of me to make a remark about those words? *snickers*.

Note: this was all purely tongue firmly in cheek of course.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-25 20:39 ]

Then dumb it down. "Universal fine fan who helped promote their movie". It's all about the spin. Oh and it'd do no harm to alert Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to the situation. "Fandom backlash over Universal's harsh tactics". It might play well in the trades (as I reckon that's where the issues should be aired - not the blogs).


Simon is bang on. I mailed it to one site - CHUD - and they picked it up. A proper trade would love this if presented properly, as it shows the disconnect between studio new media (online) marketing departments and their legal and licensing departments.

One of 11th Hour's tshirts is actually visible on the Serenity DVD, put together and filmed by Universal, in a section about how much the fan buzz helped.
I didnt know that gossi, so in terms of "turning a blind eye" they had to know about it, b/c it was showcased on their DVD. Any pretense of "not knowing" about it would go right out the window.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-25 21:04 ]
Well, the fact they ran a section on the old forum called Exchange Stuff which was entirely fan made merchandise says they knew - there weren't any licensed products to exchange back then.

But, from a legal point of view, that's the kind of thing which would turn this into a serious legal battle. I mean, don't get me wrong - if this went to court and it was ruled against Universal, it would be a landmark case as it would mean Universal's marketing actions mean licensing contracts can't be enforced. It would effect the movie industry in how they deal with fans in the future. But I doubt either Universal or 11th actually want to go down that route.
Yeah... as people have said no need to create all sorts of ill will when it is necessary. Its best not get caught up in bitter legal battles, especially something that can be draining moentarily energy wise, and just would so much angerness and bitterness to the situation than there is now.

You know as much as the operative was a wackjob, there was merit in some of his dialogue. You know the line about settle this like men, but without fire etc...
I'm a bit late to the thread, but questions that come to my (very non-lawyer) mind: do we know that the e-mail was actually from a law firm that is actually representing Universal? If yes, where (in what jurisdictions) do they represent Universal? Does Universal know this law firm is representing them in this matter? [It is possible that a law firm could act on somebody's "behalf" without that person's consent: see http://jasontomczak.com/ -- this guy was listed, allegedly against his will, as "Lead Plaintiff" in a lawsuit.] 11th Hour might want to submit the notice she received to http://www.chillingeffects.org/ -- the "Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, A joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics." (They "invite you to input Cease and Desist letters that you've received into our database, to document the chill. We will respond by linking the legalese in the letters to FAQs that explain the allegations in plain English.")

[ edited by dunl on 2006-10-25 21:52 ]
It goes against my grain to see this go down the track of "just be good little soldiers and do what you're told". The unfairness and over-the-topness of what they are threatening 11th with is just wrong.

As others have said, I do agree with their right to protect their product, but it seems like they are all over the place on this. Let her market for them when it suits them, but not any more? "Forget what we said was ok before, stop it now before you get in big big trouble! And oh yeah, give us everything in your savings account! We hate you now! We're bigger than you!"

These tactics are just so hateful. I know I'm over-simplifying, but that is really and exactly how it smells to me. Poor 11th. My blood just boils on her behalf. I wish I had some power. I wish she had an ombudsman that they would really have to listen to.
Again, they never said it was OK to sell anything. They carefully didn't notice when it served their needs, but that's a different thing entirely. But I agree, their tactics are shortsided.
Lord, do I wish there was an ombudsman for the little people about a lot of things. But as I've been trying to say, we've got some consumer power here. If we're angry enough about what's been done to our fan artists and merchants, we can stop buying anything licensed for Serenifly, and who the hell else is going to buy it?
They carefully didn't notice when it served their needs, but that's a different thing entirely.

Yeah, which is ultimately the point which needs discussing in the wider entertainment world: If you're going to conviently not notice unofficial merchandise when it works for you, is it ethical to turn around months later and demand retroactive licensing fees. Invariably related to which, of course, is: Could the various arms and legs of any given company please talk to each other better.
Hang in there 11th Hour! We are with you - or behind you - or wherever you want us - 100%.
Dreamlogic said:

If we're angry enough about what's been done to our fan artists and merchants, we can stop buying anything licensed for Serenifly, and who the hell else is going to buy it?


That's just what I was telling my nose the other day, you know. Right before I cut it off. ;)
I wouldn't feel like I was cutting off my nose if I stopped buying the merchandise. I've got two nice t-shirts, a poster, a shot glass. I guess it might be different if I were a collector, but I feel pretty much set.

People who are collectors, would it be hard to support a boycott of licensed merchandise if the cause was helping people like 11th Hour?


'
Throughout the run-up to Serenity's release, Universal's conflicting interests were evident. There was so much "spread the word", and so little to back it up with.

They've come down hard on 11thHour to great effect: unlicensed Browncoat shops are no longer waiting for their C&Ds - they are shutting down now.

The issues here are very much larger than the specifics, and I'm just sorry to see 11thHour suffering through as it all plays out.
All I'm saying is that I don't look as good without a nose as I thought I would.
But does your face feel spited, NekoDono? ;-)
Well, this kind of crap makes me wish I was still practicing law. Right before I left, I represented a website being bullied by fandom.com, which was making the fairly outrageous claim that it owned the word "fandom."

Universal definitely owns marketing rights, but those only go so far, especially in terms of copyright law. I notice they didn't mention trademarks in their email to 11th hour, which would be their best claim, if it had any validity.

She really needs a lawyer, one willing to fight for her. This kind of bullying needs to be stopped. The companies sending these letters count on fear and intimidation and that nobody will fight back.
Nice, theonetruebix, I'll help make sure people see it.

"Anybody can become angry - that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy." -- Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics"
This thread has moved from the main page, so I'm not sure if anyone will see this...

I have been checking in and reading everyone's posts since the thread began. I'm fairly sleep deprived and weary, keeping up with a flood of emails that finally outnumber the spam, checking in on the other boards too, and learning several new fun facts about legalities.

But I have to express how much all the outpouring of support, loyalty, and downright love, from so many here has meant to me. Recent events have left me spun 'round and tipping toward a dark place. But y'all have been lights helping to pull me back again.

It's so true that you really find out who your friends are when life throws the tough stuff your way. My situation has become a kind of lightning rod because, in a way, it represents and affects our fandom as a whole. Very important discussions have been raised, and after the dust has settled, perhaps this can all lead to something positive. I surely hope so.

I've never been much of a joiner. I still pop that "sound of a different drummer" CD in the player most of the time. But y'all have gone and got my back covered, and are standing at my side too. I look around and notice I'm not alone.

Maybe, hopefully soon, we'll be popping in a CD that's something we can all dance to.
Well as obvious that I checked in on thread I am sure others who are curious will do so. 11th Hour you ain't alone, although I am sure you know that by now.
This too shall pass. Hang in there Susan.
*hugs*
We do have your back covered. And your side, and front...in fact, if theres an angle anywhere there'll be a Browncoat standing in it.

Try to get some rest 11th.
*hugs again*
11th, I haven't said it yet, but I say it now: I wish you all the strength in the verse to get through this.
And thanks for stopping by and giving us an update - I'm sure you are quite preoccupied at the moment. So, it's very appreciated.

/hugs from a distance/

[ edited by Harridan on 2006-10-27 09:08 ]
Does anyone know anything about the idea of a legal defense fund? I know it's probably way too late, and more so because I thought I put a comment on this in hours ago.
Well I think for now her lawyer is either free or cheap since it is a browncoat lawyer. I am sure if she does intend to fight it, she will probably announce it, and people will be funneling money to her. If she announces she has no choice but to pay, I myself will still help contribute a little.
11thHour, I only saw your story just now - I can't believe it! I've put up tons of your great artwork as advertising up to the film's premiere. We were all working for Universal for free. We wanted them to have a big hit with Serenity, and you more than anyone put your back into it. To think that they turn around and bite that hand now is just incomprehensible. I'll certainly help with the legal costs if you ask for it. Hang in there, this has to sort itself out.

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