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November 22 2008

Browncoats: Redemption - a fan film for charity. The makers plan for it be released in Fall 2010 and the intention is donate proceeds from the sale of the DVD to charity. The latest update on their Facebook profile says "received word that THE MAN sent word that we "have his blessing and it's cool as far as he is concerned"".

It's a commendable project but I do query the following:

To give you an idea of why we think this is completely viable, in September '07 release weekend sales figures for the Serenity Collector's Edition DVD sold an estimated 32,396 copies. Now that's just the Serenity Collector's Edition. If we could accomplish that number in our total donations for the DVD we could raise $485,940.


I think it would over optimistic to expect to raise that amount of money. And Universal or 20th Century Fox may take issue with fans selling DVDs based on their product (for want of a better word). But good luck to them anyone, it's nice to see fans go the extra mile.

Is this a fan film set in the Firefly universe? (Not a documentary?)

It'll get crushed by lawyers, ultimately. 20th Century Fox and Universal own those characters and that universe - not Joss - and will do anything in their power to make sure they protect the property.
The site says they're working with various people to make it all legal. Interesting, but I agree it seems they're being a bit too optimistic.
Their intentions, while apparently noble, do cause some concern. As already mentioned, both FOX and Universal will likely take a dim view of their selling of the DVDs. If they get slapped with a C&D, that could potentially have a negative impact on other Firefly fan film projects like Into the Black and Bellflower.
I don't see this ending well. The silver lining is that it may light a fire under the ass of the people who can legally make money off this franchise.
I just wonder if Joss sees himself as The Man.
Fuck The Man! (Shaun Of The Dead)

Fox may not C&D a DVD on sale, they may sue instead to get the profits back. It's not me meaning to pee on something, it's just a warning to those involved - unless they officially license this, they will likely get sued for a lot of money. It could be epic shit storm.

From a selfish point of view, I'd love to see this.
From a selfish point of view, I'd love to see this.

The movie, or the shitstorm?
Is there a big legal guide to copyright for fandom somewhere? Because if not, that's a project that really should be done and widely publicized, so people understand that Joss does not own this intellectual property. (Dr. Horrible, on the other hand, he does, so if he says doing stuff with that is okay, it's totally kosher.)

Must go talk to legal scholar fiance about this brilliant possible internet project, if one doesn't exist.
Is there a big legal guide to copyright for fandom somewhere?

It baffles me that it'd even be necessary. It's pretty simple: If you make stuff using other people's property, you might be screwed, and being non-profit means absolutely nothing under the law.

(In reality, of course, many informal and non-commercial fan works are ignored by the property owners, but that doesn't mean they were REQUIRED to ignore you or have no right to come after you. It just means that in practice, some stuff gets to slide. But there's no methodical way to tell what, in advance.)
(Dr. Horrible, on the other hand, he does, so if he says doing stuff with that is okay, it's totally kosher


Would his brothers and future sister-in-law not have a say in the matter too? Just a idle thought.
It depends on who Timescience Bloodclub, LLC is, since they are the legal copyright holders to Dr. Horrible.
The One Tru b!X said what I was about to say. I should have spoken (written?) more carefully: not Joss himself, but the production company Timescience Bloodclub, or whomever in the circumstances of some other work, only retains the intellectual property rights if they haven't sold them to a network or a larger production company, or if they haven't been working under the auspices of that big production company to make the work. (i. e., anything Joss makes on Fox's dime and time belongs to Fox.)

I'm not 100% on the above, but I can tell you - as we have all seen - that Joss does NOT own the rights to OMWF. (Interestingly enough, when people were trying to legally obtain the rights to perform it, no copyright holder was to be found. Only after people made money on it did someone step up and claim it. I know this because I received several reports from people I advised to contact 20th C Fox who said that Fox - the company, not the network - told them to call the WB.)
I know this because I received several reports from people I advised to contact 20th C Fox who said that Fox - the company, not the network - told them to call the WB.)


Really? Wow. US television seems to be a three ring circus from where I'm sitting.
If you were closer, you could see all the other rings. It's kind of fractal. Turtles all the way down.
Simon, my guess is that what Kiba is referring to was still inside the distribution window that WB (really WB? not UPN?) had paid for the license. I'm not sure I explained that very well.

Now, the WB licensed window would be over and the distribution rights have reverted back to the owners of the property, 20th Century Fox.
Intellectual Property is so wacky.
I think the ever awesome Kiba summed the entire thing up in 5 words.
TamaraC wrote on November 22, 22:21 CET
The silver lining is that it may light a fire under the ass of the people who can legally make money off this franchise.


Whoo-hoo! I like silver lining.

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2008-11-23 03:46 ]
Hey all, this is Mike Dougherty, writer/director of Browncoats: Redemption - a fan film for charity. First, I want to thank you for posting frequently about our project. We're in pre-production and this amount of interest is great to see.

This project is ultimately about two things. Raising awareness for the charities involved and continuing stories of the ‘Verse in our own way. Simon’s been kind enough to let me take a second to clear up a few things:

* This is a fan film, not a documentary.
* This is not the crew of Serenity, using any characters you are familiar with in the Firefly ‘Verse, or using the Firefly model ship in any way. It’s all new.
* We’ve done our homework before starting this and will be continuing our communications with the Powers That Be to make sure we haven’t overstepped our bounds.

We've done a great deal of legwork, research, and communication directly with both FOX and Universal, to make sure we are well within their guidelines of not violating copyright laws. Since, as a non-profit, we are not making a dime off of the project, FOX and Universal have both said that provided we are not visually using their materials they own for gain or profit than we are free to work on this project. We’re currently working with their legal departments to get documentation to that effect.

While it’s been said here several times that 20th Century Fox and Universal own those characters and that universe, not Joss, we felt that it is respectful, and only right, to ask the creator, and fellow lover, of the ‘Verse for permission to step foot one in the world his mind created. Since Joss is also a huge supporter of charities, it was important to us that he knew about this project before since Equality Now is one of our big five.

There was some question about the amount that we intend to raise. The figure mentioned above is a year long goal once the DVD is created. With working with the Browncoat Groups, our own marketing at conventions from DragonCon to San Diego Comic Con, cons in between, Can’t Stop The Serenity showings, and all we have wrapped up in our two year marketing plan the amount mentioned above is completely viable as, let me say that again, a year long goal.

If there any questions I can answer for you regarding this please feel free to contact me. Since we are dealing with working in the world of someone else’s intellectual property, we are being extremely transparent as we move forward.
While it’s been said here several times that 20th Century Fox and Universal own those characters and that universe, not Joss, we felt that it is respectful, and only right, to ask the creator, and fellow lover, of the ‘Verse for permission to step foot one in the world his mind created.

I don't think anyone had an issue with Joss being asked. People were just concerned about whether anyone thought that would be anything other than a moral blessing. Heh.

Thanks for the updates, Mike (whose name I am forever going to misread as being Mike Doughty, the musician). Don't mind us in the peanut gallery -- we've just seen enough to know that the questions have to be raised and asked. You, at least, unlike others in the past, seem like you actually want to answer them and/or actually have answers.
Hey Mike, thanks for posting. If you end up with official permission from 20th and from Universal I will be very impressed. And if that happens I think your chances to do great things with this will only increase and as a great side effect show TPTB how much interest there still is in this franchise. I wish you all the luck in the world and I will be in line to buy the first 10 copies of the DVD.
Thanks for the responses. I really appreciate the peanut gallery, because that's part of who we're doing this for.

We want to make sure we are answering the questions that are raised. There might even be something we haven't thought of, and trust me credit will be given if it is. With everything going on, it might take me a couple of days to respond, but I will answer any questions that come here. My email is open to those who want to ask privately.
Mike, you've addressed (or are addressing) most of the major issues, so kudos! If you can get a template for fan films which Universal and 20th Century Fox are okay with, it'll be the first majority property pretty much since Star Wars which could have a fan film following. Pretty obviously, Joss has made his feelings clear about fan films in the past - he even posted on Whedonesque once about a Firefly fan film.
Mike, excellent to hear you are working with the legal departments. I did not mean to imply in any way that a person making a fan film would want to go over Joss's head - there are just lots of misguided folks (not yourself, clearly) who think if Joss says it's okay, then they are immune to any legal ramifications of their use of others' intellectual property.

I'm psyched for you - looking forward to seeing what you all come up with.
And jumping in for Mike, since he again addressed all this at FarPoint con in Baltimore, MD Feb. 14...
The production company is a 501-c3 non-profit. The DVDs will be given for a "donation" to the fund to to be divided among the five charities. After the cost of production is covered, all money will be given to the five charities divided equally.
The only money they keep to pay the actors, etc. will be from merchandise sales (t-shirts, CDs of the score, etc.).
They've managed to secure about $80,000 of in-kind donations, including a digital effects company, use of a location for outdoor shooting, and are in process of getting a warehouse to create the ship sets. (And the pre-visualizations of the ship Redemption look amazing!)
The cast is all hyped up and rabid fans. Mike (the director) and Steve (the producer) clearly want to make a quality product and I'll 'bring the word to them as need it told.' This is not your average shoestring budget fan film.

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