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October 20 2005

Live performance of "Once More with Feeling" halted. 20th Century Fox's attorneys have shut down a planned live performance of the Buffy musical in San Francisco.

Wankers. You cancel one of the best shows ever, that don't let an amatuer dramatics group stage a production of Buffy.

Get over yourselves already.
*shakes head*

"Fox, Fox, Fox"

*sigh*
Big surprise...not.
Fox continues its historic march towards offending, insulting or suing anyone who crosses their path. Nice work, Rupert, good to know you can lock down one of the keys to your empire (that of course being a solitary episode of a series that hasn't aired in 3 years) so effectively. Shiny!
So I take it Fox has plans on doing a stage play of OMWF? Oh, not. Yeah Wankers.
This bites. "Wankers," indeed. Stupid wankers at that. You'd think that allowing amateur groups to stage performances of OMWF would actually *add* to BtVS DVD sales over the long term. What a dreadful network. My loathing for it only continues to increase.
Way to show the love, FOX. So nice to see you've grown.
Buh, just to clarify, this is 20th Century Fox (the company that brought us Buffy, Angel and Firefly), not Fox Broadcast Corporation.

I would say 'the stage show should have licensed this from Fox', but it's nearly impossible to actually get to anybody who works in Fox Licensing for things like this.
i am so sad. this was to be the shining star of my weekend, nay, month, and now it goes down in foxy flames. it sucks so bad that they can own this incredible stuff and can just sit on it and prevent other people from celebrating it and there's nothing anyone can do about it, not even the person who created the damn thing in the first place.

ok, i'm calm now. wait. no i'm not.

[ edited by injust on 2005-10-19 22:37 ]
Deleted.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-10-19 22:38 ]
yea this is 20th Century Fox divison of the News Corporation, not Fox television network. 20th century produces and FOx TV broadcasts.

Were they making money off of this?? anyone know.
From Counterpulse

"We have asked FOX if we could in any way negotiate permission to go forward, considering the fact that we didn’t know the rules, but want to do the right thing in regard to copyrights. Their reasons were the following:

• We should have asked first.
• That FOX has not given the rights to do the musical to anyone and lots have inquired.
• That giving us even one-time permission would compromise FOX’s and 3rd parties future interests in Buffy, an extremely valuable property for them.
• That they would not allow any event where they did not have direct control of all tickets and accounting.
• Any permission couldn’t just be given by FOX, but would also have to be agreed to by all the 3rd parties that have agreements or licenses in regard to Buffy-related materials."
ChosenOne - it was not-for-profit. 20th Century Fox will license out Buffy for theatre performances for charities and not-for-profits for a very nominal fee, and it's easy to do, so I see no reason why it's not the same for theatre.
Just do the show for free. They can't sue if you don't profit from it.
Buh, just to clarify, this is 20th Century Fox (the company that brought us Buffy, Angel and Firefly), not Fox Broadcast Corporation.


Well, the article says "Fox TV's attorneys". Not "20th century fox" but "Fox TV", which seems to refer more to Fox Broadcast Corporation... or am I wrong?

Anyhow, the article is full of well placed humor: look at the title and the last part in italics. :)
Sadly they can sue ,and indeed will sue.

Profit isn't the issue , it's copyright of character names, music etc.

Disney reputedly threatened to sue a children's hospital for painting Winnie The Pooh on the wall of a children's ward . So Fox aren't the only bad guys.

There are lawyers who spend their time trawling the internet for possible violations.

Nice job!

[ edited by debw on 2005-10-19 22:50 ]
SpikeBad - they can. And they would.

There are lawyers who spend their time trawling the internet for possible violations.


Does this mean that we should add a "copyright" sign everytime we write Buffy©, Angel©, Firefly©, or talk about Mal©'s song... and what about Simon©? If we talk about our Simon, I guess the © is not necessary, but if we talk about the Tam© one...

I can't imagine how much lines the moderators will have to correct to add the mandatory ©. :P
Ah, Hollywood... never did understand the concept of "free advertising." It won't cost them anything, and it increases the visibility of an "extremely valuable property." People who would see it and like it would like actually buy the season 6 set and the soundtrack, which they could have taken advantage of... but since when do suits ever think outside their tiny little boxes.
It's not necessarilly fair to call Fox Production nor it's lawyers bad guys. They're only following the law. The law states they MUST aggressively defend their copywrite properties at all instances or else they will lose them to public domain.
I had an incedent happen to me when I was about 10. I had a fan website for The Simpsons with pictures, trivia etc. And a few weeks after I put it up I got a letter from fox telling me to take down the site or face legal action.
It's not necessarilly fair to call Fox Production nor it's lawyers bad guys. They're only following the law. The law states they MUST aggressively defend their copywrite properties at all instances or else they will lose them to public domain.


But they are following it very narrowly, and very unimaginatively. If they wanted, they could have established a license fee for OMWF as a performable piece. That would establish the bona fides of their claim on the property, make them a little bit of dosh for the license fee, and increase the visibility of the product. It's a win-win scenario that they are too pig-headed to see.
This just makes me very sad.
Hmm, well, not to sound all supporty of big business, but when I first heard about this, I wondered if it was kosher. And I don't see a problem with them enforcing their own rules. No, in the big picture it probably wouldn't hurt them, and I'm sure Joss would be all for it, but I do understand their rationale.

considering the fact that we didn’t know the rules,

It's especially hard to swallow that a theater company didn't even think to get permission to give a performance of an existing, owned property. Even if it's not for profit. You're still playing with someone else's toys. It's why people can't write Anne Rice fanfic...no money, but it's hers so she has the right to say no.

And I hate to say, but that stake in their back pocket ain't gonna get them far. I don't think Fox is liable to change their rules because Joss says so.

[ edited by Rogue Slayer on 2005-10-19 23:20 ]
Hmm, well, not to sound all supporty of big business, but when I first heard about this, I wondered if it was kosher.

I wondered the same thing, and I have to agree with everything that Rogue Slayer has said. It is unbelievable today that any theater company would argue that they did not understand copyright issues.

And would the "third parties" be named Kuzui?
Yeah same for me I'm afraid. Sure, FOX would not exactly be hurting from this, but copyright is not exactly a secret issue. If you start planning this production, first thing you have to do if check if it's okay or whether they will have issues with it. Just going ahead without wondering is kinda on the dumb side, no offense.

If I just create a stage musical about Superman or something, then yes, Warner Bros. is going to be knocking on my door asking what the hell I'm doing. They own it, that's just how it is. Yes, FOX is being tight-assed, but it's their property to be tight-assed with.
Wow, this sucks. Maybe it was to be expected, but it still sucks. Must also be hard for the people who've practiced this thing and were ready to start performing it...

ETA: Having read the comments by Rogue Slayer, I have to agree with what she said as well, though. It is odd that they say they didn't even think of asking permission.

What I do find strange though, is that Fox is not giving permission for these kind of things. As long as a theatre company is going to pay to use the rights, I'd say 'go right ahead!' if I was running Fox. But then again, I'm not known for my keen business sense.

[ edited by GVH on 2005-10-19 23:47 ]
They who own the license call the shots, I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner. 20th Century Fox are perfectly within their rights to do this.
If you can't use the real names and scripts then just do a parody of it like on SNL. Fluffy the English Vampire Slayer. Anyone remember that piece of fanfic?
I had asked for the rights to OMWF a couple of years ago for a non-profit theater company and never received a response. Any play you do, free or not, non-profit or not, has royalties involved. We just had to pay $5000 for 5 shows of Fiddler on the Roof. I was doubtful this would happen and can't believe an actual theater company didn't know any better.

And yet I'm sad that it can't be done because it would make a great stage-show.

[ edited by Stephanie on 2005-10-20 00:41 ]
Of course, there's a difference between what constitutes the lawful thing to do, and what constitutes the cool thing to do. (Not a huge difference, I hasten to add . . .)

Fox are certainly acting within the letter of the law in protecting their TMs and Cs. And it was remiss of the theatre company not to investigate. Still, I tend to agree with IMForeman that a creative and mutually-beneficial solution could and should be found for future licensed uses . . . assuming Fox has any interest in granting such licences. I can't believe they wouldn't at least listen to applications from not-for-profit theatre or other educational groups. Well, I can quite easily believe it, but it would incredibly dense to do so.

Even when Fox acts appropriately (legally-speaking), it sure is hard to muster up much sympathy for their heavy-handed and inflexible approach. Instead of inviting a dialogue, at which their lawyers can say "this is what you can do and this is what you can't do," they send out the discussion-ending C & D form letter, followed up by the actual threat of litigation letter. Pity.
Good thing they never heard that a certain college here in Dublin, Ireland, put a OMWF show on last year then. I won't name it in case they get in trouble :) Or do these lawyers only work in the States?

I went, was quite good, really liked the way they did the "previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Get this know why there aren't fanfilms screened at ComicCon anymore? It's because you have to pay to get into ComicCon therefore you are paying to see the fanfilm. They can screen them at the hotel across the street no charge though. How's that make sense?
The annoying thing about a situation like this is that they stop you just in case they might want to do something themselves and it turns out a couple of years down the line that they never did.
I was lucky enough to watch the live OMWF showing at DragonCon in Atlanta and it was a fun time for hundreds of fans.

Seeing this article makes me sad. And oh gee....Fox. The Usual Suspects.
NPR had a bit on something similar; an all-girl production of Grease was shut down in a big huff due to licensing issues. While it is perfectly within their rights, as Simon said, after the eventual Hollywood vs. Everyone in the Entire World Throwdown, those rights might not exist, and actions like these might very well accelerate the process.
I'm surprised it took so long for Fox to even notice it was happening. Zap2It had a story on it more than a week ago. It's too bad it ended this way.

[ edited by impalergeneral on 2005-10-20 02:31 ]
I'm sorry to hear that Fox, as usual, is too short sighted to realize that this production would only benefit their Buffy franchise. I agree that they should have asked for permission from Fox first and that Buffy *is* Fox's intellectual property, but this seems like a big, multinational corporation putting the school play out of business.

GVH wrote in part "... I'd say 'go right ahead!' if I was running Fox. But then again, I'm not known for my keen business sense."

Neither is Fox, apparently!

[ edited by The Rhett on 2005-10-20 02:51 ]
Thiefjehat, I was at the 'Buffy Horror Picture Show' at DragonCon too....and that *might* be a different story. It could be legitimately argued that the showing of the actual episode, with fans playacting beneath it, falls under the category of "viewing an episode" rather than a "stage performance"...in the same way Rocky gets shown.

At least, I certainly *hope* that's the case. That was too much fun. :)
I get the impression that there's a musical waiting to be written here ... an amateur theatre troupe attepmting to stage a musical of old TV show, but having to deal with a large corporation aggressively trying to enforce its copyright.

Do you think Joss would be interested in collaborating? I hear he's written a musical before ...
I've been saying for years that OMWF needs to be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. Let's do it nationally. Seriously. Someone get on that.
if Joss' work was a car, and he sold that car to 20th for a lot of money, then 20th owns that car. It's not cool to break into 20th's garage and steal the car for a joyride, even if they were asleep and not using the car.

If 20th makes its money by leasing its vehicles, but they can't stop people from stealing its vehicles, then there's no point in 20th continuing to buy vehicles.
The thing is, as long as you operate under the radar, you don't get caught. I'm not sure I buy the argument that the theater troupe didn't know about the rules, but I suspect they figured that since it was a low budget, local production, that Fox wouldn't care.

What people don't seem to realize is that Whedonesque is the big time. Say something (positive or negative) about someone here and it has big, real world consequences.

It should be assumed that if Joss lurks here, then representatives from Fox and Universal do too. Lots of other Whedonish sites get their news from Whedonesque. It's like the AP feed for all things Whedon!

If this production of OMWF hadn't been written about on Whedonesque, I suspect that it would never have even been noticed and no harm done.

[ edited by The Rhett on 2005-10-20 03:31 ]

[ edited by The Rhett on 2005-10-20 03:34 ]
my college did a show, and got a great turnout :)
Personally I think if the producers had made any attempt to approach the copyright owners in the first place they would have been given permission to perform it at a nominal fee. But OMWF is not in the public domain, and it was really unprofessional, and kind of stupid to over look that.
When fans get together for a karaoke type 'performance' (for which no charge is made) then there is obviously no reason for Fox to be concerned, but an advertised public performance really couldn't be ignored (they would be giving up future rights to the property by allowing it).
And even though the article was Fox Television, I'm pretty sure that only Twentieth Centure Fox Production owns the rights.
< sarcasm >I never saw that coming.< /sarcasm >
I have received multiple emails from folks wanting to do the show and have had them try to get through to 20th C Fox re: performance rights and never once were they successful, so I don't think it is safe to assume if they'd only asked first Fox would've said yes.

Even so, I join the people shocked that a real theatre co. wouldn't think to ask about royalties, esp. for such a visible performance.

OMWF has been being Rocky Horror-ed since 2002, when some Bronzers at PBP got up a singalong. Of course, that was a private viewing among very close friends. Who happened to sing along. In costume. We had a lot of fun, and would've done it again in 2003 but the hotel management wasn't very nice about it so we had to stop.

Anyway, I do think Fox is silly not to realize the financial potential here, but I don't think they are morally bankrupt because of it. (Indeed, 20th C I find okay mostly, it's FBC I don't like.)
And you wonder sometimes why people don't ever feel guilty downloading tv shows and music. *sigh*

Not that I do *beams at whedoncollectioninbookshelf* but it's hard to think of it as "stealing" from these people, isn't it?
The law states they MUST aggressively defend their copywrite properties at all instances or else they will lose them to public domain.


Trademarks must be vigorously protected or else risk losing them. Copyrights work on a completely different set of (absurdly convoluted) rules.

Not that Fox is interested in giving out free licenses to the non-trademark IP (and that'd be tricky anyway, since scripts and music fall under copyright law but the phrase "Buffy The Vampire Slayer™" falls under trademark). The management of any corporation have a fiduciary obligation to it stockholders, to squeeze as much profit out of the company's assets as they possibly can. Hollywood has finally caught on that the value of intellectual property can be diluted if they over-license. For instance, if *cough* there were so many millions of mass-market cheapo crappy Star Wars toys flooding the market that consumers started to get sick of the whole thing. So as long as Fox's accounting dept believes that the most profitable plan is to hold the reins tight on Buffy licensing, we're pretty much screwed.

I choose to think there's a bright side somehow, though. OMWF rights should only be dilutable if you've got plans to exploits its financial potential on a much larger scale, right? So c'mon, Fox, give us Buffy: The Broadway Musical! Heck, if The Lion King can be a Broadway smash, why not?

[ edited by Ceec on 2005-10-20 04:59 ]
[deleted]

[ edited by Ceec on 2005-10-20 04:59 ]
Didn't Joss mention something about taking OMWF to Broadway, or was that a joke?
Joss might want to take it to Broadway, but FOX may not allow it.

I've completely eliminated FOX broadcasting from my TV viewing. Now what other FOX shall I no longer patronize?
The 'third party' comment intrigues me. I wonder, like palehorse, how much control and influence the Kuzuis really have? It's been sounding lately like we're getting a Spike movie one of these days; they'll no doubt reap a chunk of that profit, though their contribution remains a merely contractual one.

It is surprising that the theater company didn't pursue rights -- or even realize rights should have been pursued -- before going into production, but I also disbelieve they would have been granted permission even if they had approached the appropriate FOX arm (which the outlined denial appears to imply).

The legal entanglement issues behind the Buffy-verse must be incredible. I imagine roomfuls of lawyers in cushy conference rooms arguing over vampires and Slayers. It's just so surreal, it has to be true. And something as simple as this, cast against the gamut of things JW has had to deal with, really gives me a sense of how the collaborations necessary to bring brilliant creative work to a larger audience sometimes make it almost impossible for their creators to hold on to what they've made. I guess we should consider ourselves fortunate we got a piece of the Joss pie at all.
Couldn't people do this for free, and it's up to any attendees to make good-hearted donations?
This has now made it to the super high traffic site "boing boing":
http://www.boingboing.net/2005/10/20/fox_shuts_down_buffy.html

(see, I checked before I posted for dupes ;-)
Mick the Knife wrote:
I was at the 'Buffy Horror Picture Show' at DragonCon too....and that *might* be a different story. It could be legitimately argued that the showing of the actual episode, with fans playacting beneath it, falls under the category of "viewing an episode" rather than a "stage performance"...in the same way Rocky gets shown.


Technically that may be an even bigger violation than just copyright, that is breaking part of the piracy laws that stipulate you can not charge people for the viewing of the show, in this case people paid to attend dragoncon, so if FOX finds out about it they are well within there rights to sue and perhaps even shut down Dragoncon or force them to pay compensation, which in turn would force DC to halt the Buffy track at there event to avoid further lawsuits.
Couldn't people do this for free, and it's up to any attendees to make good-hearted donations?

It's not just about the money, FOX et al have the right to control how their properties are seen and 'messed with'. It's like with fanfiction. No one makes money, but some authors have patently refused to allow fans to write stories based on their original characters. It's about image control and the like.
Rogue Slayer, I find that so infuriating. I almost feel like practicing civil disobedience, putting on some Buffy drag and singing this musical in public myself, just to see if the cops will drag me off.

"I just want to be... ALIIIIIIVE!"
I almost feel like practicing civil disobedience, putting on some Buffy drag and singing this musical in public myself, just to see if the cops will drag me off.


I imagine they would drag you off, but not for copyright infringement.... :~P
I think thats immature. How can they be so selfish. A certain song comes to mind..... "It's all about the money"
Ronald, where exactly will you be doing this, and can I buy you a beer afterward?
Well, it *is* all about the money to these people! They don't care about the work, as such. They don't care about the fans. They care about their bottom line. And it's probably never been otherwise. I think my sticking point is that Fox, in general, seems to be very short sighted.

Allowing a local, amateur theatre troupe to put on a show based on OMWF might endanger their trademarks; I can't speak to that because I don't really have a grip on trademark law.

But in terms of sheer profit, it could only work as free marketing for them. No one is going to decide not to buy Season 6 and go to the play instead. If anything, people who see the play and don't already have a Buffy shrine including all 7 seasons, might be more inspired to get the DVD and start collecting.

That's my take anyway. And while I agree that owners of intellectual property should have the right to deny anyone else use of their works, I also think there's common sense. A few years ago, I found some students had used one of my songs in the opening credits for one of their films. I *could* have sued them or shut them down, I suppose, but instead I informed them that they should have asked for permission and suggested that if they were going to use my work, they might give me credit and provide a link to my web site. They agreed and I've benefited from it. For me, it was free marketing. I got traffic, fans and sold music that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

I'm just sayin'...

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