I received my first e-mail from a so-called law firm saying that I am a bad boy and that I need to remove certain material from my site. Well, it is e-mail and e-mail means nothing, so I ignored it.
For reference, this is what the e-mail had in it: July 6, 2000, e-mail.
Notice that, for a big law firm, they don't even have their own domain. UPDATE [8/01/00]: They do have their own domain; kmwlaw.com. I have no idea why it is not being used for initial correspondence.
This was my response.
The envelope contained paper copies of all the e-mails:
Should I call him back without legal council? That is a good question. One to which I do not have a good answer.
From what I could gather, the law firm is not going out looking for sites. 20th Century Fox and/or Warner Bros. tell the firm about sites. For sure my site was given to them. I won't go into details of the phone conversation because I don't remember every word of the approx. 45 minute conversation. I don't have it on tape because he didn't want it recorded.
There appears to be room for compromise. Because he does not have final say in these matters, it has to be presented to Fox and Warner Bros. The biggest objections are the EPK, newser material and marketing material. What I do not understand, and he couldn't comment on, is why the "Faces of the WB" and "The Night is Young" promos are hot on their list, considering that they have broadcast them via their network and they had/have them on their website. Yet they don't like it anywhere else. If I were The WB, I'd be proud to have that video on various web sites. It is great promotion of their network. I would have been happy to link to their page, because of the extra files they have there (which do not work for Unix platforms), but nope, they'd rather complain. I provided extra demographic coverage that their small Quicktime files do not cover.
I can hear it now: "What do you mean it is going to go away from your web site?" Yep, that is part of the compromise I am presenting. All of the EPK (Electonic Press Kit), newser material (interview clips, etc.) and marketing videos/stills will be removed from the site. All of the listed material that I have that has been created by Fox or Warner Bros. will be removed from the site by Wednesday morning. I will be keeping all of the other material.
But, as part of the natural aging process, a majority of the promos for many shows will be removed. When new season promos start appearing in ernest, the previous season promos will be retired. They have served their purpose in promoting the show and need to make room for the next season promos. They can't stay up forever, there just isn't the space.
So, the behind the scenes type material will no longer be available from this web site. Later on in the week I should know what will be happening next.
One thing that I forgot to mention in the e-mail reply, is that last year the entertainment reporter for the WB flagship in LA, KTLA, called the 20th Century Fox actions, in so many words, stupid. A major station in the heart of Hollywood saying that these actions are stupid, only goes to show that what 20th Century Fox is doing, is (you guessed it), stupid.
As a side note, the promos for Fox network shows will not be returning to this site next season. Not because of this war, but bcause 20th Century Fox is converting their satellite feeds to a digital transmission system that is proprietary. That means that I can't purchase a digital receiver, even if I wanted to. It also means that promos for Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Dark Angel, X-Files, or any new show that I might be interested in, will no longer be available. I guess that they'll win by default for these shows.
The lawyers still believe that the U.S. mirror is my ISP. They are not my ISP, they are my domainname server. They are just waiting to get sued by falsely claiming that they are my ISP.
It has taken them over a year since the last time they bothered me. Here is what they sent this time: June 28, 2002. My response will be forthcoming.
Fox has placed the following on their web site:
12. How come some "unofficial" websites are being shut down?
A STATEMENT FROM FOX REGARDING FAN WEBSITES
In response to erroneous rumors circulating on some internet websites, Fox wishes to assure fans of "THE X-FILES", "MILLENNIUM" "KING OF THE HILL" and "THE SIMPSONS" that it is not Fox's intention to shut down bona fide websites created by fans devoted to these programs.
However, Fox must require all websites using copyrighted and trademarked materials to comply with guidelines that protect the creative integrity of the programs they represent. Fox has not asked any websites to be closed except a few which were using program materials in an inappropriate manner. Some examples of inappropriate uses we have found include:
(a) using copyrighted photographs, images and sounds which have not been approved for distribution;
(b) removing Fox's copyright and trademark notices and asserting ownership by a third party, or asserting that copyrighted and trademarked materials are in the public domain;
(c) copying or altering text, photographs, images, designs and logos from official websites without permission or attribution;
(d) copying or altering photographs, images, designs and logos from programs in a manner that denigrates the programs, the actors or the characters they portray;
(e) using photographs, images, designs and logos to promote a product or commercial business or service;
(f) carrying advertising for parties not associated with the programs;
(g) offering unlicensed merchandise for sale;
We know true fans do not encourage inappropriate activities and respect the hard work of the many talented and imaginative people who make Fox's programs unique. Fox appreciates the support of all fans in protecting its creative rights and proprietary interests.
As you read through each of the items, I am not violating any of the sections. But, they are obviously using section a) as the means to which they are attacking my site, and all of the others. By declaring everything out there, which they appear to have done in the letters that they sent me, as not approved for distribution, they have made the rest of the sections null-and-void.
Somewhere, one or more suits (tie too tight maybe :-) have deemed that it is not right that they are being given free publicity from the fan sites that are using the material in a way that promotes the shows. They certainly can't say that the actors are up in arms because they are losing income. Excuse me, but the actors on each of the shows are currently receiving income because of viewers and fans like us. I do not know of any actor on any of the shows that I have on my web site that is upset and wants the material about him/her and/or show removed. If there is, I'd sure like to hear from one.
I've yet to see anything official from any of the suits regarding this war. Every article I've seen gets a "no comment," when the author asks.
And now Warner Bros. is getting in on the War. Obviously the suits at WB have forgotten what they said regarding Babylon 5:
From the Babylon 5 mailing list on the Viacom matter. JMS is Joe Straczynski, the creator and executive producer of Babylon 5. A viewer's question is first, then Joe's response:
- From: BFrost@exch.reedtool.com (Brian Frost)
You may or may not be aware that Viacom is trying to shutdown any Web site that does more than provide discussion of Star Trek.
Seems to me that they are going to shoot themselves in the foot. The fans are what has given Star Trek life over these many years.
Would you or WB consider taking such action against Fan maintained B5 sites? I maintain a page for Houston B5 viewers and this would most definitely affect the layout of my page.
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jms at B5)
Actually, WB and I have already had discussions about this (along with John C. and others in B5 production). What we proposed, because of the unique relationship between us and the online community, was that WB *not* go after the fan web pages AS LONG AS they attached the proper copyright info to any graphics or other material that's owned by WB. This prevents the material from falling into the public domain, which is the main concern here. (Most folks don't know that you can lose your copyright if you do not make best, concerted efforts to defend it.)
It's a sane and sensible policy, and thus far it seems to be working.
I guess the suits at WB have lost their sanity. They have definately lost it because their official Dawson's Creek website invites users to post links to their unofficial sites. I'll bet that 100% of those sites have something that they are complaining my site has.
So, what an I trying to say? Well, as I read the copyright laws, I'm not violating one damn thing. I have to be using the material to cause harm to the holder, or I have to be claiming ownership of the material, or I have to have changed the material drastically, or I have to be using the material to degrade the holder of the material (things like calling them names, saying the program is crap, stuff like that), or I have to be using the material to sell unlicensed material, etc. I do not do any of the above. They are also going to have to prove damages. Excuse me, but if putting money in their pockets and helping to keep actors, and crew, employed is damaging, then I'm at a loss for words. I haven't made one red cent. This web site actually COSTS me money. I do it because I love watching the shows that I have on this site.
I am going to be digging for the USnail mail and e-mail addresses of the head suits at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. We will have to start sending them polite letters saying that what they are doing is in direct opposition to what the stockholders want. Stockholders want profits. They don't want stupid lawsuits that cost them money. If fan sites help fortify the bottom line, especially when they don't cost a penny extra, stockholders will love that too. Too bad we can't get a list of all the stockholders of these two companies and send them letters, explaining where their money is going. Angry stockholders, like angry voters, are not something you want to get upset.
BTW, I'm looking for a pro-bono lawyer. If you are a lawyer and willing to take on the big boys, let me know. Or, if you know a lawyer who is willing to do this pro-bono, please let me know. Unlike Fox and Warner Bros., I don't have deep pockets. I'll have to win a big PowerBall Lottery drawing before my pockets can match their pockets :-)
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