Well, the people at 20th Century Fox are sure being 20th Century Fascists lately. Lots of webmasters who run Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan sites are running scared -- Fox has decided to crack down on any website that uses "video clips, sequentially arranged framegrabs, episode guides and episode transcripts." The popular Buffy script site at www.mustreadtv.com/buffyscripts just got shitcanned by Fox's lawyers, according to Ain't It Cool News. And www.theslayer.net [which, alas, is no more - 2003 update] has also been sent a cease-and-desist order by the Fox werewolves.
This is the letter sent to www.theslayer.net:
To Whom It May Concern :
We are writing
to you on behalf of our client, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
(hereinafter "Fox"). Fox is the exclusive owner of
all copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights
in and to the
Fox has dedicated tremendous time and resources to the creation of quality entertainment programming such as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," and greatly values the comments and suggestions of fans who enjoy Fox's programs. However, the development and distribution of Fox's programs requires a collaboration with many different entities, including guild organizations representing actors, directors and writers, as well as local, national and international television stations and cable and satellite programming services. Based in part on these relationships, Fox has a legal responsibility, including many contractual obligations, to prevent the unauthorized distribution of its proprietary material.
We recently discovered that your web site (http://www.theslayer.net) contains video clips, sequentially arranged framegrabs, episode guides and episode transcripts of the Buffy and Angel Copyrights and Trademarks.
Fox tries to support its fans whenever possible. However, after reviewing your web site we must request that you remove all video clips, sequentially arranged framegrabs, episode guides and episode transcripts relating to "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" from your web site as soon as possible. You are hereby put on notice that the unauthorized use of Fox's proprietary material, as well as the reproduction, sale and/or distribution by you of such unauthorized and/or derivative materials (including providing such items for free on the Internet) constitutes copyright infringement and trademark infringement, and potentially subjects you to civil liability.
We also request that you remove any and all links to other sites containing infringing "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" material. You are hereby put on notice that liability for contributory copyright infringement can emanate from your providing such links.
Finally, we note that your site contains "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" stationary-frame images. We must inform you that the unauthorized display and distribution of such images constitutes a copyright violation. While we are not asking you to delete these images at this time, we must nonetheless request that you prominently display the following on every page of your site exhibiting any "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" images:
1. Legal Notice
"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" TM and © (or copyright) Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication or distribution of these materials in any form is expressly prohibited.; and
This web site, its operators and any content on this site relating to "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" are not authorized by Fox.
We also request that you refrain from posting any commercial advertisements on any page of your site exhibiting "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" images.
While we expect that you will want to accede to our requests, please understand that if you do not remove these infringing materials without delay, we will be forced to recommend to Fox that it take appropriate legal action against you to have them removed. Thank you for your cooperation in this regard.
Your interest in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" is most appreciated. Fox will continue to do its best to bring you quality entertainment.
Nothing contained in this letter constitutes an express or implied waiver of any rights, remedies or defenses of Fox.
Very truly yours,
Dennis L. Wilson
...Can you fuckin' believe that? These people don't have anything better to do with their day than surf the web looking for websites that have a few screengrabs or episode guides? (Actually, the webmaster of theslayer.net suspects that a disgruntled "fan" who tried and failed to unite a bunch of Buffy sites in a money-making scheme pulled a Benedict Arnold and ratted all the sites out to Fox.)
At the heart of all this is the old ideological battle between Free Exchange of Ideas and Free Capitalist Growth. In this corner, weighing 98 pounds: the fans who just want to pay tribute to something they love. In this corner, weighing 5,000 pounds: the corporate monolith that sees such tribute not as a compliment, not as free advertisement for their wares, not as a reassuring sign that their product is popular, but as a threat to their bottom line.
Yes, artists should be paid for their work, yada yada yada. But I don't think posting a screengrab of Giles wearing a sombrero is going to take food out of Anthony Stewart Head's mouth. In fact, I'm so sure of it that I'll post one here (taken from another Buffy site that doesn't seem to have been affected yet -- and will go unnamed here for its own protection against the Fox wolves). Submitted for your approval:
Yes! There it is, folks! An illegal use of 20th Century Fox's proprietary material! What do you think they'll do to me? Come and get me, Fox! Come to my house and rip the JPEG off my hard drive yourselves, assholes! AH HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Force me to take it off the web, I'll email it to people. Take my email access away, I'll print it out and snail-mail it to people. Take my printer away, I'll draw it on a piece of paper and snail-mail it to people. Break my drawing hand, I'll learn how to draw with my other one. Break both my hands, I'll put on a sombrero myself and re-enact the fucking scene for whoever wants to see it.
Don't these studios ever learn?
Corporations seem to have no idea how bad they make themselves look. (As if they had a dazzling public image to begin with.) Fox curbstomps Buffy fans, Paramount goes all Borg on Star Trek fan sites ... and then there was the whole Napster brouhaha. Confronted with a new and powerful mode of fanhood -- the Internet -- corporations lack the imagination and foresight to do anything about it except smash. Kill! Sue! Threaten legal action! Face it, suits, the Internet is here to stay. That Pandora's box is never closing. So you can either work with it -- as many pro-Napster recording artists did when they made exclusive recordings available on their own official websites -- or try to stamp it out, and make yourselves look like cold-blooded greedhead amphibian fucks in the process.
Most fans are honorable. Most fans would love to pay Fox or Paramount or record labels for the entertainment they crave. If they're not getting it officially, and if a pack of devoted fans are providing it unofficially over here off to the side, guess what? They're gonna go there! If, on the other hand, the corporations extracted their heads from their nether regions and paid more attention to the wants and needs of those without whom they would be saying "You want fries with that?", and provided "proprietary material," guess what? The fans would go there!
Take Napster. Most people weren't using that to download entire CDs worth of material that was available in stores, then burning their own CDs and selling them, thus competing directly with officially produced CDs. They were downloading obscure stuff, live stuff, stuff that wasn't available anywhere else -- and that the labels certainly weren't losing money on, because they had never tried to make money on them! Napster should've been a wake-up call to record labels: "Look, if you put it out there officially, in good quality (ever heard an MP3?), people will buy it. People do want to support their favorite artists. People will buy the official albums. People would even pay for what they're downloading for free off Napster, if you put it out!"
In the case of Buffy, you just have to laugh a bitter laugh. Hasn't Fox made enough money off the Slayer since 1997? T-shirts, comic books, a seemingly endless line of novels, action figures, posters, statuettes, God only knows what else....There's a lot of Buffycrap out there. And most of these fan sites are making two things from their hours of effort -- jack and shit. These are labors of love. Occasionally you might see a commission from a click-through to Amazon.com (a link to an official Buffy book, say, which is what the aforementioned Buffy script site did -- they linked to the official collected scripts that weren't on their site) that might pay for, oh, 1/16th of your monthly domain fee. But for the most part, these sites are money pits. People build and maintain fan sites entirely because they want to -- not to retire early.
I can see cracking down on screwheads who make money off what others have created -- although if we did that, we'd have to start with the studio heads and lawyers, wouldn't we? -- but laying a smackdown on honestly motivated fansites smacks of paranoia and greed. And check out some of the wording of that letter above. Not only can't you post anything they consider infringing (debatable at best) -- you can't even provide links to other websites that might post same!
Why don't you just come to my house, Fox lawyers, and tell me what I can and can't say. Why don't you just slap a lawsuit on me every time my energies go towards something that doesn't result in more money for Fox. Why don't you just tell me I can no longer use the words BUFFY - THE - VAMPIRE - SLAYER in succession, since that might violate some dingbat rule you just made up. In fact, since my very memory of any given episode is copyrighted by Fox and essentially you own that part of my brain, why don't you just tell me not to watch the show any more. Wouldn't that be the ultimate, huh? Nobody watching your show! No fans! No fan sites! No danger of anyone infringing upon your proprietary material. Eventually you might even attain a state of utter noncreative purity, wherein you produce no entertainment at all -- just lawsuits.
And then? Then we'll make websites about your lawsuits, you sun-fattened Beverly Hills fucks.
Come and get me. I dare ya.