Universal Cracks Down on Fan Art

From what started off as a TV series, the large following of the cancelled hit TV show ‘Fire-Fly’ was allegedly encouraged to create fan-based content for the movie ‘Serenity’.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Success was growing as the viral ‘word of mouth’ started spreading. It spread so well that Universal took notice. The next thing the community knew was that notice and takedown messages soon followed.

“11th Hour Art’s offering for sale and sale of unauthorized ‘Serenity’ shirts may give rise to multiple violations of law, giving rise to various causes of action for copyright infringement, counterfeiting, and unfair competition, among other claims. Recovery on one or more of these claims may include attorney’s fees, treble damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages.” That was according to a post by 11th hour, a Shirt artist.

While it seems that original artwork was present that had nothing to do with the film, Universal also stated in an alleged cease and desist notice, “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’m exhausted, emotionally and physically. I’ve spent most of the past few days since the notification overhauling my shop.” Comments ’11th Hour’, “I’ve put aside all other projects, and haven’t gotten that much sleep doing this. I’m actually starting to feel ill… this whole thing is just sickening.”

Affinitive provided a case study on the instance saying, “Universal was able to create a community around the release of Serenity that harnessed the power of a large member base that exceeded the most optimistic of expectations. Members were encouraged to form regional groups to promote the film and perform activities that would help generate word of mouth, like creating bumper stickers and gift cards.” It concluded, “While the theatrical release of Serenity met only modest success at the box office, the Browncoats campaign maintained momentum through the DVD release, whose success spurred additional sales of the original Firefly DVD. At one point following the release of Serenity on DVD, both Serenity and Firefly were #1 and #2 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list despite the Firefly DVD being over a year old.”

One blogger warns, “make sure you’re not using any official logos, character or ship likenesses, reproductions of movie graphics, or other potential copyright infringements.”

Universal Studios was unavailable for comment.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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