Date: 04 Jan 1997 18:05:13 -0700
From: J. Michael Straczynski <email@example.com>>
Subject: Paramount STRIKES!!!
This is a most unfortunate development. But there are some ways you can try to deal with this constructively.
Last year, WB became aware of the existence of many BABYLON 5 sites, and the Legal Affairs Department was of a mind to take similar action (as has been taken by other shows, including the Simpsons). The reason for their desire is simple. It's not that the sites present a *threat* per se, but there is the issue of copyright protection at stake.
To explain...and this may help you to at least understand Paramount's position, even if you don't agree with it...if copyrighted material begins to be passed around freely, and copied, and edistributed, and published, without the proper protections, eventually the material will become *public domain*. The studio no longer owns it. In order to demonstrate that you own the material, you must make consistent, and conscientious efforts to protect your claim to that name and/or that property.
Many companies and individuals have actually *lost* the right to the copyright of material they own or created because they did not take steps to actively protect it. Which is why you often see advertisements from companies like Xerox reminding people that it's a *company name*, and not a generic term for photocopying. Otherwise they risk letting that name become a word, part of the vernacular, and as indefensible as saying "tissue paper" is a copyrightable term.
When material from a show is posted without the proper copyright protection, every time you allow this to happen it moves that material further and further into public domain. Once it *becomes* public domain, the studio will not be able to profit from it, ownership questions come up, and outside agencies can produce anything they want, slap that name on it, and sell it. It's a cumulative effect, over time. And it *is* a real problem; don't delude yourself by saying so because you *want* it not to be so. The law is the law is the law.
When this came to our attention, we (acting sort of as fan advocates) sat down with WB legal and discussed ways of doing it short of sending out these exact sort of letters to BABYLON 5 sites. What we came to was the following understanding: that WB would not actively go after sites which used B5 photos and other material PROVIDED THAT the proper copyright information was appended to the material utilized. They are currently in the process of verifying and evaluating sites before sending letters telling them to append this information.
This seems to me a fair and reasonable response to what is, intruth, a genuine concern. What may help here is for system operators of web sites to append the copyright information, and notify Paramount that they are in full and complete compliance with copyright, and acknowledge formally that Paramount is the owner of all copyrighted material posted on that site. They may, or may not, accept that, but it gives you a place to start. Obviously, magazines use copyrighted images all the time, and Paramount makes no effort to stop that...but if you look in the edges along photos and the like in these Magazines, you will see the words "photo copyright (c) 1997 Paramount Television.;"
That is the difference that allows them to use this material. There is no immediate reason why sites should be viewed in any way differently than a magazine, IF the laws are followed.
(Interestingly, there's a debate in the TV community about the copyright of the original ST being in some dispute, since for about 10 years Paramount did little to protect the name of the original ST, until the first movie came around. I have no actual information on that, however, nor can I comment beyond just remarking on the topic. If there *is* any merit to it, that might further explain their reasonable concern about it happening with current material.) So point is...the concern expressed by Paramount is legitimate, and you should abide by it, OR see if you can find some compromise position by adhering strictly to the copyright laws in how material is displayed, and what material is selected, as we have done with the B5 sites. You may also want to write to those currently running the ST franchise to see if the producers of the show can intercede on the behalf of ST fans as we did for B5 fans. Lawyers have little or no vested interest in the fan/show relationship; those involved directly in these shows, do have a vested interest.
Usual disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and can only speak from anecdotal information, and have no specific information about Paramount, and am in no way suggesting any difference of opinion with their actions. I'm only trying to help you understand the issues involved.
[Please note that this was written without the other factor of Viacom/Paramount's commercial site on the Microsoft Network in mind. However If Viacom's official word that they are only trying to protect their trademark than this advice still stands true. Even if part of the reason is due to their site on the Microsoft Network this information can still be useful if used right]