NBC Universal Shuts Down Battlestar Galactica Fan Charity Event In Toronto

from the not-very-nice dept

And here we have yet another case where the copyright holder is certainly within its rights, but that hardly means that its decision made any business sense at all. Michael_S alerts us to the news that some fans of the TV show Battlestar Galactica tried to set up a showing of the finale in a movie theater in Toronto as a charity event. They spoke to someone at NBC Universal, who basically agreed to look the other way and let the event happen... but then the lawyers found out and they shut the event down, because how dare the biggest fans of one of your biggest shows all get together to celebrate the show and raise money for charity at the same time. Yes, it is absolutely within NBC Universal's legal right to block such a public performance, but it makes the company look like a massive, charity-hating bully, for no good reason (and, before someone says it, the need to enforce applies to trademarks, not copyright). It wouldn't have been hard for NBC Universal to set up a simple license to allow the showing to happen, but when you live in a world where lawyers and control are more important than actual business sense, this is what you get.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:13am

    Wonderful move, NBC Universal! I wonder how many of those loyal fans you just screwed over are now going to wait until the series finale pops up on torrent sites, and skip the actual airing of the show on TV, because of what you've done.

    What a bunch of freaking idiots.

     

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  2.  
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    1812lsd, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:24am

    Don't you mean Fraking idiots.

     

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  3.  
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    R. Miles, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:42am

    I say do it anyway.

    It wouldn't have been hard for NBC Universal to set up a simple license to allow the showing to happen.
    This line is what the frak is wrong with the entertainment industry.

    If the group has confirmation someone at NBC Universal said they'd look the other way, go for it. Tell the lawyers to get blown out of an air dock.

    This country's bullshit licensing structure does more harm than good.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:45am

    Unbelievable.

     

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  5.  
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    Sarssipius, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:45am

    Business world is turning into a huge non-sense...

     

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  6.  
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    Simon, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 3:54am

    Frak em, do it anyway.

    Fine example of why majority of normal people dislike lawyers, pack of frakking money orientated moron's that can't tell good publicity if it leapt up & slapped them in the face.

    R.Mile's idea of blowing them out of a air dock is a great idea, but unfortunatly futile. Given the finacial situation in the world today, there's plenty more unemployed lawyers to replace them with.

     

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  7.  
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    Anshar, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Re: Frak em, do it anyway.

    R.Mile's idea of blowing them out of a air dock is a great idea, but unfortunatly futile. Given the finacial situation in the world today, there's plenty more unemployed lawyers to replace them with.
    Gotta start somewhere.

     

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  8.  
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    Man from Atlanta, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:27am

    Re: Re: Frak em, do it anyway.

    Amen. Dare NBC Universal sue the charity: (1) bad PR; (2) we had permission isn't a bad defense; and (3) my favorite defense to copyright claim -- "You can't get blood from a stone!"

     

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  9.  
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    R. Miles, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:28am

    Re: Frak em, do it anyway.

    R.Mile's idea of blowing them out of a air dock is a great idea, but unfortunatly futile.
    Derived from that old joke:
    Q: What do you call a lawyer at the bottom of the ocean?
    A: A good start.

    I can't say I despise lawyers as much as I do the rules which they believe they're protecting.

    For all that money they spent educating themselves, it boggles my mind they're too narrow-minded to see what's wrong with this industry, rather than changing sides and focus on changing it.

    But, I guess those paychecks are too large to walk away from.

     

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  10.  
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    Man from Atlanta, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:35am

    Re: Re: Frak em, do it anyway.

    It's not the law or the lawyers, it's the small minds and craven hearts that try to use the law to justify wrong decisions.

    Abdicating responsibility and allowing legal analysis to trump business judgment is another failing that should not be laid at the doorstep of lawyers.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    DAMN! I am going to have to buy more paper so I can add these Fawktards to my boycott list.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    DAMN! I am going to have to buy more paper so I can add these Fawktards to my boycott list.

     

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  13.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:57am

    Those last two "Anonymous Cowards" are identical!

    They must be Cylons!

     

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  14.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:05am

    Re:

    I wonder if those gods damned lawyers are going to be pissed off from people using the word "Frak". That word was created by the writers and is synonymous with Battlestar Galactica. Forget the fact that it's like viral marketing and helps increase their fan base, the lawyers already did.

     

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  15.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:19am

    "but it makes the company look like a massive, charity-hating bully, for no good reason"

    No good reason?! I'm just glad that someone is looking out for our nation's corn farmers!

     

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  16.  
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    WarOtter (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:34am

    What if...?

    Save the world for tomorrow, throw an IP lawyer into traffic today!

     

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  17.  
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    Jim, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Frak em, do it anyway.

    Perhaps these "bad" lawyers are just rogue agents working from the inside. Remember the Abe Lincoln quote:

    “...bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still, while they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be religiously observed.” - Abraham Lincoln

    Is it possible that these lawyers are simply trying to catalyze change in copyright law?

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:47am

    And they wonder why network TV is all but dead.

     

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  19.  
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    Seiven, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:32am

    Re: Those last two "Anonymous Cowards" are identical!

    Toasters or skin jobs? because I swear a real toaster...that takes bread and heats it...has more brains than these Frakholes.

     

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  20.  
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    Overcast, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:33am

    Good way to treat your customers!

    Too bad they didn't do that 10 years ago too - they would have already been out of business now.

    Glad I really don't watch much TV anymore - when I was a kid I liked that show; but only managed to get through about 15 minutes of the new one. I suppose I might like it, if I gave it a chance... but with things like this... naaaa.

    Is it possible that these lawyers are simply trying to catalyze change in copyright law?

    I think most certainly that is the case - but it won't lead to more 'consumer rights' without doubt.

     

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  21.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    A total lack of understanding on all sides here. Where do I start?

    I think it is clear that the guys trying to put this event on knew they were working in the grey. Getting someone to "agree to look the other way" is pretty much a worthless argument, you should get them to look the other way ON PAPER. The rights holder in Canada, Space (cable channel) might have been a better place to go, get them on board and then they will work harder with NBC / Universal to get things worked out.

    It's just one of those things where they went about it the wrong way, and the results are what you see.

    NBC / Universal comes off looking bad, but in the end, it's the guys who started at the wrong place that screwed it up.

     

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  22.  
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    chatterbox, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Re: Re:

    "Frak" was coined in the original series, I believe. If the term wasn't trademarked then they can't really enforce it.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Dave, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:49am

    Executives, not Lawyers

    Just a note here, companies typically don't just hire a pack of rogue lawyers to wander around and find people to randomly sue.

    Lawyers are like attack dogs, they have an owner who sicks them on people.

    Some a-hole executive in the company gave the order for the lawyers to do their dirty work.

    Now granted as a copyright lawyer you first have to be an unethical heartless spineless jackass, but a jackass without corporate funding is mostly harmless.

     

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  24.  
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    hegemon13, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    How was contacting NBC/Universal "starting in the wrong place"? For their own legal protection, they would have been smarter to get it on paper. However, they contacted the copyright holder, and the copyright holder said "Go ahead." Seems to me they followed exactly the right process.

    Then, NBC turns around and says, "Nevermind, you can't do it after all, and we'll sue you if you do." That was NBC's choice, and a very stupid one at that. It is entirely their own fault that they look bad.

    Once again, Weird Harold=Epic Fail.

     

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  25.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re:

    Yes Harold, just like all victims of domestic abuse ask for it right?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    BTR1701, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:49am

    Re: TV

    > And they wonder why network TV is all but dead.

    Galactica isn't on network TV.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    While it is all too easy to get worked up and declare NBC as being the equivalent of being "brain dead" based upon the contents of the news article, one should never discount the possibility that persons at NBC were aware of the potential for bad PR, but were for reasons unknown acting appropriately and quite rationally.

    Unfortunately, the news article does not contain any indication in answer to the question "Why?".

     

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  28.  
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    Phillip Thomas, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    This needs to be reported by the news agencies

    This needs to be covered by the news agencies, try to find it on Google news, you won't find a single large news agency even mention it, what's up, there are plenty of other less meaningful stories on their sites, why not this story????

     

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  29.  
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    andBeans, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Re:

    I love the smell of [weird] troll in the morning.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:16am

    Re:

    I disagree. Certain businesses may have an issue, but others recognize the value of sponsoring and being associated with such events. I have personally licensed a company logo and name in support of charity activities. The license is easy to write and everyone benefits. Indeed, the structure of the license is used for all non-profit related activities associated with the company, and all rights in trademarks and the company name are retained, and indeed, are enhanced.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Felix Pleșoianu, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:31am

    Then why don't you tell us, Anonymous Coward? Do enlighten us with your wisdom. What might have been an appropriate and rational reason for their actions? Because I think they're simply control freaks. And no, "that's the law after all" is not a good reason in this particular case. Or is your real name Judge Dredd?

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    I am not quite sure how one can disagree without any information relevant to why NBC Universal acted as it did. For example, is the production being shown in other locales or circumstances that may have been licensed under some form of an exclusive or partially exclusive arrangement? Of course, many other possibilities come to mind.

    My point is merely to note that while this matter has all the indicia of a bad PR move, there may be overarching considerations that led NBC Universal to act as it did. Hence, I would be interested to understand the answer to the question "Why?".

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Michael B, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Good Old NBC Universal

    This is the same company who has pulled its DVD titles from Redbox and charges 99 cents to view episodes of its shows on cable OnDemand services (other networks do it for free). Jeff Zucker and his scumsucking band of attorneys just want the almighty dollar. I bet they would have allowed the event to happen if they were promised 70% of every donated dollar. This company is run by pigs.

     

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  34.  
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    Travis, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    I should have known Weird Harold would rush to defend NBC Universal on this one. Regardless of how badly it was handled by the people trying to hold the event, it was handled just as poorly by NBC Universal. They could have tried to contact the people first and work something out instead of sending the legal dogs out.

     

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  35.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    Even if it was just a verbal agreement by one person to not pay attention, that isn't what this article is about. It's about NBC doing something that is within it's rights to do but just makes for bad publicity, thus, probably a bad idea (just as Mike said in the article).

    This would fall under the same category of stupid as a "public performance" when you have a 53" TV, or more than 4 people watching on the same TV. Within the law but stupid to enforce.

    The $7 wasn't for the show but for the screen, snacks, and organizing the scifi comunity (and I guess charity). This could have just as easily been done with any series finale.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Michael B, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    I respectfully disagree to a point... yeah, maybe the organizers should have gotten something a little more substantive before going ahead with it, but NBC Uni could have granted them a license for free as a gesture of good will. If I were the organizers, I would go ahead with it anyway... do you think NBC Uni would send in police to shut it down, or later sue the charity? I doubt that they want to show themselves to be even bigger frakkin' idiots than they already are (by the way, this is the correct spelling of "frakkin'", with 2 k's).

     

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  37.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re:

    Geez, you people are dense.

    They started in the wrong place because they failed to get the rights up front. They got someon to agree to look the other way, which isn't the same thing at all.

    Sort of like asking a 7-11 clerk if you can steal a twinkie, and he says "I'l look the other way" and then the manager stops you.

    If it ain't on paper, it ain't worth crap. Asking someone who doesn't have control of the rights or the right permissions to grant them is meaningless - so they started in the wrong place.

    You guys don't get out much, do you?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Michael B, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re:

    Oh yes, there are always "rational" reasons for shutting down an event because NBC Uni was denied a share of the money. That "rational" reason is called GREED.

     

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  39.  
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    Travis, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Geez, you are dense.

    Maybe the person who agreed to look the other way never gave them a more official person to go to. Maybe they didn't know what "the right place" was, so they did what they could.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Interesting ranting but...

    What if NBC cancelled because the "stars" of BSG have clauses saying "no public events" or even "no public distribution except for ..." (with a list of media like TV, PVR, Hulu, etc.).

    This isn't to say that NBC doesn't consider it a successful day unless they've done 10 really stupid things, but maybe this isn't one of them.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    RD, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    And the WH train just keeps on a'rollin'

    Wow, you get more and more up the ass of your industry buddies every day. And yet, curiously, you ignore the central issue (yet again, as you do every time) so as to better be a proper Apoligitard(tm) industry shill.

    As I stated in another similar thread yesterday, while NBC has the right by law to do this, that doesnt mean they SHOULD. That doesnt mean its a GOOD IDEA. The idea of an iron-fist on something like this only causes harm to their image and makes them look like greedy, control-freak corporate jerkwads. Oh wait, now I see why you support them so much....

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Eponymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:23am

    "Oh yes, there are always "rational" reasons for shutting down an event because NBC Uni was denied a share of the money. That "rational" reason is called GREED."

    Actually, I suspect the real reason was because that Space, the cable channel that broadcasts BSG in Canada, probably has an exclusive license from NBCU to broadcast or exhibit the show in Canada...and if NBCU granted anyone else this right, they'd be in breach of that license and liable to be sued by CTVGlobeMedia (which owns Space). According to the Torontoist, the theatre approached Space first, and when Space said no to the idea, the theatre went "over their heads" and spoke to NBCU. The NBCU Exec probably didn't appreciate or think of that when she granted her informal "permission", and when someone realized this there was a freak-out and NBCU promptly recanted.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 10:13am

    From the news article:

    "While NBC Universal is supportive of your efforts to help a worthy cause, we regret to inform you that we will not authorize the public exhibition of the Battlestar Galactica finale as described below. Please be advised that any public exhibition of the show in this manner would be in violation of applicable copyright law.

    While there are possibly many good reasons why NBCU said "no" (e.g., perhaps contractual rights involving a third party), I will be the first to admit that if the above quote is an accurate representation of what NBCU said it suggests to me that at least one or more of its attorneys need to develop better ways of presenting bad news. I have always subscribed to the view that one of the most important skills for an attorney to develop early in his/her career is to learn how to present bad/disappointing news to a person in such a manner that the person receiving such news is actually appreciative. It can easily be done if one only takes the time to place himself/herself in the shoes of the eventual reader.

     

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  44.  
    icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re: Executives, not Lawyers

    Just a note here, companies typically don't just hire a pack of rogue lawyers to wander around and find people to randomly sue.


    My casual observations of the RIAA and MPAA would suggest otherwise.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, as I said, they would have been smarter to get it on paper. Their failure to do so contributes to the fact that they can't have the event.

    However, NBC turning around and changing their mind was a dumb decision. No one said that NBC had no right to do so, just that it was a stupid decision that will lead to bad PR and alienated fans. You said in your first post that NBC's bad PR is the fault of the charity not following the proper process. Wrong. The fact that they can't have the event is the result of failure to get the agreement on paper. NBC's bad PR is the direct result of refusing to work with this charity after a company representative had already okayed it. Again, they have the right, but it was dumb to exercise it in this case.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re:

    I talked to Space and I had them interested - I think they were considering having the party be the Fandom Forum. Space told me they could NOT give permission and we'd have to speak to NBCU.

    Don't assume the people involved are stupid.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    There are lots of screenings happening. A party in Toronto that is not involved with the Fox is still going on.

    Why is a good question. The Fox offered several concessions. And they never said why other than citing copyright.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    Explain all the other parties NOT being shut down if that sort of thing exists.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Likely because the other parties did not ask, and, hence, the copyright holder is unaware of what is happening.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    The Torontoist wording is a little off. I was directed to NBCU by SPACE. I was the 'fan' rep, not representing the Fox itself.

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I get that - but I don't think it's unreasonable to assume the other parties had an arrangement with NBCU. These are large, well-advertised events that have been going on all season.

     

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  52.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    If NBC had any reason

    To all those saying NBC might have a good reason, if they did have any good reason, they would have stated it.
    This was obviously going to turn out bad. Anyone with half a brain would realize canceling a charity event is bad.
    So, if they had any good reason to warrant defending them at all, it would have been stated.
    That leaves the fact that they had no good reason.
    Just a bunch of lawyers running the show, like usual.
    Bunch of idiots.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Nicole, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Re:

    Apparently they were threatening, and shouted at the guys from the theatre. It would have been nice if they actually did it politely, whatever the outcome.

    I feel worse for how they handled it. I was trying to honestly do a good thing for both the fan community and the city. I was devastated for days. :(

     

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  54.  
    icon
    Alias (profile), Mar 20th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    O.M.G.

    What a bunch of tools.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Mike,
    All I can think of right now is Don LaFontaine delivering the last line of that.

    "In a world where lawyers and control are more important than actual business sense, This is what you get."

    Sounds like a scary movie to me!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It was easy to disagree with the statement that the "business world is turning into a huge non-sense." What are you mumbling on about?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2009 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Re: Executives, not Lawyers

    RIAA and MPAA are enforcement agencies (at least, the part with the lawyers is), companies typically require approval or authorization from an executive to take legal action.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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