Universal Sends Retroactive Bill To Fans It Encouraged To Do Its Viral Marketing
from the how-nice dept
rijit writes in with a story that is equal parts ridiculous and unsurprising at the same time. It appears that Universal Studios recognize that the followers of the cult favorite TV show Firefly would be a great source of viral marketing for the movie based on the show, Serenity. They put together a huge viral marketing campaign, in part with Special Ops Media (a company, I should note, who tends to spam Techdirt daily, despite us never — not once — responding or writing about anything they send to us). However, as with so many of these things, it appears that the marketers at Universal forgot to tell the lawyers at Universal, who recently decided to send out cease and desist letters to a bunch of the guerilla marketers they had pushed to promote the film. Adding insult to injury, the lawyers also demanded $8,750 in “retroactive licensing fees” from at least one individual. In this case, it was due to the individual selling t-shirts to promote the movie. This is, like some other recent stories, a case where one side (Universal) is forgetting that the other side adds value too (and, in fact, that they had encouraged them to do so). Some may claim that it’s fine for fans to promote the movie, but making any money off of it (such as by selling t-shirts), goes too far. However, that is the same shortsighted thinking we’ve seen in these other cases, losing the big picture view for the sake of the little dollars that someone who is helping you might make. Allowing fans to sell t-shirts in exchange for heavily promoting the movie almost definitely benefits Universal much more than if they forced everyone to buy t-shirts directly from Universal. In this case, however, you have to give the community of Serenity fans (called “Browncoats”) credit for their response. While admitting that Universal absolutely has the right to do this, they feel that if Universal is going to retroactively bill these viral marketing fans for “licensing fees,” those fans are going to retroactively bill Universal for their marketing efforts.