Discovery Channel Forcing Deadliest Catch Fan Site Offline; Claims Embedding Official Videos Infringes
from the not-the-shark-week-people-were-expecting dept
John from the soon-to-be-gone-from-the-internet site DeadliestCatchTV.com, alerts us to the news that lawyers from The Discovery Channel are taking down the site. Now, let’s get the basics out of the way: the lawyers probably do have a trademark claim here. Certainly from the domain name, you might think it’s an official website for the show. The site does have “not affiliated…” text, but it’s hidden all the way at the bottom. If you were trying to avoid a “likelihood of confusion” problem, I would imagine it would help to make it very, very clear at the top of the page that the site is a fan site and not the official site. That said, there are a lot of problems with the way Discovery is treating this situation.
First of all, in the past, The Discovery Channel actively supported John, and he’s reposted an email he received not so long ago from someone at the Discovery Channel offering him free content and happily celebrating the site. Here’s a couple excerpts from the email:
Hi Editors @ DeadliestCatchTV ,
My name is Soumik Pal, I work at Discovery Channel and I’m writing to offer you free preview content and assets from the new season of Deadliest Catch! We feel that the show is a great fit with your site (and especially your readers) and would love to get the word out about some exciting new Catch initiatives this season!
To get your readers ready for the new season, I’ve included the official press release, high-quality preview videos, exclusive photography, brief episode descriptions and much more…
I’m happy to act as your point of contact for any additional requests and we hope your readers might like some of the content we’ve provided! Please let me know if there’s anything more we can provide you with to help get geared up for the new season of Catch.
Digital Media, Discovery Channel
That certainly makes it sound like Discovery and the folks involved with the TV show are quite happy with the fan site and community that John put together. In fact, that seems like a great way to encourage and nurture a fan site. Actually, the folks behind the show have gone much further. On the official site for The Deadliest Catch, the show actually lists & links to fan sites including DeadliestCatchTV.com. They even set it up so that if you click on the link, it loads the fan site, with the official Deadliest catch “dashboard” (see below). And, as of right now, you can even see a wrapped version of John’s site on the official Discovery channel page. That certainly looks like a show that wants to support its fan sites:
John asked the lawyers who contacted him about Soumik Pal’s email:
When I questioned this with Discovery I was told only the employee no longer worked at Discovery and they “were looking in to this”. The second lawyer I spoke to from Discovery stated that they had a change of heart and have now decided they wanted to police any sites using their material (Although previously they were providing it for promotion purposes).
Again, a change of heart is fine — but sending the lawyers to deliver it with threats? That seems ridiculous. It’s a way to turn a bunch of fans into people who will never want to have anything to do with The Discovery Channel again. It’s a case study in exactly how not to deal with social media.
Oh, and it gets worse. Beyond the basic trademark threat of the domain name, Discovery’s lawyers claimed that John was committing copyright infringement by embedding official videos from the show’s YouTube account on his website. I’m not kidding. The Discovery Channel has an official YouTube channel, where it uploads videos and has embedding turned on. So, not surprisingly, John has embedded some of these official clips on his site. I’m about to do the same. This is the last video that John posted:
The one issue that I really question is that part of the claim made by Discovery was that my “…display of and/or provision of access to unauthorized copies of our client’s copyrighted material infringes Discovery’s copyrights…” The material in question were actually videos that were posted BY DISCOVERY on YOUTUBE where the embed code was made available for all to use. I spoke to one of the lawyers briefly on the phone today and he understood how this could be confused but maintained that even though the code is there you are NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE EMBED CODE ON ANY WEBSITE.
Frankly, this whole thing screams of some seriously mistaken or confused lawyers associated with The Discovery Channel, who not only seem to be completely out of touch and clueless as to how the internet works, but aren’t even talking to the marketing people involved. These lawyers are actively undermining the show’s own marketing efforts, pissing off fans, and closing down a large and popular fan group of the site with highly questionable legal claims.
Unfortunately, it looks like John is giving in to the lawyers. He’s said that the site will disappear as of August 11th, and the Discovery Channel will take over the domain. Again, I can understand the potential for some confusion with the domain name, but there were much better ways for Discovery to handle this. Perhaps The Discovery Channel is taking the concept of its famous Shark Week way too far, and turning its lawyers into sharks. They should watch out, as when you let the sharks loose on your biggest fans, they can come back to bite you.