Sony & NBC Interfere With Fan-Funded Web Series, Accomplish Nothing
from the except-making-the-lawyers-richer dept
ChurchHatesTucker points us to yet another example of how the strictures of the legacy entertainment industry are at odds with modern attitudes towards culture and creativity, and the hypocrisy of those who rely on fair use but seek to limit it for others. First, a bit of background:
The NBC series Community (which is awesome, by the way) recently introduced a show-within-the-show: a parody of Dr. Who entitled Inspector Spacetime and shown only in a few short clips. Travis Richey, the actor who portrays the titular character for his few seconds on screen, and who is also an experienced web series producer, immediately saw the potential to extend the fake show into a series of real shorts. He approached the Community creators with a script, only to discover that, as he puts it, “Hollywood doesn’t work quite that way.” He then had his agent pitch it through official studio channels, but never heard back—so he took the idea to Kickstarter, planning to produce the series himself.
It will come as a surprise to no one that the lawyers made short work of that plan—but Richey isn’t stopping, he’s just changing the title:
Lawyers from Sony and NBC have contacted me demanding that I cease production on an Inspector Spacetime web series.
Though I firmly believe the law would be on my side in producing this parody, I have no wish or ability to fight a show that I love as much as “Community.” I had hoped that they would embrace what is essentially a fan film and appreciate the value it adds to the character, and the audience that we would bring who are finding “Community” for the first time through this character, but alas, that’s not the case. So, I will be removing all references to Inspector Spacetime from this series (it only happened in the title anyway), and altering the appearance of the Inspector so that he does not look like Inspector Spacetime. What remains is 100% the creation of myself, my writing partner, and you, the fans.
The title card on the video now reads “Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time”, and the project is already more than half-funded, with the rest of the month still to go. Richey says the money is for equipment only: everyone involved is a volunteer, and the finished series won’t be monetized at all. This is a case of someone who just loves to create, for its own sake, being blocked by problematic, hypocritical legal claims. Problematic because a name and a simple character concept, barely established with a handful of brief clips, should really fall on the idea side of the idea/expression dichotomy; hypocritical because that character is himself a direct parody of a much bigger cultural icon, and relies on that very same dichotomy for his existence.
Some will say that it’s no big deal: he changed the title, and now he can make the series. Luckily, this time, that does appear to be the case—but there is no reason even that should have been necessary. As Richey says, he still thinks he is in the right, but has no intention of going to court: not just because of the expense, but because he doesn’t want to. He wants to create, not have creator-fights with his peers. But somehow the industry that claims its every move is about protecting creators always manages to get in the way of people like that.