Pokemon Company Shuts Down Pokemon PAX Party Because Fun Is A Tool Of Team Rocket

from the gotta-shut-down-them-all! dept

I guess at this point that most people already know that Pokemon Company guards its intellectual property with the same dedication that a dog guards its food bowl after it’s been filled with a rare-cooked bone-in ribeye (am I the only one that enjoys giving dogs good food?). Between going after a woman who made some planters inspired by Pokemon and suing someone for making a phone app for collecting Pokemon cards, the message is clear: don’t use our stuff! Even though, as is almost inevitably the case, this kind of strict control prevents uses that actually do more to promote the Pokemon brand than anything else, and even when these cases are against true fans of Pokemon, it doesn’t matter. Control is what they are interested in. Control for the sake of control.

But even knowing that, I’m still surprised that Pokemon Company has decided to shut down a Pokemon-themed PAX party in Seattle over some posters and themed-drinks.

The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) filed a lawsuit against two Seattle residents on Wednesday, claiming that the Pokémon-themed party they were organizing allegedly infringed upon TPCi’s copyright.

Seattle residents Ramar Larking Jones and Zach Shore attempted to organize the “5th Annual Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party.” The party would have taken place in the 500 East restaurant and bar on Thursday, on the eve of the local Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Prime convention on Friday.

As always, the copyright complaints are real but predictably trivial. The filing’s chief concerns seem to be over the promotion of the party on Facebook, the inclusion of Pokemon characters on posters for the party, and Pokemon (and other games) themed drinks to be served. To be served, mind you, almost certainly to hardcore Pokemon fans. Indeed, there were prizes to be given away for cosplay, dancing, giveaways. You know, a good damned time. And for the crime of organizing a party around a franchise so beloved by its fans, the company shut it down.

TPCi’s complaint notes that it aims to “put an end to and obtain redress for [Jones and Shore’s] blatant and willful infringement of TPCi’s copyrights.” Ruckus Productions, a business entity that Jones and Shore run, is also listed as a defendant beside both individuals. TPCi is seeking damages, attorney’s fees, and an order to stop future instances of the event. TPCi’s complaint notes that the event had been organized annually since 2011.

Anyone want to actually suggest that the first four Poke-Parties did any kind of real harm to the Pokemon Company? Of course not, which is why the sudden hammer-drop makes absolutely no sense. As always, if there are concerns about setting precedent or protecting trademarks, handshake agreements and cheap licenses could easily be handed out to keep the party on. That way, Pokemon gets to save face on protecting its intellectual property, and the party goes on for its fans. Instead, the company specifically is looking to end the party as a primary goal of the lawsuit.

Because Pokemon isn’t about fun, apparently.

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Companies: nintendo, pokemon company

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Comments on “Pokemon Company Shuts Down Pokemon PAX Party Because Fun Is A Tool Of Team Rocket”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

This harassment of their fans and customers only works because people are too stupid and/or spineless to respond in kind. If a company shows that it doesn’t mind stomping their fans into the dirt anytime they show their appreciation in an ‘unapproved’ manner, then the response should be simple:

Stop buying.

See how well they do when their sales start dropping due to their abusive treatment of their paying fans.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Despite what some lawyers will tell you, "File a lawsuit" is NOT always the best choice

Something which might have made a good argument, had that actually been what happened. They weren’t using the characters to make a buck, they were using them to appeal to the fans of the games/movies.

However, even if the party organizers were just in it for the money, so what? The party organizers weren’t even close to the only ones affected by shutting down the party, the fans also had something they enjoyed ended, despite the fact that they weren’t in it for the money at all, but rather to enjoy a good time with others who shared their interest in the games/movies.

The parties were promoting Pokemon, and if the company didn’t employ such rabid lawyers, or weren’t such control freaks, they would have seen this as an opportunity to engage with their fans, rather than shut them down.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

They broke the law.
Actually, no they didn’t. Read the following carefully: “5th Annual Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party.” Yes, they used the word Pokémon, but so what? If the party is about Pokémon, as it would seem to be, that right there is classic nominative use. And the fact that they stated it’s an unofficial party only helps their case since it’s a pretty clear disclaimer of any connection with the franchise other than the fact that they are fans of it.
You can’t use somebody’s copyright for your own financial gain.
Except nobody was making Pokémon themed items to sell, they were making them for a Pokémon themed party. Come back when you have a better understanding of trademark law.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

Okay, I concede your point that this is about copyright, but there were still no laws being broken. Considering the four factors of fair use: 1 The Transformative Factor: The Purpose and Character of Your Use The purpose of the use is to advertise a franchise themed party to likeminded individuals, affirming the fandom and potentially creating more fans from the plus ones. This factor weighs in the direction of fair use.
2 The Nature of the Copyrighted Work The copyrighted work has been published internationally in various formats, so this factor swings very heavily in the direction of fair use.
3 The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken Defendants copied a few of the copyrighted images, which isn’t even a fifth of the amount that have been created for the games and anime. This factor is in the direction of fair use.
4 The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market Defendants sought to throw a party, not to create a rival cartoon or game. This factor weighs heavily in the direction of fair use.
5 The “Fifth” Fair Use Factor: Are You Good or Bad? Defendants are fans of Pokémon, so that makes them good. This factor weighs in the direction of fair use.
So there you have it: fair use = no infringement, and since nothing was infringed, the party and the activities surrounding it cannot be illegal. I repeat: Jones and Shore didn’t break the law. Simples!
(Info on fair use factors taken from the Stanford University Library website.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

3 The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken Defendants copied a few of the copyrighted images, which isn’t even a fifth of the amount that have been created for the games and anime. This factor is in the direction of fair use.

They copied 100% of two character images. Not fair use.

It doesn’t work like “so and so made 10 albums so I can copy this whole album as it represents only 10% of his work”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

your talking about a cartoon show where team rocket uses guns and people can and do die.

Though of course if you mean the heavily censored version currently marketed in north America then it is understandable to think its only marketed for young children

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

I had a party in the past with Sonic shots and Eggman-nog; Sega never got on my case. The fact is that if you market something with broad appeal, then you can expect unanticipated uses of your IP. That doesn’t make such uses infringing just because “Think of the children!” so your appeal to morals is a strawman which fails.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: "What are you going to do, stop buying? Don't make us laugh."

perhaps you should review the difference between ‘illegal’ and ‘immoral’…
i know it isn’t a popular pasttime amongst all the neo-libtard and neo-conned elites, but i believe morality might make a comeback…
it will take a lot of rope, though…
hee hee hee
ho ho ho
ha ha ha
ak ak ak

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, it's a crock

Note that they’re not specifically trying to enjoin the party, just the promotional material that has their characters on it.

All they have to do to get around it is take out the characters. Say, silhouettes of those characters, altered somewhat to avoid direct copying of the silhouettes.

As for the lawsuit, well, that’s something already started. If they can settle before having to file a reply, there may yet be a not-wholely-unhappy ending. If they have to file a reply to the suit, well… there’s already going to be lawyer fees.

And for the record, Poke-co straight up admits that there aren’t any (quantifiable) actual damages, so they throw in a request for statutory damages in alternative to an injunction.

Nomad of Norad says:

Biting the hands that feed them....

In the 70s, I’m told, Paramount was doing things like this against Star Trek fans, and there was enough of a backlash that they were forced to back off. In that case, some of it was about fans making, say, tear-off notepads with Spock’s face on them, that were made by fans for fans to show their love of Star Trek. When it became apparent that Paramount was actually drive fans away from Star Trek, they changed their stance… and in fact came to an agreement that fans could make unofficial Trek stuff, like starship blueprints and pretend 23rd Century military magazines and whatnot… and they could sell them at Star Trek conventions and by mail order, they just couldn’t sell them through regular bookstores and the like. This gentleman’s-agreement lasted at least into the 1990s and maybe into the double-Os, but I stopped paying attention to these fan-made things in the mid 90s or so because I stopped being able to go to the conventions.

I know there were unofficial products like this because I used to buy blueprints and pretend Starfleet technical books and whatnot up through the 90s, that were produced by various fan groups, and were distinctly different products than the official ones (like STARFLEET TECHNICAL MANUAL) that you could buy in stores.

Some of this history I learned from a talk someone was giving at a con I was at in maybe the late 80s or so. It might have been at this talk, it might have been somewhere else, later, but I have a hazy recollection of being told that part of that agreement above came about because Gene Roddenberry himself chose some sort of nuclear option, where he said if Paramount didn’t back off on demanding that fans stop making and selling their labor-of-love products, he would yank the rights to Star Trek away from Paramount! I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it sounds VERY plausible.

Apparently a few years ago, after Paramount got absorbed into CBS, and some point shortly after Majel Barret-Roddenberry died, they forgot all that and started going after fan made stuff. I know because they did some sort of takedown on some really nice, made-for-fans Star Trek roleplay sets that were being sold on the virtual world Second Life. My understanding also is that (supposedly, this is before I arrived there) Paramount had even nudged people towards creating a Star Trek presence on Second Life, with their blessing, with (at least so it seemed to be being implied to me) the express knowledge and understanding that people there would be *selling* their own Star Trek creations, by fans for fans, on Second Life, to help grow the Star Trek fan community on Second Life.

But a year or two ago they suddenly started issuing DMCA takedowns of some of those products from being available for sale there, while curiously leaving several others in place on the market there…. presumably because they blinked and missed those.

Somewhere along the line, there needs to be laws put in place explicitly protecting fan-made things of this sort. Maybe even something where if a company too aggressively pursues fan-produced projects or products with a cease-and-desist, where it is very clear the purpose of those projects of products *isn’t* meant to be perceived as some sort of “officially endorsed or licensed product,” but is meant to be by and for fans, that the company making the cease-and-desist is violating the law and must back off. Maybe add some teeth to this and declare the *aggressive* *company* must pay a steep fine. Say, $1,000 to $10,000 per infraction. And must also pay all legal costs of the accused “infringer” they’ve accosted.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Biting the hands that feed them....

It amazes me how companies don’t look at the Startrek and Starwars Franchise more on how a strong fanbase with the ability to propagate the franchise with their own imaginations, can make the franchise last for a very long period of time. Where would either be now without the fan movement to keep it going?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

That story about how we have to many lawyers all of the trying to pay off crippling debt using the tools at their disposal.

– Attack Fans of the Franchise
Because like an abused animal they keep coming back to the franchise, until that one day they finally say fuck it and rip our your throat.

– Invent “legal demands” to cover butthurt
You can’t tell anyone about our threat letter, we used big words to make it sound like it was illegal to tell people how mad we are that you called us a dootie head.

– Create “crimes” to profit from.
See also – Prenda, ADA Trolling, etc.

– Extract value from others
Find a way to make your rights twist like a rubiks cube to cover what the successful people are doing so you can vicariously make money or destroy them.

– Extreme Ass Covering
Someone might get drunk, throw a fist, and then there is even more bad media coverage. Something something championship, guns, “threats” We need to stridently disconnect ourselves and make them never want to party again (even if we blew this off for 4 years) unless we can make a buck throwing an offical party and why pay the expense to lure them to our shitshow when we can just kill the other ones off.

They sold their souls to become these masters of the universe, the problem is so did all of the other kids. They went to whatever school they could afford, and lets be honest I’ve seen diploma mills with higher standards than some “Law Schools” out there.
We have a glut of lawyers, all in debt and well helping the little guy (those people who need good advocates advising them) can’t pay enough when the kids from Big Law are still throwing down 4 credit cards in a contest to see who has the best card to pay for lunch.

$50K retainer paid by that city to an “expert” lawyer who should have told them what the other 4 lawyers said – You have no case and doing this will make more people aware of it…. but the $50K is $50K and I’ll take the heat for pushing your stupid case… cause I can still bill more for my work.

Something something Henry VI, part II, act IV, scene ii.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

No buzz, no more

When will people learn and stop giving these hyper-sensitive companies free advertising? With a company so dead set on no one mentioning their name then fine: No buzz. No parties. No reviews. No word of mouth. Complete echoing silence.

If they want their product mentioned, let these jerks pay millions for every lousy word! Maybe when they’re paying millions for advertising while their competitors get millions from free buzz, they’ll start to get a brain. And if they don’t, good riddance.

Anonymous Coward says:

People keep forgetting that you cannot create posters that have licensed character on it and display them for the public to see. IN this case, the Pokemon copyrights were violated. If you want a ‘Pokemon’ themes birthday party, then BUY licensed merchandise to have it. You DO NOT create new content using characters that have been created by another person who owns the copyrights to it.

Ramar Larking Jones and Zach Shore attempted to make money off this attempt and you CANNOT do that.

TPCi’s complaint cites the event’s poster, its Facebook promotion, and its advertised activities as the infringing elements. The event’s poster used images of the copyrighted Pokémon characters Pikachu and Snivy, and the event had also previously used Pikachu’s image to promote the event on Facebook.

The fact that these two morons were selling tickets to this event: I hope they get their asses sued off. They attempted to profit off this event. If you’re going to hold a Pokemon-themes party, you DO NOT organize it to make money from it, especially if you’re using licensed content that you didn’t get the permission to use in the first place.

What a pair of morons Ramar Larking Jones and Zach Shore are.

DanA says:

Re: Re:

While what they did was arguably copyright infringement (a equally valid argument would be for fair use) the response chosen of threatening lawsuit was counterproductive for the actual company producing Pokemon (as opposed to their lawyers). They could have offered them a license for a nominal fee (say $5) so that they can clearly show that they are policing the trademark and copyrights while also not screwing over their hardcore fans. In a situation where there is no competition with the companies own products and it actually serves to promote their brand choosing a light touch rather than legal threats is better for maintaining fan loyalty than pissing off those who just want to celebrate the awesome thing that you make.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nailed it. They could have used this to their advantage, offered ‘official’ approval via a dirt cheap license, and taken advantage of an event that had been going on for several years at this point to connect to their fans and gotten a free PR boost.

Instead they broke out the lawyers, shut the event down and demanded repayment for ‘damages’, with the result being they end up looking like greedy control freaks.

Anonymous Coward says:

if so much damage and harm were going to be done to TPCi, why didn’t they shut down the first one, or the second one, or even the third or fourth ones? as it is with Hollywood, this is simply an action being taken because it can be and it is more important to get a few dollars raked in and a report of the disastrous harm that has been averted than to actually give praise for showing such fandom to Pokemon!

why is it so important to kill off someone’s actual show of admiration for something, rather than to praise and thank them for having it?

LAB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I suppose this is a bummer but TCPI is well within their rights. I think a cease and desist letter would have been a tad more charitable way to stop the use of the copyrighted character’s images. There was no licensing involved and you have to pay to play I guess is the message here. Or They just didn’t want their children’s brand associated with a party at a bar with drinks named after it’s characters. Definitely not a fan friendly move.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nowhere is it written that they were covering costs only, stop making shit up.
The lawsuit says that tickets were sold out, which means whatever their financial goals were -they must have been met. But to assume what those financial goals were is a folly.

“What’s so hard to understand about that?”
It’s a fantasy of your own construction, that’s what’s hard to understand.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Having gone to Pax East every year since it started, I must say there are tons of these parties for every type of fandom. World Of Warcraft, League of Legends, Magic the Gathering, etc. Most of them are pub crawls and are put on by non-official companies. Several have become so popular that the actual owners of the content (Like Blizzard and Riot) have promoted them on their sites as well and embrace it. When you have tens of thousands of people spending 3 days buying, trading, playing, and talking about your games and content, you have advertisements that you can’t buy. And this is a promotion of your product that can not be duplicated with any real success. Word of mouth is still the best advertising money can’t buy.

Monday (profile) says:

I'm taking my ball and going home

I think ‘Sheogorath’ (earlier) is right. Another point could be made regarding the previous PAX Parties, and making an effort to get inter-office et al correspondence (via FOIA) and using TPCi’s previous reactions / behaviour – four years worth, in their favour.
I think it’s disgusting to go after true fans like this, and I am sure that, if they wanted to, Jones and Shore could damage this entity right back.
Who knows. Maybe, there’s an eMail Jones and Shore sent to TPCi five and a half years ago that sought some consent to use Pokeman in some way / degree.

I hope Jones and Shore are victorious and TCPi gets slapped for behaving like a child – “I’m taking my ball and going home”. This is a company that is supposed to embrace playing nice together, or is that Pogs? Who gives a shit, they should still play nice…

WizardOfZid says:

$70 is what the cost came out to be

So reading the linked articles, the organizers sold out 30+ tickets at $2 ea. Give a bit more than 30, say $70. Don’t see how this was making a profit.

It isn’t specified in either article but there is likely either 1) a fee to the bar for a group to be there or more likely 2) the prizes offered took the ticket charges. Either way, profit was not the goal.

The owner of the copyright can do this but it certainly doesn’t seem to make any business sense. I’d approach the organizers of the 5th annual event and say “we can make a big deal and sue but how about letting us have something in return for allowing the images and copyrightable material to be used.” Of course, that makes sense and we can’t have that, can we?

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait, didn’t I read recently about two men arrested after making threats of violence at some Pokemon tournament? Is it possible that incident may have something to do with this? I can sort of understand some paranoia. If a shooting happened, even at an unofficial Pokemon event, it would be a PR disaster for the company.

I’m not saying it makes a whole lot of sense, but it might explain the sudden about-face in regard to unofficial events.

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