Pure Bullshit: AMC Threatens Huge Fan Community With Copyright Claim Over 'Spoiler' Predictions

from the argh dept

What’s up, Hollywood TV people? Hey, could you do everyone a favor and maybe stop being complete assholes to your biggest fans — and especially completely abusing copyright law to harass and bully those people? Almost exactly a month ago we wrote about HBO abusing the DMCA process to go after people who were predicting what would happen in Game of Thrones, accusing them of violating copyright law in accurately predicting what would happen in the future. As we noted, that’s not at all how copyright law works, but apparently AMC took a look at what HBO was doing and said “hey, let’s do that too.”

A large Facebook fan group (with almost 400,000 subscribers) called “The Spoiling Dead Fans” has announced that it has received a completely bogus DMCA notice from AMC:

After two years, AMC finally reached out to us! But it wasn?t a request not to post any info about the Lucille Victim or any type of friendly attempt at compromise, it was a cease and desist and a threat of a lawsuit by AMC Holdings, LLC?s attorney, Dennis Wilson. They say we can?t make any type of prediction about the Lucille Victim. Their stance is that making such a prediction would be considered copyright infringement. AMC tells us that we made some claim somewhere that says we received ?copyright protected, trade secret information about the most critical plot information in the unreleased next season of The Walking Dead? and that we announced we were going to disclose this protected information. We still aren’t sure where we supposedly made this claim because they did not identify where it was.

Their stance is wrong and short-sighted. It’s wrong because merely predicting what’s going to happen in a show is not copyright infringement. It’s short-sighted because the people making these guesses tend to be the show’s biggest fans. Pissing off your shows’ biggest fans not only seems monumentally assholish, but also entirely counterproductive.

The folks who run the Facebook page note that they don’t think there’s a legitimate legal issue here, but they’re also doing this for fun, and getting sued is no fun, so they’re shutting up thanks to the assholes at AMC legal:

Basically what it all comes down to is if we post our Lucille Victim prediction and we’re right, AMC says they will sue us. Whether there are grounds for it or not is not the issue, it still costs money to defend. That is the way our justice system works. Would we have defenses? Sure. But it also costs money to mount that defense. If someone brings us a potential Lucille spoiler and we confirm it and it turns out accurate we could get sued. That doesn?t mean they?re right and we?re wrong, but like so many other situations in this world, they have the money and power and we do not. So we lose. In the past two years, AMC has filed several wrongful DMCA notices against us with full knowledge that we could not file counter-notices, hired investigators to intimidate our members, and threatened our local members with arrest, among other questionable acts.

It would be nice to know more about the details of those previous wrongful DMCA notices (and I’ve reached out to the people who operate the page to see if they will provide them), but this appears to be a situation of pure copyright abuse by AMC to silence a Facebook group they don’t like. While there were reports last year that this same group leaked a clip from an upcoming show, that’s an entirely different issue. Leaking a clip is likely infringement (caveats apply, but…). Still, that doesn’t appear to be what happened here at all.

The report also claims that AMC has ramped up aggressiveness here: “AMC has been harassing us for four days now by contacting our homes, our family members and our employers.” Again, that seems insane.

But, of course, as you can readily predict from the paragraph quoted above, the folks behind the site don’t want to take the risk and are no longer in the prediction business:

After consultation with our legal counsel, we have responded to AMC that the TSDF staff will not be posting our prediction on who gets Lucilled on any of our outlets. We will also not be answering any questions about who we think it is. If you hear a potential spoiler elsewhere and bring it to us for confirmation, we will not confirm or deny it. If you message us privately and ask who we think gets Lucilled, we will not respond. The info may find another outlet on its own, but an official prediction will not come from the TSDF staff.

I still can’t figure out how or why anyone at AMC thinks this is a good idea. The copyright claim is ridiculous. Predicting what will happen in a TV show is not copyright infringement. Pissing off the people who love your show so much they want more of it seems even more ridiculous. What possible good could this serve?

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Comments on “Pure Bullshit: AMC Threatens Huge Fan Community With Copyright Claim Over 'Spoiler' Predictions”

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60 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It is AMC's right..

Consider this, those fans stop talking about that program, and start talking about other shows. Guess which programs will get to the top of their viewing list, and which will fall off of the radar.
You are assuming that being a fan is passive, when it is actually a very active thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It is AMC's right..

But they haven’t stopped talking. If anything, I think AMC is counting on the Streisand effect here to spur conversation about the show. So far, it’s working.

The group that received the bogus copyright notice was probably targeted because they are so good at what they do. They have posted undercover set photos and seem to have contacts working on the show. AMC sending them a lawyergram is pretty safe because they aren’t going to stop talking or watching the show and the action may get the big cliffhanger reveal wider coverage.

My prediction is that the first episode of the next season is going to have the biggest audience ever.

C.J. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It is AMC's right..

That’s exactly why they did it, for the biggest audience ever. But spoilers have NEVER ruined ratings either. ever and the tactics this network uses is beyond reprehensible. You do not threaten people’s family’s, you don’t even bother their families, elderly parents, etc. There’s a lot more to this.

The OTHER AnonCow says:

AMC and the showrunners have proven that they have no concern for the viewers throughout last season. From the opening to the close, it was 95% filler and just enough plot development to keep viewers marginally engaged. Dubious DMC takedowns do not seem a stretch at all.

Each season The Walking Dead gets closer and closer to the quality of its fetal alcohol syndrome suffering little sister, “Fear The Walking Dead”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Who copy who

You joke, but that sort of thing actually happens. I forget the movie or time period (Terminator 3, mid-90s perhaps?), but I remember reading a story about a guy who boasted that he knew exactly where the series was going to go and sent off an unsolicited draft screenplay. The intention being that when the movie was eventually made, he could claim that they stole his idea and sue them for plagiarism. He knew they’d probably reject it, but was convinced he’d get a lot of money if they so much as opened the envelope.

This happens a lot from what I’ve seen. From what I know about how studios handle screenplays now, they won’t touch an unsolicited screenplay with a barge pole for this very reason.

John85851 (profile) says:

It's all about control

As usual for studios, it’s all about control, as in:
They want to control the marketing for the upcoming storylines and what information gets released when. If anyone tries to guess or make predictions and take away from their marketing, then they’ll threaten to sue. Sure, they know they’re on shaky legal ground and it wouldn’t hold up in court, but they know it costs money to defend, so they have no to reason not to file a takedown notice.
(Plus, since there’s no punishment for a wrongful takedown notice, there’s even less reason not to send one.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is there a clearer example

Not really a joke. The idea of a hate crime and hate speech are correlative to what people were thinking at the time. Therefore what is a hate crime is completely at the mercer of those judging it an never at the mercy of facts for it is impossible for them to be.

Copyright is at its fundamental level is to prevent thought crime. 100% of everything in text, print, photo, video originated from one or more imaginations. So yea to copy or even come up with your own original work maybe a crime if someone just THINKS you stole the idea!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Copyright, it can do anything.

Fans really need to let go of the mentality of a battered spouse. They only hit me because they love me. But I love them, they don’t mean it.

Imagine if 400,000 people made it clear they were done with supporting the show because of this.
Imagine if 400,000 people actually meant it, and would follow through.
Imagine if 400,000 people were willing to stand up against an insane company’s actions.

Instead they will keep buying the trinkets & paying money that the company will use to do more stupid shit like this, spurred on by the fact that no one has the will to say no.

Harassing people’s families for making correct guesses, and people are shocked just shocked that corporations keep going further and further when this is allowed unchecked.

Anonymous Coward says:

> We still aren’t sure where we supposedly made this claim because they did not identify where it was.

The first sign of a censorious asshat: avoiding naming specifics.

I would ask that a GoFundMe site be set up to fund their defense of an AMC lawsuit, with the proceeds on a successful defense going to a named charity.

Or an equivalent of a Popehat Signal for a pro bono defense.

David says:

You know why it's a good idea?

I still can’t figure out how or why anyone at AMC thinks this is a good idea. The copyright claim is ridiculous. Predicting what will happen in a TV show is not copyright infringement. Pissing off the people who love your show so much they want more of it seems even more ridiculous. What possible good could this serve?

If you are in the business of selling fire insurances to shops, it’s good for your business if occasionally some shop actually burns down. Particularly when its owner was not open to discussing an adaption of the premiums and his daughter was downright unfriendly.

JonC (profile) says:

When I read about threats like these, it makes me wonder how they can fail to violate the professional ethics rules and standards that I’m sure lawyers must be accountable for complying with. Specifically, how can they possibly be allowed to threaten legal actions that they know stand no chance of going anywhere, using the fact that the other party can’t afford to respond to their advantage. Seems like the kind of unethical behavior that should result in some disbarments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Have some balls...

Some believe this is just a marketing trick by AMC (aka: Streisand effect) while others claim it’s legit legal bullying. I don’t know which side is right but both of them really suck, so I just cancelled my cable. Granted, I’ve been debating it for a while but this story made it that much easier. You know, I’ll miss some shows but I don’t care. I feel good…

Steve says:

Needs an example verdict

This is so late in the thread it won’t be noticed, but here goes anyway –

Suppose someone sponsored a defense in a case like this, to get a “test case”. If the DMCA threat could be shown to be an abuse of copyright, it could set a valuable precedent. Among other things, in US law, abuse of copyright “is a thing” and one of the possible remedies is *loss of the copyright*.

So theoretically, the GOT copyrights could be yanked from the show’s creators and given to the defendants or public domain.

It wouldn’t happen in this case, but there could be a case with smaller stakes, and by setting a precedent it could scare corporate trolls into being less abusive.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is all about vegas bets & personal bets. An enormous amount of $ is on the line re: negans victim. The so called cliffhanger totally sucked & now AMC can not afford the betting action to go bust to boot.
AMC’s silly belief that they could pull off some millennial version of a 1980’s who shot J.R moment was a big fail, and rather then admit their egos blew the most iconic moment in the TWD comics, they instead “want” to believe that their failed “no-cliffhanger” is the fault of their biggest fan base TSDF.
The irony here is TSDF are rhe only reason I hung in through season six of TWD – the most overhyped and dissapointing season in the shows six seasons.

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