Fandom vs. Stardom

Copywrong bean Copyright battles rage among producers of famous television shows and their devoted fans. Paramount Pictures and its parent company, Viacom, launched a fierce attack on many Star Trek fan sites. Fox company sent “cease-and-desist” letters to webmasters of unofficial fan sites of shows such as X-Files, Millennium, and Simpsons. Fans consider these attacks unfair and even absurd, because fans create free publicity for the shows and spend tons of money on different show products and memorabilia. In a sense, attacking fans is like biting the hand that feeds you.

Of course, popular shows value their fandom. For example, president of Paramount Pictures David Wertheimer wrote in his letter to Star Trek fans, that his company encouraged their desire to communicate and share information about the series. However, notice that Paramount talks only about sharing “information,” not “expression” -- and for the good reason. Unlike original expression, information and factual materials are outside the scope of copyright protection. The trick is, all images, story plots and dialogues from popular shows are protected expression under copyright law. Therefore, their extensive use without permission from copyright holders is prohibited.

In the same letter to fans, Wertheimer stresses that Paramount objects to unauthorized use of all Star Trek “properties.” This includes images, illustrations, audio clips and video clips from Star Trek episodes and movies. On its official website Paramount reiterates, that the company forbids all unauthorized copying, reproduction, republishing, uploading, downloading, posting, transmitting or duplicating of any of its protected materials.

However, fans believe that copyright owners go too far in their desire to secure copyrights online. If you want to know more about fans' opinion on copyright issues, go to the next section.

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