Fandom, Inc.

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Name: Fandom, Inc. (also called "Fandom.com")
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Profit/Nonprofit: profit
Country based in: United States
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Fandom, Inc. (Fandom.com) was a dot-com startup (1999-2001) founded by entrepreneur Chip Meyers; its CEO, Mark Young, was the former vice president of sales and trading at Morgan Stanley. It was funded by entertainment venture capitalist companies and corporate investors and owned several media-related properties, including Cinescape (magazines) and Creation (media conventions). The company started an online division as well: Fandom.com.[1][2]

In October 2000, Fandom, Inc. threatened a fan named Carol Burrell who owned the domain name fandom.tv, saying they had the trademark on "fandom" and if Burrell didn't give up her domain, they'd sue her.[1][3]

Burrell told other fans, and they told more fans, and they told more fans. The fans weren't happy.[3]

The fans won,[4], at least until the next time someone else figured there was money to be made with fandom:
In the end, those who simply wanted to see a bullying economic monolith go out of business were more pleased than eofans who harkened back to a fan culture where any attempt to exploit fandom as a money-making enterprise was anathema. The demise of Fandom.com merely opened the way for others to run the same kind of business in a slicker, nicer way. [5]

Two years, later it was FanLib, another failed instance of Corporate America trying to cash in on media fandom by claiming to support it.

Fandom.com is Born

Fandom.com main site, December 2000

After the official website he created for the 1998 movie Godzilla failed,

"Meyers had a revelation: He would build a company that could offer protection to the sort of independent fan sites that were being bullied by studios. These new sites would have the gloss and glamour of corporate backing, but provide the kind of individual, homegrown appeal that had drawn Godzilla.com's visitors to the independent market."[1]

Sometime between February and early October 1999, Fandom, Inc. bought the web domain fandom.com.[6] By November 16, 1999, the site had content, including 21 "fandomains".[7]

Fandom, Inc. aggressively sought out independent fansites and brought them in as "fandomains" under the Fandom.com umbrella, a site that claimed to be "by the fans, for the fans".[8]

One such acquisition was in January 2000 when "Fandom, Inc" acquired "AnotherUniverse":
Fandom, Inc. (www.fandom.com) the Internet's premier destination for science fiction, fantasy and horror entertainment news, information and merchandise, today announced the acquisition of certain business assets of AnotherUniverse.com, a leading Internet retailer of comics and science fiction related products. The acquisition of AnotherUniverse.com will extend the ecommerce capabilities of the company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fandom provides science fiction, fantasy and horror entertainment enthusiasts with an online environment that tailors commerce, content, and community to their needs and interests. At the core of the site's activities is fan-generated news and information dedicated to genre entertainment icons. Well-trafficked fan-sites have been acquired and integrated into special sections or "domains" that are maintained by Fandom's "Head Fanatics" who spend considerable time and energy providing fans with exciting forums on topics ranging from Japanese monster movies to superhero comic books.

AnotherUniverse.com is one of the largest online retailers of genre merchandise with nearly one million unique visitors every month. The site combines editorial content with an extensive product line of toys, comic books, and animation items. "Fandom's acquisition of AnotherUniverse.com is a significant milestone for our company," said Mark Young, CEO and co-founder, Fandom, Inc. "Thus far, we have successfully integrated fifteen of the most popular fan created Web sites into our community and original content offerings. Now, with this latest acquisition we are able to provide the ultimate online shopping experience for our customers. In addition, with AnotherUniverse.com's scalable fulfillment operation located in Manasses, Virginia, Fandom is poised for rapid ecommerce growth."

Following the transaction, Steve Milo, president and founder of AnotherUniverse.com, will join Fandom as Executive Vice President, Merchandise, where he will direct Fandom's merchandising strategies. Young and co-founder Chip Meyers will remain CEO and President, respectively, of Fandom, Inc. [9]

Each "fandomain" was revamped to have the same general structure and layout, and included banner ads and merchandise for sale, as well as copyrighted images from the shows (which at the time were often subject to C&Ds as the studios attempted to keep control). It also controlled fan discourse - posts that conflicted with the corporate image being protrayed were deleted from message boards - and kept content in line with the corporate image as well.[1][2]

The appeal to fans was meant to be a certain level of protection from studio shutdowns or C&Ds, in a "safety in numbers" sort of situation. It worked: the fan site owners -- many of them very young (mostly under 25, some as young as 13) -- who joined were generally happy with the situation. They got a salary, a cut of the merchandise sales, and corporate backing to face down FOX and other C&D-happy networks.[1]

Clearly, though, the purpose of Fandom.com was money, and fandom was just a way to generate it. The front page of Fandom.com was largely devoted to its "Fandom Shop", while the fandomains were called "unofficial sections maintained by real fans".[3]

Fandom.com Meets Fandom.tv

screencap of fandom.tv with an update concerning the domain name struggle as of January, 19 2001 (click to read)

In July 2000, Carol Burrell, a long-time fan who'd operated several websites for years, registered fandom.tv as a new domain. On October 30, 2000, Fandom, Inc.'s laywers sent her a letter saying that she was infringing on their trademark ("fandom") and demanding that she immediately surrender and transfer her domain name. They also accused her of violating the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The letter threatened immediate legal action, and offered a paltry $250 for the domain name if she gave it up without fighting.[1][3]

The letters:

Copies of the letters and her responses have been archived here.,

Carol decided to fight instead, believing that the word "fandom" can't be trademarked by a single company after being in common use for the better part of a century. (In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had already marked Fandom.com's registration of the term "fandom" as "dead" and "abandoned".[1]

On November 15, Fandom, Inc. sent a second letter threatening legal action, and upped their offer for fandom.tv to $1,500.[10]

Carol posted about the situation to at least one mailing list she was on, and on November 20, another fan on that list passed the word along to six or seven other lists.[3]

Read more about this at Who owns fandom? and Name Your Fandom™: Website name dispute has larger implications.

Fandom.com Meets Fandom

Media fans, outraged both at the potential lawsuit and the notion that anyone could trademark "fandom" and insist no one use the term without paying for the rights, took up the cause.

Word spread rapidly through online fandom, which rallied behind fandom.tv and Carol, organizing a boycott of fandom.com and offering support, money, and in some cases legal assistance.[1][3][11] A website with an associated mailing list was created to centralize information and organize help, called Fandom Fights Back.[12][13] The information spread to other media fandom forums.[14]

November 27, the original deadline for Carol to give up her site, came and went, with the two sides agreeing to meet to try to come to an accommodation.[3]

By the middle of December, word had spread beyond media fandom as well, making it out to science-fiction fandom[15], more general media.[1], and even a mailing list devoted to Australian domain-name issues.[16] There was even heavily moderated discussion on the fandom.com message boards.[17]

One website, the fan web magazine The 11th Hour wrote:

"There's a letter circulating online (sent to us courtesy of reader Jane Harmon) which urges fans to boycott Fandom.com, and that sounds like a good idea to me. I mean, we are talking about the company which drew traffic to its San Diego Comic Con booth by featuring scantily clad women in shiny silver "outfits", and we are talking about a company that's attempting to claim legal rights to a word that's been in use in the fan community for at least thirty years. Fandom.com's making a lot of money on your scifi obsessions, and now they're using that money to take a chunk out of all our asses. How much do we hate corporations that claim to be all for the fans? Not nearly as much as we hate this one in particular. We're gathering an angry mob on the message board... bring your pitchfork."[18]

Carol eventually won, but was left with $1,500 in legal fees.[19][20]

In March 2001 fandom.tv posted:
"THE FINAL WORD ON F.COM: After six months (Oct '00-April '01), Fandom.com agreed to a resolution to our dispute. Thank you to all who supported us through this Adventure. Those who made cash contributions helped with the expenses of registering the trademark and many long distance phone calls; and the contribution of moral support from so many people can never be measured.[21]

Fandom, Inc. Goes Boom

For a variety of reasons, by March 31, 2001, investors were pulling out of Fandom, Inc., and its acquired properties were on their own; the former owners of Creation bought it back for less than Fandom, Inc. had paid for it.[19][20]

By April 2, 2001, Fandom.com was shut down.[4] [22]

Fan Comments

From "The 11th Hour Message Board"

All comments are from The 11th Hour Message Board, Archived version (November 2000)

[Kim]: Fandom.Com Is violating our civil rights and our fan rights. I have been a "FAN" and in "FANDOM" before half those idiots running fandom.com were born. This is along the same lines as Creation Con attempting to say that the cons they hosted were the One and Only con to go to and they bought up everything as quick as they could until Fans boycotted their actions and now, they have faded to nothing. Action needs to be taken and more information needs to be known. First, we need to boycott Fandom.com ASAP. That means Now. No more buying their toys and people, that means we have to get the message out there. On all the bb's and Email lists no matter how OT it is. NO More of Fandom.com. No more toys or shirts or cups or remotes or figures.

Right now, theres not enough to be known. Where is this happeneing? What state? How can we contact the parties, and is it possible to Help our fellow Fen at F.tv! What can we do other than tell people Not to buy from them? We have to fight before F.com has the only right to use the word fandom. Because if that happens, We are going to have to PAY to use the word fandom. No more fanfic sites, no more homages to your fav game or show, not without having to pay for it. This is just one nail that can Not be put into the coffin or we might

as well curl up and quit fighting now.

[zero]: Well, I've been anti-Fandom.com ever since they bought out Another Universe. Before that I thought they were just another lame "let's get the scifi fans to join our corporate endeavor" site; it's disgusting how successful they've apparently been when they're buying up entire sites and magazines. This whole thing is just crazy... especially considering that the lawyers are using their scary business-speak to say that Fandom.com has a trademark on the word when they don't.

[Jennifer]: This is outrageous! I'm sick of companies (or individuals) buying words. Especially those like "fandom" that have been in common use for years. While I could understand if the owner of fandom.tv took the money offered, I would love to hear she stands up to Fandom.com for fans everywhere! And best of luck to her, no matter what she does! I've never bought anything from Fandom.com and now I know I never will.

[Tom Brolin]: The wording of the claim is specific. They hold the domain fandom.com and claim the right to use the term fandom in connection with that site.

The letter as quoted makes no claim to the right to use the term fandom on any other site. So unless they want to expand on that claim it's possible to use the term fandom on any other site without a conflict. As far as I can see, they only claim the right to control material on their own site and services and merchandise tied to that site. I'm inclined to allow them that, especially since its in every company's right to register all top level domains with specific extensions.

She is allowed to use "fandom" anyway she likes, the focus should actually be on the domain name itself. Pepsi wouldn't allow someone to own pepsi.tv so why should Fandom allow it?

A sidebar, insulting the fandomain owners as having nothing to offer is rather unfair seeing how this site is run by fans too.

BTW, love the 11th hour site.

[Harrison]: (sorry) p.s. to say that f.com has a right to the domain name fandom and to compare that to pepsi is ludicrous and illogical. Pepsi came up with the word that is the name of the cola! f.com did not invent the word fandom. just because they have money and are good at business in know way gives them the right to anything other than that which they purchased, which is "fandom.com." it is not in any way their intillectual property seeing as they did not make the word known to world! By the bye, with all the news domain addresses that come out, anyone who wants to should be able to purchase fandom.inc or fandom.biz or anything else they want. and if their site makes money and survives and perhaps even manages to crush f.com, well, that would just be poetic, wouldn't it?

[Tom Brolin]: Why the vehemency against Fandom.com in the first place? What is so wrong with Fandom that invokes such ill placed and childish rants of "hate"?

[Jeff Javorie]: So Harrison how do you then apply your arguement when referring to Amazon.com? Are you therefore saying that the same applies to Amazon? Afterall the word "Amazon" has long existed before the internet book company. What about "excite" as in excite.com?

[Jen H.]: Why the vehemence of the attacks on Fandom.com? Because many seem to feel that this thing they love, their participation in the online genre community, is threatened by people whose only interest is to make money off of the participants in said community.

I've never been to F.com (and never will, after this flap), so I can't speak to the quality of their web production, but I do know that when any corporate entity moves in on a private individual who is merely pursuing her favorite pasttime and says that she does not have the right to pursue it anymore, simply because they got there first, it disturbs me deeply.

For me, the closest analogy would be if a record label came knocking on my door and told me I couldn't sing anymore, even for myself and my friends, because I wasn't signed to a corporate label.

Another analogy: Imagine if a company named Jennifer, Inc., informed me that I had to "cease and desist" using my name because they owned the rights to it. It's my name. They are welcome to share it with me, but they can't take away my identity merely because it conflicts with their corporate aims.

[Tom Brolin]: Regardless of the fandom.tv dispute, to you providing fan run content in order to make money is wrong unto itself? I don't see what the big deal is.

On the lawsuit deal, if everyone would just get off their high horse they would understand they are not trademarking a word per se, just as it pertains to the Fandom.com association. If Excite can do it then so can they.

[zero]: The problem with Fandom, the reason I intensely dislike them, is that they're taking properties that may have once been cool (or if not cool, at least a little independent) like Another Universe and Cinescape, and all those fan sites, and they're absorbing them into this giant corporate machine.

I have no problem with the folks who run fan sites -- very cool fan sites, from what I've seen -- that have joined up with Fandom.com. That's their decision, and a lot of them probably need the help; it's very difficult to run a big fan site, and it does cost money, and certainly having some money behind you can't hurt. It's their thing, it's all their game, and they can play it however they want. I'm sure for many of them it's get a corporate backer or kill your site. But come on. You can't tell me that joining Fandom.com doesn't effect their sites. Any FanDomain site that you visit looks the same. The graphics are nice and all, but they're cookie-cutter. It's apparent -- at least to me -- that these sites are no longer 100% independent, and that they're not longer doing things entirely on their own terms. If any of those actual site owners would like to speak up, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say about their affiliations. I've heard all sorts of terrible things from site owners who joined up with IGN or UGO, and Fandom's the same thing all over again. And what really gets me is that back in the day when those guys first popped up, I remember visiting their site and reading this whole thing about how they're "fans just like you." Sounds to me that they're now fans of the dollar.

But to get back to the subject, on principle, I don't like the idea of Fandom.com taking advantage of that need that exists and turning it into profit. You can't tell me that they're taking in these fan sites out of the kindness of their hearts. This isn't a service for the fans... it's a service intended to drive traffic to the Fandom.com websites, where they display advertising (which makes them money) and sell lots and lots of merchandise (which makes them even more money). I suppose I could say I'm all for being a greedy capitalist, but there's also something to be said for integrity and doing something because you believe in it, not because you're getting a lot of money for it. Fandom.com lacks integrity, IMO, and the fact that they're attacking completely unrelated and non-competitive fan efforts is ludicrous. As is the idea that because they own "Fandom.com", they should also own the .org, .net, .tv, and .whatever-else-they-can-think-of is absurd. The owner of the .tv domain is not nor ever has been simply squatting on the space. She's using it for her own project. It's completely legitimate, and it sounds to me like what you're saying, Tom, is that they have the right to all of those domains -- even if they didn't bother to get there first -- simply because they're a company and she's not. Since when are companies more entitled to anything than private citizens are? Why should corporations be handed everything they want? Just because they have the money to pay for lawyers to take it for them?

I don't know, man. As I said in the news item, I'm not a legal expert. But this just sounds like blatant bullying to me, and they're threatening to sue simply because this webmaster has something they want and she doesn't seem inclined to give it over. I don't think that corporate America should win by default. I don't believe McDonald's should be able to sue the Clan McDonald for using the "corporate name". Call me a rebel. I believe in indie films and fan-run sites and people actually caring about the things they invest their time in. I believe in fluffy puppies, and kittens, and rainbows...

[Daniel Wood]: Hi everyone,

Daniel here, I run The X-Files section at Fandom.Com. I've been here before, and visit frquently throughout the month. Anyway, I just thought I'd drop in and comment on this whole situation.

zero said: "If any of those actual site owners would like to speak up, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say about their affiliations."

Gladly. Why join Fandom? Many reasons. I joined because it was the big break that I wanted -- imagine, you're just a guy who runs a small X-Files site and suddenly this company wants you to run it for them, they're offering you a deal. Refusing it would be comparative to an aspiring actor refusing their first real break. Nobody would do that.

In the end, for me, it came down to exposure. And that's what I got. My hits have gone from 12 000 visitors a month to more than TRIPLE that in UNIQUE visitors a month. As an X-Files fan, through my affiliation with Fandom and only through that affiliation, I've met Mitch Pileggi, Chris Carter, Dean Haglund, Brian Thompson, and spoken with both Vince Gilligan and more recently, exchanged an e-mail with Robert Patrick. I would never have done that, had I not been affiliated with a Los Angeles-based company with proper PR people.

zero, you make some valid points. Maybe all our graphics are cookie-cutter, but they're one helluva lot better than anything I could do. And, yes, the whole idea behind Fandom is to drive people to visit the site and make the advertisers happy. But if you have met the people who set it up (and I have) then you would also see a PASSION for what they do. It's there. Nevertheless, the people who are really feeling the backlash of this are us, the ones who run the FanDomains. I wish it weren't so.

Most importantly, we ARE doing something because we believe in it. To remain part of Fandom, I must provide at least one update to my site every few days. Needless to say, I don't do that. I provide several updates EVERY day. I wouldn't do that if I weren't in it for the joy of sharing what I love with others who are as passionate as me.

"I've heard all sorts of terrible things from site owners who joined up with IGN or UGO, and Fandom's the same thing all over again."

No, Fandom is different. IGN or UGO rarely, if ever, have much contact with their affiliates. Fandom is different, it's more hands-on. We interact as a group, the Fandom webmasters. We've all met each other. We've gone places that we never would have been able to go, if not for Fandom. We feel like a major part of the company instead of an 'affiliate.'

More reasons why I joined? Unlimited webspace. Resistance against the Fox lawyers. Like someone said, join or be shut down. Free, customised polls, message boards, chat rooms, newsletter -- things that I could never have done (or done as well) without Fandom.

"Sounds to me that they're now fans of the dollar."

Money? Yeah, there's money. Corporate greed? I think not. I, like many X-Files sites, donate the proceeds from my merchandise commission to EHSEH and Neurofibromatosis, Inc. I hope nobody sees that as greedy. Other income is used to foot my internet and phone bill first up, and any products that I would like to review (those DVDs don't come cheap). In essence, I put what I get back into the site. And who visits the site? The *fans.*

What I don't like, and what you might want to rectify or publish in another news item, is that we have nothing to do with this woman. By 'we', I refer to those of us who run the FanDomains. We've never met her -- actually the first time we heard about her was in your news update! Yet, people are attacking us. People are boycotting some of OUR FanDomains. For what? We're not involved... so why should OUR hard work be affected for something that we're not involved in? Why should we receive the flames? I would really like this single fact to get more exposure because people are taking it out on us at the moment, and that's not right.

Perhaps a better question would be, why direct your energy on this one, isolated case, when there are more important things to do? It's been discussed amongst us, the webmasters... why boycott us, when we've done nothing? Why campaign against us when you could be doing something that will really make a difference?

Oh, well, I guess we'll just have to bear it.

BTW, when I said 'you', I wasn't referring to you specifically, but to those so intent on boycotting those of us running FanDomains.

Over and out,

-- Daniel Wood, http://www.fandom.com/x-files/

[Monique]: Daniel,

Is it fair that you're getting boycotted for this? No, I guess not. But, really, it's inevitable. You're part of the Fandom.com ring of sites. It's kinda hard to boycott Fandom.com, yet still provide hits to their advertisers by going to fandom.com/x-files. You're under the Fandom umbrella, and you're going to get hit.

Tom Brolin,

Part of the problem that I see is that Fandom.com is being immensely hypocritical by slapping someone else with a cease and desist letter for violating their "trademark" - which they don't even own. Fandom.com has built it's entire reputation on providing a home for unofficial fan sites that are violating trademarks and copyrights left and right. Some of the sites will publish entire passages from magazines interviews with TV stars, etc. A lot of sites scan in pictures, etc., that they don't own the copyrights too. Why is it OK for Fandom.com to illegally use these items, which are the creations of Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, J.K. Rowling, etc., but it isn't OK for someone else to have a simple site at Fandom.tv, when they don't even legally own the name?

[clio]: ...the fandom.tv site couldn't switch over to "tvfandom.com" -- or "mediafandom.net" -- or "ratpatrolfandom.tv" -- the domain name holder would be legally restricted from using a common English word.

F.com owns many, many domain names, including and not including the word fandom, three of which are variations (the plural) of domain names owned by Warner Brothers. Surely the hardworking fans who run fandomains on F.com (and their hard work is clear from the quality of their sections) can understand how hurtful this is. Is, for example, the X-Files fandomain in competition with, and diluting the trademark of, the official X-Files web site? Some of us don't think so....

[Lawyer Geek]: Well, as a (ahem) lawyer (ducking), I can tell you that unless fandom.com somehow induced Congress to pass new trademark rules, they have no right to enforce "fandom" as a trademark -- it's what's called a "generic" term, which has passed into usage as a general designation for communities of avid enthusiasts of every stripe. (That's why Xerox goes crazy everytime someone says "I'm going to xerox something" -- they don't want their trademark to become generic and lose protection.)

Because fandom's a generic term, it's highly unlikely that the Trademark Office would allow fandom.com to register the phrase "fandom" -- they'd have to show the Trademark czars that they've so effectively identified the word "fandom" with their enterprise in the public eye, they deserve the right to protect the phrase from infringement or dilution by others. (i.e., you or me, my friends.) This is what distinguishes this case from the "pepsi" example, btw -- Pepsi never tried to take over a generic term as a trademark. If it went after pepsi.tv, they'd only be enforcing and protecting a well-known, established and *registered* mark from possible dilution and infringement, and even then, they'd have an evidentiary burden to meet.

Whether fandom.com is ever able to co-opt "fandom" is, of course, up to the fans -- if we, as a community, cede this point, we'll lose the right to use "fandom" as it's been used in the past, and as it's been used by such entities as the Fandom Directory (which predates fandom.com, and probably has a better claim at this point to the "fandom" trademark, if there's any such claim to be had.) (Here's hoping I haven't identified the next takeover target for fandom.com.)

[Aaron Smith]: I work for Fandom as well running the Monster Zero domain (Lisa asked I post my views here) and I really am concerned for the basic fact none of you nor anyone on Usenet, etc calling for our heads knows what is going on. Fandom is definetly not trademarking the word "fandom", and is very concerned that this trouble got started in the first place because some people don't understand what is going on. As usual on the Net, one side is presented and taken as gold by those who are not involved. Fandom is a great organization, far from the corporate monster people claim it is. This matter will be settled soon I have been told, and hopefully all will be cleared up.

As for articles the fans use for the sites and whether they are legal or not, that is an internal matter, but often we do have permission to reprint material as we have developed contacts with some of the writers of the material in question. Luckily, about 100% of my material is original since I have one of the toughest sites to run since the material is mainly Japanese. As for news clippings from say Reuters we can use anything from their news service since we have a contract with them. So no, the majority of articles on Fandom are original and news bites and rumours are gathered like any similar sites like IGN, AICN, etc. Every site borrows and credits---at least I do.

You know, any of the copyright holders could come in and say stop anytime they want. Fandom isn't beyond that. Toho (who owns Godzilla) knows all about my site and has been in contact with me several times, even offering to help out in the future--and they are fiercely protective of their character. But yet they know its a fan site and don't wish to damage their image by shutting me or similar sites down. So if they won't shut down Monster Zero, and Fox won't shut down Daniel's X-Files site down, maybe they are finally realizing these sites are good for the gander.

Again, this boycott idea is based on one side, I didn't see anybody calling Fandom and asking what their side is. I am quite sure this whole matter will be settled soon in the correct way and not in court of hyperbole and rhetoric.

Aaron Smith Monster Zero: http://fandom.com/godzilla "The first and last word in kaiju news"

[zero]: I understand that some of our readers have contacted Fandom, and I'd be interested to know whether they get any response. For the record, because this has proved to be a much more popular topic than I would've guessed, we will be doing more research, making calls, and attempting to get a full and clear view of the situation. I agree that a great many people -- on both sides of the debate -- don't understand what's really happening or don't understand the arguments coming from the other side.

But umm... saying that you operate much like IGN or AICN doesn't really lend credence to your argument. AICN's practically a dirty word 'round these parts. We all swipe stuff, I think; it's kind of hard to run a good site without doing so, and especially fan-only sites without any corporate backing can't get permissions for a lot of that stuff. I think people just find Fandom.com's ideas of legal and illegal to be a little funny.

Of course they don't shut your sites down... thanks to your relationship with Fandom.com, you've got lawyers behind you. It's the rest of us who are in trouble, because we don't have that and as far as Fox -- or Fandom.com -- is concerned, that seems to make us easy pickings.

The boycott idea is based on people's disgust with Fandom.com's behavior... if they want to boycott, they will, and I certainly can't blame them. I don't visit Fandom.com anyway, but that's just because I'm not into it and have no reason to go there. Hopefully they'll bother to try to understand the issues as well, and hopefully we'll be able to bring more coverage in order to help everyone concerned understand the issues involved.

[Lawyer Geek: Monster Zero said: Fandom is definetly not trademarking the word "fandom", and is very concerned that this trouble got started in the first place because some people don't understand what is going on.

Quote from the letter signed by Julie Shepard as counsel for Fandom.com: As indicated before, the Company is the owner of all exclusive rights in and to the trademark "FANDOM" (the "Mark") and the associated domain name Fandom.com for use in connection with its Internet web site and related services and merchandise. (emphasis added)

Sounds like they're trying to trademark "fandom" to me, Monster Zero, or at least try to get everyone to believe they own the trademark in the term "fandom." What's not to understand about the phrase "the company is the owner of the trademark FANDOM?" (A statement which is a lie and a total misrepresentation of the legal facts, by the way. I checked out the trademark record myself, and Fandom's application was indeed abandoned in 1999, long before this letter was written. Hiring counsel who are willing to lie and misrepresent the facts to achieve a dubious goal is not the way to inspire trust and confidence, either in the company or its corporate minions.)

Of interest to everyone in this debate: fandom.com's subtly changed its logo from "fandom.com" to "fandom" accompanied by a swoosh and a dot, a clear step in the direction of establishing a trademark right in the term "fandom" through use of a graphic mark and common law usage. (Better start using "fandom" as often and as visibly as you can, fangrrls and boyz.)

Of course, Monster Zero's right about there being another side of the story: if a trademark is not defended "vigorously," it can lose its protection (see my "Xerox" example in my earlier post.) However, on a purely ethical basis, there's a huge difference between the vigorous defense of a properly registered trademark, and the arrogant use of untruths, threats, and economic power to bully and intimidate those who are making legitimate use of a generic term and a legally available domain name.

From all that I can see, the person behind fandom.tv isn't doing anything different from those running a "fandomain," Monster Zero. She's built a site where fans can gather to talk about fannish passions, using a *legally available,* *generic* domain name. Only, she did it alone, without corporate backup. More power to her. Fandom.com will just have to live with the fact that its overpaid corporate minions failed to snap up fandom.tv when it was available.

[Steve Younis]: My name is Steve Younis. I run the Superman section at Fandom. The way I understand it, Fandom Inc. is not trying to stop anyone from using the word "fandom", I mean think about it, why would they? The reason fans are all so protective of the word "fandom" is the same reason the company called itself "Fandom" in the first place.

The fact is that the domain name "fandom.tv" features in Fandom's future plans, and so they sought to acquire that domain name from the current owner. Maybe the approach taken appears heavy-handed, but I can assure you that that was never the intention.

As far as the way in which Fandom is run... As someone who operated my fan site since 1997, the opportunity presented by joining Fandom was something too good to pass up. I've never regretted my decision to accept Fandom's invitation. Sure, they pay me, but the money is secondary to the doors being part of Fandom has opened up for me to improve my site. The fact the someone wanted to pay me to do my hobby still amazes me, but the fact is I retain full control over my content, retain full ownership of my site, yet now have more access to bigger and better things through Fandom's sources, promotions and reputation.

Trying to damage Fandom's reputation by persisting with this "Boycott Fandom" movement is simply hurting me and the other FanDomain owners who work long and hard to bring fellow fans the best information, rumors, reviews, news, etc...

[zero]: Dude. They're saying that if the fandom.tv webmaster does not agree to their terms and hand over the domain name, she WILL BE SUED. For those of us without lawyers of any kind, much less the high-priced ones, this is a signal to fold now or face future financial ruin. Acquire indeed... it's not exactly a friendly offer to purchase the domain name, it's a very blatant threat to take it away. If that wasn't the intention, I'm freakin' Tinkerbell. Have you ever thought that your employer, Fandom.com, is simply hurting other independent site owners "who work long and hard to bring fellow fans the best information, rumors, reviews, news, etc..."? IMO, Fandom.com has done something very, very stupid. The fact that you're getting backlash for it is unavoidable... you signed up with them, you're a part of them, and you can't take all the perks without a few disadvantages along the way.

[mlledelle]: Interesting that all the Fandom.com webmasters have trotted over here like obedient children to spew out the rhetoric that Fandom.com just want 'to aquire the domain name'. Having read the letter received from Fandom.com (which, apparently the webmasters never bothered to do), this ain't no gentle purchase offer. Fandom.com had better do some more research, because there are lots and lots of tiny little FANDOMS that use that word too... FANDOM FANDOM FANDOM FANDOM FANDOM Do you suppose they'll sue me now, too, for 'infringing on their copywrite'? A copywrite they don't hold? I second Nora's comment: did Fandom.com request you all come and comment? I'd like to see that letter because, she's right, you're all stating essentially the same information over and over.

[Lee]: To Steve Younis:

I can't believe you are defending what Fandom.com is doing. By your reasoning, if I stick a gun in your face and demand your wallet, I am not committing a crime. I merely have plans for your money and am trying to acquire it.

Sheesh.

[Eric J. Moreels]: G'day all, Eric Moreels here from Fandom.com's X-Men domain, X-Fan.

Now I know what some of you might be expecting me to say, but I'm not going to because my fellow Fandomain webmasters have already said it better than I could anyway.

I will say that Fandom didn't ask us to come over here. There's no "explanatory letter" or anything like that. Bottom line is folks that we're fans, like all of you, and we're as passionate about and as dedicated to our sites as any other fan. Yeah, sure, we get paid to do what we do, doesn't mean we do it with any less enthusiasm or love for our respective genres.

This is not me "spewing rhetoric" as someone delightfully put it. This is me, as a fan of the X-Men for 23 years, telling it like it is. Yes, a *FAN*. Like you.

And as for having "trotted over here like obedient children", I've got 2 kids of my own, and believe me, they're *ANYTHING* but obedient! ;)

The main reason I think the other Fandomain guys came over here was to clear up some people's incorrect assumptions as to what Fandom is, what Fandom does, and how they do it. No, I'm not talking about this trademarking business - none of us webmasters have a single thing to do with that. Another reason would be is that we're all damn proud of the work we do on our respective domains, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Fandom gave all of us webmasters the chance of a lifetime. As some of the guys have already said, joining up with Fandom has kicked open many doors that I never thought would be opened to me as a fan.

Basically yes, we are employed by Fandom. No, we weren't "absorbed" by Fandom, we were invited to join and did so willingly. Yes, we still own our sites. No, we don't have any say in the advertising. Yes, Fandom are a company, but they're hardly the "gigantic corporate monster" (LOL) that people are making it out to be. No, not all of us domain webmasters are in the U.S. (if you couldn't guess from my opening paragraph, I'm Australian, living in Adelaide). Yes, we copy info from other sites, but never entire articles (except Press Releases) and news is always properly sourced and credited and linked back.

I know that this stuff comes with the territory of working for a company, but I also know I've got nothing to do with this trademarking business and so all you'll be doing by boycotting is taking things out on a fellow fan, which pretty much defeats the purpose.

I've published my e-mail address here for anyone who wants to talk to me further about this. Don't bother asking me about what's going on behind closed doors or any of that stuff, as I've got no idea what goes on at the Fandom offices. Like I said, I'm an entire ocean away from all that! But, if you want to talk to me "fan to fan", then by all means feel free.

Cheers.

[Mre]: Focus here, people. The issue is pretty much laid out in black and white (based on the copies of the letters received at fandom.tv). There is no point in hassling the fandomain users; their choices are their choices.

Based on the terminology of the letters received, it does seem as if fandom.com is forbidding the use of 'fandom' in the .tv domain. Even if they had 'plans' for it, they should have (a) got to it first, or (b) made a clearer stance in their declaration.

(shrug) Dunno where this is all heading but I think fandom.tv is in the right. 'Fandom' has been in use for dog's ages; the whole concept of 'fandom' cannot be claimed by a dotcom. You can't 'vigorously defend' what you have no claim on!

[Zelda Kim]: Before you get all loyal about fandom.com go READ the C&D letters. Really READ them. Then REMEMBER what it is to be a fan not protected by a large corporation trying to run a huge site by yourself. I find myself being more sympathetic the fandom.tv domain owner for two very important reasons. First of all I tend to take the side of any fan who comes against a corporation in an unintellegent suit. This one definitly qualifies. Secondly, I refuse to stand by silently while a for-profit corporation attempts to gain sole control of, what is to fans, a very important word's use in internet domains.

Everyone is allowed their own opinion on this matter, however you should actually read all the documents in question and reflect on their effect on the whole fen community which reaches beyond your particular fandom.

[Monster Zero]: Well, this is my last word on this whole mess. First Lawgeek---I did build a site where fans could get together and do fannish things thank you very much. And I was good at it, and through luck I was offered to do it full time, which I will not apologize for.

Two, I do indeed know what its like as fan to be shutdown. Sony did that to me in 1999 for info leaked on Godzilla' 98, I was indeed bullied, and was angry as a result of. I am very pleased that I have back up now in case something like that happens again. I don't want to lose my hard work again. So I hope things are worked out in this matter.

Third, I could care less about fandom.tv and what they do. Let them do fan stuff---NO ONE is out to stop that. Quit making a mountain out of a molehill, especially when you have not one clue as to every thing that has transpired. It's very easy to be an armchair quarterback. This ordeal has nothing to do with the domains on Fandom.

Fourth, to Miss M.--It certainly is legal to briefly summarize another person's material. If do summarize I give credit as to where the info came unlike say AICN--which Lisa points out was a bad example. Luckily, my material is original.

Fifth, no Fandom did not ask us to come over like "obedient children" Please, insults are low brow and uncouth. I emailed Lisa actually and she invited me to participate on this board. I care about my site and the work I do.

I was a fan who got lucky, and I do accept the bumps in the road this luck has given me. Just don't expect me to sit back and say nothing---you have every right to complain and I have the right to make a rebuttal. Speech goes both ways.

[methos/Sharon]: Re: the folks who run Fandom.com are just fans like us and not a Big Evil Corporation

I believe that. I think it's great when fans are able to turn their passion into something from which they can make a living.

The problem is that Fandom.com is REPRESENTING itself like a Big Evil Corporation. If I have an issue with a fan website, I would send that webmaster an e-mail explaining my situation and how I think it should be remedied. If I want to enter into a business correspondence, I or someone from my business would contact the other business. When your LAWYERS send a missive to someone, particularly if it's a first correspondence, I don't see how your intentions can be construed as anything but hostile.

Even places like Paramount and Fox and Lucasfilm, when they come down on fans, they always mention that they appreciate the support fans have given them and then explain copyright, etc., usually in non-legalese terms. It may be just rhetoric, but at least they make an attempt to sound somewhat friendly, even if it's thinly disguised. Not so with Fandom.com -- it may be run by fans just like us, but they are behaving like a Big Evil Corporation.

Re: this is not just about the domain, there is more to this than us "armchair critics" are seeing

A couple of people have alluded to this without elaborating. Perhaps if you elaborated, we would better understand the situation and thus have more informed opinions.

Unfortunately, the only "evidence" by which we have to judge Fandom.com are the two missives from their lawyers and testimonials from Fandom.com domain webmasters. I haven't seen or heard anything from the people in charge of Fandom.com yet. I would be very interested to get the story from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Re: the boycott

I agree that a boycott does unfairly hurt innocent webmasters who just happen to be affiliated with Fandom.com, but a far greater danger than hurting a few fan sites is allowing Fandom.com to claim all rights to use the word "fandom" in a domain name. The fact that the letters from Fandom.com wanted to forbid the fandom.tv webmaster from using EVERY SINGLE combination of the word fandom in a domain speaks to their ultimate intention in that regard.

[Sue Phillips]: I'd just like to say that I'm very sorry to hear that the real fans running domains at fandom.com are being hurt. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed actions of your employer have put you in this position.

I am from an era of fandom (begun over 25 years ago) in which the idea of people making money of fandom was very upsetting to a lot of people. That's changed but the idea of a company bullying a real fan apparently just because they have more money than she does still rubs me the wrong way. Someone's got to stand up to bullies. If the owners of the fandomains don't object to the tactics of their employers than that's their business but I'm afraid I think less of them for that.

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Who owns fandom? Salon.com, December 2000. Accessed October 11, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 Defending Toy Dolls and Maneuvering Toy Soldiers: Trademarks, Consumer Politics, and Corporate Accountability on the World Wide Web MIT Communications Forum. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 The Fandom Menace, an official site in fans' clothing, by Fox Echo Station, December 5, 2000. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Fandom Inc. to Spin Off Assets and Shut Down Online Operations; Market Instability and Funding Difficulties Lead to Splitting Off Valued Properties Business Wire, April 2, 2001. Accessed October 11, 2008
  5. Remembering Fandom.com, Archived version
  6. Fandom.com as of February 20, 1999 via Wayback Machine last update while owned by Chris "The Magician" O'Shea, Fandom.com as of October 120, 1999 via Wayback Machine, first update copyrighted to Fandom, Inc. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  7. Fandom.com as of November 16, 1999 via Wayback Machine. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  8. Fandom.com front page as of June 19, 2000 via Wayback Machine. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  9. Fandom, Inc. Announces Acquisition of AnotherUniverse.com. - Free Online Library, Archived version
  10. Fandom.com Boycott Organised After Domain Name Dispute TrekToday, November 22, 2000. Accessed October 11, 2008.
  11. Gateworld Columns: Support Fandom.tv in domain dispute, including a link to fandom.tv as the site's first non-Stargate-related "link of the week". Accessed October 11, 2008.
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  14. Online Fans Urge Fandom.com Boycott After Domain Name Dispute - The Trek BBS dated Dec 2000, ; The 11th Hour Message Board Part 1, ; The 11th Hour Message Board Part 2,
  15. Ansible 161, December 2000, discussing Fandom.com as "Cyberbullies", accessed October 11.2008
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  17. OT But Important - X-Fan Message Board dated Nov 2000., ; Important - Fandom Message Board - General,
  18. The 11th Hour Dec 2001 Issue,
  19. 19.0 19.1 The Curse of Fandom Ansible 165, April 2001. Accessed October 11, 2008.
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