Cease and Desist to Warp Seven!

Guest post by Rob Longert, PepperDigital

“Without freedom of choice there is no creativity. The body dies.” — Captain James T. Kirk in 'The Return Of The Archons' 

For a short while, I had the hope that this year’s “Starship Peppercom” holiday card would be up for an academy award. The acting, stock graphics and stock music was award winning, not to mention the camera work, directing and editing. 

But as you may have heard in yesterday’s post on Ed Moed’s Measuring Up blog, we received a “very polite and tactful” letter from CBS, owners of the Star Trek property, asking us to remove the video from our Web site, and as Ed put it, “CBS has every right to protect its brand rights in Star Trek and clearly its attorney is making sure that this is enforced to the letter of the law.”

But let’s take a step back for a second and examine the situation: 

  • We created a holiday card to show our personality and have some fun… Much like the crew of the Starship enterprise, everyone on our management team has a different personality that meshes together to form a successful group. StarTrek Costume  
  • While we did use the theme of Star Trek and licensed costumes that we purchased online, we didn’t use the original intro music, name of the show, photos of the U.S.S. Starship Enterprise or photos of actors from any of the various Star Trek series’. 
  • The backdrop of the video was Steve’s office and our conference room. Unfortunately, as much as I love our offices, they look nothing like a space ship, and while Park Avenue can seem like a black hole sometimes, it isn’t! 

I am not a lawyer, and I can see where CBS’ “legal eagles” are coming from, but on the other hand, we no longer live in a world where there are strict boundaries in terms of extreme fandom and appreciation and copyright infringement. 

The whole internet thing sort of changed the rules didn't it? Is every Star Trek online forum moderated by CBS? If a fan run forum has online advertising on it, does that fan owe money to CBS? 

Look back to August of 2008, when a number of fans of the hit TV show Mad Men began tweeting on behalf of their favorite characters… AMC’s gut reaction was to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with Twitter, to which Twitter responded by pulling down the Don Draper, Peggy Olson etc… character accounts. This sent fans into an uproar, and eventually AMC came to their senses, and realized that the fan Tweeting was actually just “free advertising” for their show.

As former Gawker blogger Richard Lawson (now with CBS) put it, “I can understand entire episodes being pulled, but little clips here and there seem to increase buzz and to potentially earn the shows some new fans.” 

The new Star Trek movie has over 330,000 fans on Facebook, they have every episode from the original series on YouTube and there are countless Star Trek spoofs out there (including one on the G4 channel called Star Trek 2.0) from TV and the Web, and you can even “Trek Yourself" (see below). But there is one thing missing… engagement from the brand.

Create Your Own

While monitoring so closely for copyright infringement, why not put some resources towards responding in forums, their Facebook page, and on YouTube? Think about the buzz that would be generated if they held a contest for the biggest Star Trek fan, who would represent them in social media circles! The possibilities are endless here…

My question to the Star Trek property is this: Will it hurt the franchise more to curb user generated content or to embrace it and converse with the passionate fans that are potential brand ambassadors?

What would James T. Kirk and Jean Luc Piccard do in this situation?!

3 thoughts on “Cease and Desist to Warp Seven!

  1. Make the stock market just one of your investments.
    Instead of only investing in stocks, diversify the type of investments
    you make so that you have better odds of making money. Invest in real estate and
    in certificates of deposit in addition to stocks so
    that you’ll still make money if your stock investments fail.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    I follow online stock trading systems

  2. Spot on, Julie. A friend of mine predicted the Beatles lawyers would, in fact, chase us down when we printed that card a few years back. Since neither they, the owners of the Saturday Night Fever rights or any other organization we parodied in previous holiday cards ever uttered so much as a peep, we thought we were safe. Think again, right? I wonder if the Klingons were involved in any of this? Oh well, next year we’ll do an Anthony & Cleopatra-themed video (with Ed as Cleo, of course). I can’t believe the ancient Roman Empire would issue a cease and desist. But, who knows, maybe Augustus Caesar still has some law firm on retainer?

  3. I’m surprised that the Beatles’ lawyers didn’t come after you for your Sgt. Pepper holiday card a few years back… 🙂
    These legal folks don’t understand the power of viral marketing… Instead of embracing fans of the show as brand ambassadors, they are biting the hands that feed them by following the letter of the law too strictly.