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Firefly Fans Fight Back Against Universal

Sunday 29 October 2006, by Webmaster

quote [ Rather than responding in a manner which might antagonize Universal, we thought that asking fans to tally those hours and publishing the totals for all to see... ]

After being encouraged to viral market Serenity, the studio has started legal action against fans (demanding $9000 in retroactive licensing fees in one case and demanding fan promotion stop). The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services.

See extended for the articles relating to this post.

Excerpt from case study found on Affinitive’s Website: http://www.beaffinitive.com/clients/casestudy_serenity.html

Utilizing the flexibility of Affinitive’s technology platform, Universal was able to create a community around the release of Serenity that harnessed the power of a large member base that exceeded the most optimistic of expectations. Members were encouraged to form regional groups to promote the film and perform activities that would help generate word of mouth, like creating bumper stickers and gift cards to accompany the DVD release.


While the theatrical release of Serenity met only modest success at the box office, the Browncoats campaign maintained momentum through the DVD release, whose success spurred additional sales of the original Firefly DVD. At one point following the release of Serenity on DVD, both Serenity and Firefly were #1 and #2 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list despite the Firefly DVD being over a year old.

The community itself also grew far in excess of what was originally projected. By the campaign’s end, there were more than 75,000 members of the Browncoats, with over 85% of all members having been recruited by other members. The platform proved to be scalable enough to handle sustained periods of heavy traffic and activity.

And now that the highly successful guerilla marketing campaign is no longer necessary...

Excerpt of post from Cafepress shop owner, 11th Hour: http://forums.prospero.com/foxfirefly/messages?msg=32591.1

"11th Hour Art’s offering for sale and sale of unauthorized “Serenity” shirts may give rise to multiple violations of law, giving rise to various causes of action for copyright infringement, counterfeiting, and unfair competition, among other claims. Recovery on one or more of these claims may include attorney’s fees, treble damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages."

The Demand continues, and includes such stipulations that within 72 hours I must agree to: pay a retroactive $8,750 licensing fee; the permanent closing of my shop; turn over any merchandise referring to the Universal Property; and provide the last 12 months complete sales records... there’s more, but that’s the gist... oh, except for the threat of federal court and the statutory damages thingy of $150,000 per infringed work...

I found this particuar excerpt from the Demand rather ironical:

"That, no later than close of business on October 30, 2006, 11th Hour Art agree in writing to permanently cease and desist from the advertising, promoting, marketing, sale or distribution of any products bearing or referring to Universal Property"

Here are a couple other sites shut down by Fox: http://www.bluesunshirts.com http://www.blackmarketbeagles.com

The Browncoat community’s response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services. http://www.browncoatinvoice.com They’re keeping tally on the site. $1.5mil as of this posting.

With the shutting down of Blue Sun Shirts at the behest of FOX, cease and desist letters going out to owners of Browncoat shops on CafePress, at least one fan-favorite promoter receiving a demand from Universal Studios Licensing LLC for nearly $9,000 in retroactive licensing fees, and the resulting chilling effect leading to other fans shutting down preemptively, many Browncoats got to thinking about just how many hours they spent on helping to market and promote Serenity, in essence with the tacit agreement of Universal Pictures, if not their outright official encouragement.

Rather than responding in a manner which might antagonize Universal, we thought that asking fans to tally those hours and publishing the totals for all to see would be a gentler way to make both the specific point about Browncoat marketing for Serenity and the more general point about the relationship between producers of entertainment and their increasing (and knowing) reliance in the 21st century on fanbases to help promote that entertainment.


I’m a fan of the series/movie; I was introduced to it by a friend and I did my part to turn a lot of people on to the show. Just disappointed that Universal’s giving the people who helped turn this project into a success such a hard time.