Fandom is a double-edged sword for the corporations who own the most popular pop-culture icons.
On the one hand, they're representative of fan enthusiasm, enthusiasm that may well help drive up sales. On the other hand, some of the uses of the copyright aren't always exactly what they're looking for.
It's a situation that's confronted more than one company. Last week, Warner Brothers took the bull by the horns, and a Beverly Hills law firm hired by the corporation began sending off letters to Web site owners.
The first-known site contacted by lawyers from the office of Baker and Hostetler was the Unofficial Superboy Website (http://members.tripod.com/~yobrepus/). Site owner Nik Stanoshek received the e-mailed letter last Tuesday. In the letter, lawyer Dennis L. Wilson requested that Stanoshek do the following:
"(1) immediately remove all advertisements from your web site; (2) remove the depictions of unreleased products from your Web site; and (3) cease use of the mark Daily Planet, and/or use of any logo confusingly similar to DC Comics stylized Daily Planet logo.
"While we realize that your web site contains a disclaimer and legal notice on the first page of your Web site, we note that all subsequent pages only post the legal notice. Please add the following disclaimer to each notice: This Web site, its operators, and any content contained on this site relating to Superboy are not authorized by DC Comics."
Stanoshek chose to shut down the Web site, as did several of the people contacted about their Web sites later in the week, although at least one fan, Robert Olivera, put his site (http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/2997/) back up after making some changes. Other sites affected have included a Secret (from Young Justice) site, a Hawkman site and a Legion of Super-Heroes site. Since last week, however, no new sites have reported receiving the letter.
DC Comics has had no public comment on the subject, and no guidelines for fan Web sites are available at their Web site (http://www.dccomics.com/), although the site does include a notice that materials on the site are not to be used on other Web sites.
Warner Brothers is no stranger to fans' desire to create Web sites based on its entertainment properties. In partnership with free home page provider Fortune City (http://www.fortunecity.com/), Warner Brothers has officially sanctioned fan Web site communities under the Acme City banner (http://www.acmecity.com/) for everything from Bugs Bunny to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
There is, however, no DC Comics neighborhood and, according to Acme City representatives contacted by the Comic Wire this week, no plans to create one