My Response Letter

Michael L. Brown
6013 Mayhill Drive
Madison, WI 53711-4123

January 8, 1997

Mallory D. Levitt
Viacom Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036-5794

REF: Your letter of Friday the 13th

Should anyone who sends out letters on Friday the 13th, right before Christmas really be taken seriously? Obviously Viacom doesn't care, otherwise the letters would have come after Christmas and dated differently.

Unfortunately, because I don't know own the site that has my web pages, and in order to continue with my site, I had to remove the images, logos and audio files that dealt with Star Trek, until this has been resolved.

First off, your letter contains an outright lie. You state that you recently learned about my site. Viacom, as a corporation, has known about my site for at least two years. If Viacom was worried about copyright and trademark infringement, you should have complained then. In the TV Guide on line article regarding this subject, Susan Duffy is quoted as saying, "It's part of a general enforcement program to protect our copyrights that has been in place for three years." If this were true, I would have heard about other fan web pages receiving letters. It wasn't until last August that the first letters ever went out to any Star Trek fan web sites. I'm sorry, but Susan's statement sounds like an outright lie. But, I'm not after the Star Trek properties, nor do I want anyone to take them away from Viacom either. That isn't the point of my Star Trek web pages.

So, why now is Viacom going after a few, and very few at that, fan run Star Trek sites? Well, by guess is because of the official release of the Star Trek: Continuum. I'll bet Paramount Digital hasn't been getting very many visitors. My guess is that in order to get the visitors to show up, kill, or cripple, the fan run sites. Susan Duffy says that this isn't so. I don't know, the timing couldn't have been anymore perfect. Sorry, but that won't do it. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. All you are going to do is piss off the fans by closing the fan run sites, resulting in exactly the opposite of what you want to happen.

The problem is that the official Paramount Digital site does not provide the information that the fans want and does not provide it for free. By placing the site within the MicroSh!t Network you have narrowed the number of visitors because of the following:

  1. The visitor must be a member of MSN. Many of us have direct internet access because of work, school or local ISP. Spending more money, or any money at all, for MSN is dumb. A lot of people just don't like MicroSh!t as a company. A little birdie on the Paramount lot told me that Paramount Digital was given a deal it couldn't refuse. You should have run, not walked away from that deal.

  2. Visitors must be running Windoze95 or NT in order to access MSN. This narrows the number of visitors even more. Many of us do not use Windoze95/NT when accessing the internet. We use a much better operating system; Unix.

  3. Visitors must be running the MicroSh!t Internet Explorer Browser. This goes hand-in-hand with #2. A majority of users use Netscape and prefer Netscape over IE.

Because Paramount Digital decided to use MSN for the official Star Trek site, you've pretty much made the site inaccessible to Star Trek fans. In order to get visitors to the official site, it needs the following:

  1. Open access to everyone.

  2. It must be written so that either browser can be used, i.e., no features that are only available via the IE browser.

  3. Provide the information the fans are looking for. If you carefully look at my site, you will see that it is simple. It provides scheduling information, past, present and future. It provides synopsis information, as well as cast information. The free-bee side of the MSN pages only provides info for the next show. No history and no far reaching schedule. I also provide video images from the promos of upcoming episodes. In your favor, you do provide movies of the promos. But you do not provide past movies, nor images from the promos, which have higher quality. Remember, you have fans overseas that are looking for information as well, not just fans here in the states. Yes, I also supply lots of cast photos, something else the fans are looking for.

Fans come to my site because I provide this information for free. I have no idea what is available within the Continuum, because I will not pay, nor can I access the site because I cannot use the MicroSh!t browser. If there is a history database for all of the Star Trek shows, great. But who can see it?

My site has been used by Paramount to obtain fan information for the Star Trek 30th anniversary special that was aired on UPN. If I was not wanted by Viacom, why would someone from Paramount ask me to help gather information for the special? The e-mail came from Stephen Welke <Stephen_Welke@paramount.com>. A copy of the e-mail has been attached to this letter. The request was turned into the following page:

http://www.cdsnet.net/vidiot/st30th.html

The e-mail address that was supplied on the page resulted in e-mail being sent to a special alias that forwarded it to me and to Steven. I also received information from UPN that was used on the following page:

http://www.cdsnet.net/vidiot/st30anniv.html

The images that were placed on the page were supplied by UPN, which consisted of a 35mm slide of the 30th anniversary logo, and a 4x5 transparency of the four captains. I was hardly violating copyright and trademarks when I was supplied with the material for my site. Many of the Star Trek: Voyager photos are from official Paramount/UPN supplied materials.

That brings up the next point. My site is in a unique position in that it has been supplied with official UPN press release material, specifically for my site, including the 1996-1997 Network Information Kit. In some circles I have been considered a promotional avenue. Well, that is exactly what I am. I am a Star Trek fan that is promoting Star Trek. Yes, it is a different outlet. It is a new and exciting outlet. An outlet that I don't feel Viacom/Paramount/Paramount Digital fully understands, yet. I have Star Trek material on my page in order to promote the shows. I don't have material on my pages in order to steal the Star Trek properties. Quite the opposite. The material enhances the site, which means more visitors will visit the site, thereby producing more interest in the show. More interest means more viewers and more viewers means more ad dollars.

As I understand the copyright and trademark laws, they are there to protect the owners of the properties from others making money, without permission, or from causing harm to the trademark. I do not make any money and definitely do not produce pages that are out to harm Star Trek. Quite the opposite, I want Star Trek to survive, which based upon the current Viacom actions, Viacom wants to harm the Star Trek property. The following statement from the following web page:

http://www.dorsai.org/p-law/wong_dir/docs/wongpap1.html

"Trademark law in general, whether federal or state, protects a trademark owner's commercial identity (goodwill, reputation, and investment in advertising) by giving the trademark owner the exclusive right to use the trademark on the type of goods or services for which the owner is using the trademark. Any person who uses a trademark in connection with goods or services in a way that is likely to cause confusion is an infringer."

Well, I do not provide any goods and the service I provide is information. To believe that Star Trek belongs to me is beyond anyone's belief. No one visiting my web pages believes that I own anything to do with Star Trek. As a matter of fact, my main home page even had a notice saying that all of the Star Trek stuff belonged to Paramount. So I guess we differ on infringement.

In the letter that you wrote, you specifically say that my list of the "Ferengi Rules of Acquisition" is a copyright violation of the book of the same name. I'm sorry, but I totally disagree. The list is produced by many fans, sending in rules that have been heard on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or read in any of the novels. The list is compiled by Michael J. Baker. I reformat it for web page use. The list has been compiled long before the book ever hit the stands. So, how can I, or anyone, copy from a book that wasn't even available. As mentioned, the book even lists rules that are not even in the book. Under unwritten standards, anything that is not said within a Star Trek episode that made air, is not canon. The book containing the rules and all novels, that list rules that have not been mentioned within an episode are non-canon and are part of the compiled list. In any event, the fans of the show produced a list of canon and non-canon rules long before Paramount decided to print a book

If you want us to "go away," why only send out a limited number of letters? There are hundreds of fan produced web pages. Are we the "examples" that will be used to "stomp" out other fan produced web pages. After you finish with us, will you hang us out there as examples by which to go after other fan run sites? I guess we are the test cases, the ones you will test the waters with.

Like it or not, what you have done is starting to make the press, paper and electronic. Readers of these articles may get the impression of another big company picking on the little person. Right or wrong, that is what is going to happen. Star Trek is going to be the thing to ultimately suffer. Neither one of us wants that to happen. So, why don't we work together instead of becoming enemies? Fighting between Viacom and the fans will not do anyone any good. I like the idea that Warner Bros. and J. Michael Straczynski have come up with. The following is what he said when asked by a fan of Babylon 5:

From: BFrost@exch.reedtool.com (Brian Frost) Lines: 14

You may or may not be aware that Viacom is trying to shutdown any Web site that does more than provide discussion of Star Trek.

Seems to me that they are going to shoot themselves in the foot. The fans are what has given Star Trek life over these many years.

Would you or WB consider taking such action against Fan maintained B5 sites? I maintain a page for Houston B5 viewers and this would most definitely affect the layout of my page.

Thanks,

Brian Frost

From: jmsatb5@aol.com (Jms at B5) Lines: 17

Actually, WB and I have already had discussions about this (along with John C. and others in B5 production). What we proposed, because of the unique relationship between us and the online community, was that WB *not* go after the fan web pages AS LONG AS they attached the proper copyright info to any graphics or other material that's owned by WB. This prevents the material from falling into the public domain, which is the main concern here. (Most folks don't know that you can lose your copyright if you do not make best, concerted efforts to defend it.)

It's a sane and sensible policy, and thus far it seems to be working.

jms

This is the policy that Viacom should be using. I propose a statement along these lines that would appear on all pages with Star Trek material, as a link to a page containing:

"Star Trek; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; and all Star Trek movies are copyright and trademarks of Paramount Pictures, Inc., a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. All logos, images, audio files and other works, are property of Paramount Pictures. Any other use, except for written permission from Paramount Pictures, Inc., is expressly forbidden."

The above statement would appear on a page obtained by the following link:

Copyright Paramount Pictures, Inc.

The text would appear in a size no smaller than an HTML <H4> tag. Tags smaller than <H4> are difficult to read.

Again, let's work together instead of fighting. Gene Roddenberry's dream was for everyone to work together. If Gene were alive today, I'm sure he would not be impressed with the current events.

Copies of this letter are being sent to the list of people below. I'm also enclosing a letter written to Mr. Redstone by Willard Uncapher, in case everyone has not seen it yet.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Brown

Copies to: Mr. Sumner M. Redstone
Copies to: Carl Folta
Copies to: President, Paramount Digital Entertainment
Copies to: Rick Berman

Enclosures: Letter by Willard Uncapher
Enclosures: E-mail from Steven Welke

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vidiot at vidiot dot com
Last modified on January 8, 1997.