Guide To The Simpsons On The Net
THE HUNT IS ON
"It's all fun & games until the postman forks over
the cease and desist letter." --- the Duke of URL in
Suck, December 1, 1995.
If you don't know already, all images, audio, video, and other
content relating to The Simpsons are copyrighted by Fox. Most
webmasters were aware of this. Students are even taught about
the "fair use" laws in computer science classes. But, no one
felt Fox would care about the content of Simpson fan sites.
Boy, were they ever wrong.
Beginning in mid 1995, Twentieth
Century Fox Film Corp. started to obsessively hunt for copyright
infringements on the internet. Fox's lawyers felt that websites
devoted to their shows would cause the programs themselves
to lose money and interest. One of the first documented cases
of Fox's actions occured in the days following the premiere
of their new show "Millenium". Here is an excerpt from a website
explaining what they did.
" On the day of Millennium's premiere, Gil Trevizo, an
excited fan of the show, released his unofficial Millennium
site that he spent many hours of unpaid work
creating. Fox immediately took action by freezing his college e-mail account
and sending him cease-and-desist orders to shut down. Although Fox was bombarded
with angry internet citizens, Fox held its position."
In the mid 90's, Simpsons fan Jeanette Foshee created hundreds of icons representing
Simpsons characters, and spread them across the internet. On October 19, 1995,
Fox legal counsel David G. Oakes sent her a letter forcing her to remove the
icons from her page and told her to "provide Fox with the names and addresses
of all persons to whom such infringing icons have been sold and/or distributed." In
the letter, Fox implied that fines of up to $100,000 could be applicable if she
did not take this action. She submitted to their demands, but her C & D letter
was soon posted on The Simpsons Archive, and Foshee achieved the status of a
hero on the web. Rumors persist to this day that Oakes' computer crashed after
a blitzkrieg of e-mail from angry Simpsons fans.
Around the same time, Gary Goldberg of http://www.snpp.com opened discussions
with Fox about making the webpage a sanctioned, official site. In this article
by The Computer Paper, Goldberg explains what happened next.
"As an offer of good faith I removed access to all the
copyrighted materials temporarily, with the message that we were
negotiating with Fox over the possible expansion and official
blessing on the site," says Goldberg. This was in May, 1995.
In his letter to Fox TV, Goldberg tried to say what he believed
were all the right things to gain Fox's official blessing.
"I was pretty excited at this point, and I was positively
bubbly to the other maintainers," Goldberg explains. "In
my note, I had offered the free and complete resources of DigiMark
to design and maintain an official site that would incorporate
press releases, biographical information, interviews as well
as question/answer feedback with the Simpsons production staff
and pointers to other Fox shows and fan materials."
The feedback from his proposal was not what Goldberg expected. "I
didn`t receive any response for a week." When Goldberg followed
up, the publicist was "completely frigid in her manner,
and said that I would be receiving a cease-and-desist letter
from the Fox legal group," says Goldberg.
The letter never arrived, but to this day The Simpsons Archive
is without any multimedia. Fox opened its official Simpsons site
in January, 1996.
THE FANS FIGHT BACK
Roger Meyers: Our research shows that one
person cannot make a difference, no matter how big a screwball
she is, so let me close by saying...
Marge: And the horse I rode in on? I'll show them what one screwball
As you can well imagine, fans and website owners were outraged over Fox's
purge of Simpsons fan sites. Many articles in the media were written
blasting Fox's actions and several protest pages sprung up overnight.
Two websites received the most attention during this era: FIST and
definitely was a revolutionary website in its time. Created
by the owner of Homer's Head Sound Archive, a site which
Fox ordered to cease & desist, it informed hundreds of
thousands of surfers about Fox's actions and how they
could help stop the shut downs. Hundreds of website owners
put FIST's support banners on their sites. Millenium,
X-Files, King of the Hill, and Simpsons fans all united
in this effort. The FIST banner was one of the first
graphics I ever displayed on Evergreen Terrace. It was
the right thing to do; to tell Fox how we felt.
was another protest site maintained by webmasters who
had received C&D letters. For those of you who didn't
get to see it, F‹XWorld was simply a parody of FOX.com.
It was hilarious to see the amazing similarities between
the former official Simpsons site and F‹XWorld's "Sampsons" page.
You had better believe that these sites had an impact on the internet.
FIST was praised throughout the media, and Fox redesigned its official
site half a year after the birth of F‹XWorld. As Fox focused its efforts
on bringing King of the Hill webmasters to their knees, there were few
Simpson site shut downs in 1998.