October 28, 2006

APPARENTLY, THE VIRAL-MARKETING VIRUS ATTACKS THE BRAIN, at least at Universal Pictures:

“What happens when a film studio and a fanbase get into bed? Fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and the movie by Universal Studios — Serenity — are not amused. 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), and going after Cafepress. The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services.”

This, of course, poisons the viral-marketing well for Universal Studios in perpetuity. Nobody will cooperate the way Firefly fans did, now that this has happened. Naturally, people have the right to protect their trademarks — but when you do viral marketing you also have to relax on that a bit. The Serenity PR people sent me lots of images and art, with the obvious expectation that I’d use them in publicity. When you do that sort of thing, it filters out. This was a bad time to lawyer up. Plus, it violates an important rule of the Internet: “Don’t annoy someone who has more spare time than you do.”

Joss Whedon’s attitude seems more sensible. Viral marketing works both ways . . . .