It’s funny how things can sometimes change over a period of several weeks. Since last month’s article on intellectual property, “Friendship is a Registered Trademark”, a flurry of cease-and-desist and takedown letters has begun to land more firmly than ever before, with a marked intensification over the past week or two. Since our last article, well-established fanworks have seen their work taken down from YouTube, including Friendship is Witchcraft, the Mentally Advanced (Abridged) Series, and even (reportedly) AwkwardMarina’s posting of her “Anthropology” fan song. Meanwhile, the lesser-known equestriagirls.com site has received a letter from Hasbro’s legal department.
Together with some of the feedback gathered from comments on our last article, I have put together a series of updates about the status of Hasbro, intellectual property and the larger Brony community.
Last weekend, the makers of the fangame MLP:Online announced that they had been sent a cease and desist letter from Hasbro and had chosen to shut down production of the game. This sudden news has met with significant disappointment from the Brony community, especially given the comparatively blind eye that had been turned to other popular fan-games under production, like Fighting is Magic or My Little Investigations.
Was Hasbro finally turning on the fan-community it had helped to foster over the past two years by not strictly enforcing copyrights? Not exactly. MLP:Online spokesperson ToastyJustice, who had announced the closure of MLP:Online, made a point of mentioning that it was not copyright that had brought down the project, but trademarks. This is an important distinction, one which has ramifications for both Hasbro and fans alike.
Given the differences between copyright and trademark law, can we perhaps better understand what activities are more or less likely to earn Hasbro’s ire? Is this recent attack based on trademark law likely to prove to be the bane of the fandom? To learn more, read on…