Friday, January 27, 2006

*sigh*

The past 24 hours have not been good ones. Mostly for reasons I either can't or won't go into here. But there's at least one item that's bothering me that is totally appropriate for this nominally Transformers-related blog.

If you follow Transformers with any enthusiasm, you probably know that the new edition of the Transformers Collectors' Club Magazine is now shipping. You probably have also seen a picture or two scanned from the magazine introducing certain toys that are due to hit the shelves in upcoming months.

And therein lies the problem.

As is well-known (if you've been following TFs) by now, Fun Publications (henceforth called "FP," these are the publishers of the Club Magazine) has specifically asked not to have such scans posted. Yet arrogant Transformers fans have been posting them left and right on the web in direct violation of these requests. I have called such people "thieves," and I do not think that word is too strong.

When I've complained about this matter on the boards, I have been treated with utter disrespect and contempt. Among other things, I (and the few others who have complained) have been told (paraphrased):
  • That's a stupid rule.
  • It's not fair that some people get to see these pictures and others don't.
  • Hasbro themselves don't really care. It's FP who's jealously protecting the scans.
  • This is the "real world," and you can't stop people from posting these pictures if they want to.
And the requests for "PMs" (Private Messages) to get the scans, circumventing message board restrictions, continue....

As the last sentence indicates, most of the moderators of the better Transformers message boards have been trying to respect the wishes of FP, and have taken down any scans or links they've found. But the damage is already done, and the sheer number of "send me a PM, please" messages indicates that there are still lots of Transformers fans who don't care about respecting FP's wishes (nor copyright laws).

There are a few reasons this bothers me:
  • Regardless of what the laws say, FP has every right to dictate how their material is to be used, and that deserves respect.
  • While the magazine is but a small part of our club membership, those of us who pay for it have a right to this exclusive content before the rest of the internet grabs it. It's not fair to us that the information is public before we even get the magazine in our own mailboxes! This detracts from the value of our membership fee, which is arguably not the greatest value to begin with.
  • There are copyright laws that prevent this sort of thing. A few folks have argued that this kind of thing falls under "fair use." To that, all I can say is that I spend a lot of time dealing with copyright matters, and while "fair use" is not a clear-cut definition, allowing for some flexibility in how potential violations are decided, I'm pretty confident that posting these scans on the internet does not fall under "fair use" by pretty much any legal definition.
  • This kind of information is made available to fans under certain conditions. If those conditions are not met, we are less likely to be granted such information in the future, and then all fans lose.
  • It violates my personal sense of "right" and "wrong."
Admittedly, this last is fairly petty. But it is, at least in part, dictated by my Christian faith, and it is not an argument I have brought up anywhere else. I am well aware that many (if not most) Transformers fans are not Christian, and I do not expect them to be persuaded by arguments based on Christian ideals. I do still expect them to have better respect for the wishes of those who have worked to make this information available to fans in the first place, even if they don't have respect for the law. It's just common decency.

But this is definitely one of those times when I'm embarrassed to call myself a Transformers fan....

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