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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Broken Sea Audio Gets Bullied Over Licensing

It seems one of our wonderful audio drama groups is in a pickle. A pickle they do not deserve to be in.

From Jesse at SFF Audio:

Meego ConanBroken Sea Audio Productions, headquartered in New Zealand, has shut down all their Robert E. Howard projects after receiving another threatening letter from the lawyers for Conan Properties International LLC (aka Paradox Entertainment).

CPI is the limited liability company that claims all licensing powers over works by Robert E. Howard worldwide.

The whole situation is absolutely rotten. CPI is muscling a non-profit audio drama fan group that makes audio dramas and audiobooks, for fun, out of public domain stories, all so it can defend it’s trademark on “CONAN: The Barbarian” (the stories for which are in the PUBLIC DOMAIN).

Things might look different were it not for the horrendous new legislation set to be implemented on February 28th, 2009 March 27th, 2009 in New Zealand. The new NZ law makes websites that are accused of infringement subject to arbitrary-ISP pulldowns.

Here is the most recent letter from CPI/Paradox Entertainment |PDF| in its entirety.

What make this all the worse is that its an echo of a fight BSAP, in NZ, had thought it had already won. See, back in August 2008 BSAP received a similar cease and desist letter from the same firm. In that letter CPI threatened a lawsuit over the use of “CONAN” (for which they claim a trademark)…

letter1565.jpg

In response to it BSAP removed their unique, but still offending, “CONAN” logo and the CPI lawyers sent a follow-up letter. Saying…

CPI Lawyer Letter #2

After that, with the Conan audiobooks and audio dramas no longer displaying any “CONAN” label, all seemed well for the non-profit audio drama group. Paul Mannering, and staff, continued to cast Conan fans as voice actors and work on the script for a new audio dramatization based on another Robert E. Howard public domain work, Hour Of The Dragon.

Later, in November 2008, something rather cool happened. Paul Mannering got an email from the CPI/Paradox’s branding department offering BSAP a free “CONAN” license. It was to be a “royalty free” license too, that would forever keep a threat of lawsuit from CPI/Paradox at bay and allow BSAP to brand its Conan audio as “CONAN” audio.

But then, just yesterday, an unexpected email from the CPI lawyers arrived…

letter3a565.jpg

…dashing the possibility of a license AND renewing the threat of a lawsuit…

letter3b565.jpg

It seems to me that given that the Robert E. Howard stories are PUBLIC DOMAIN, that Howard is 73 years dead, had no spouse, nor children, that Broken Sea is giving away their productions to Conan fans alike - only one judgment is reasonable:

CPI LLC/Paradox Entertainment is being an asshole.

And that’s the situation as it now stands. All future BSAP audiobooks and audio dramatizations based on the PUBLIC DOMAIN writings of Robert E. Howard are canceled - or at least it’s all put on hold until someone can offer some legal advice to Paul Mannering and the Broken Sea creative team.

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Simply put Jesse says, "An intellectual property company has been harassing fans that were making audio versions of public domain Robert E. Howard CONAN stories.

"They'd keep going, but the new fucked up New Zealand copyright law will shut down their whole operation if the company complains."

Fucked up indeed. It seems they are simply bullying without any real justification. What does that prove? They have a trademark they can enforce? Is that supposed to be what true copyright protection is about?

Timeline

Please show your support of Broken Sea Audio by reposting this wherever you can!

~Dani

1 comment:

Ed C. said...

I think that Paradox is just protecting the copyright that they have on SOME REH works, not the Public Domain stuff that Broken Sea Audio is doing. With the movie in the works, Paradox does not want any confusion between Broken Sea's site and an authorized site. Some Conan stories are still copyrighted in the US. Black Stranger is, Hour of the Dragon is not. It's safe to say that HotD is not copyrighted in Canada and UK.
Don't give up, just understand the rules.