Saturday, 22 March 2014

Farewell, then, JanAnimations...

The Cease & Desist letter sent by Hasbro's legal department to JanAnimations has caused almost universal disappointment in the fandom. By common consent, these were works of outstanding quality. We all know that the likes of Picture Perfect Pony, Don't Mine at Night and Button's Adventures will live on somewhere on the internet – but only as shadowy, unofficial copies. I don't think anyone disputes that Hasbro had the right to do this... but it still came as a shock, even after what happened with Fighting is Magic all that time ago.

Perhaps we're nearing a critical point where "rules of engagement" somehow need to be made clearer. Everyone, including Hasbro, knows full well that this fandom would not be anything like what it is without unofficial fan works. Indeed, the fandom outside the US might well barely exist at all. And even after this move, Hasbro is still cracking down less than some other corporations I might name. Intriguingly, Mike Vogel (Hasbro Studios' VP of development and scripted entertainment) made these tweets today, a mere 17 minutes apart:

That's not conclusive evidence of anything; an experienced industry professional like Vogel wouldn't make a mistake like that. But explicitly requesting fan works seven minutes after a tweet apparently responding to complaints over the treatment of fan works is interesting, to say the least. And suggestive. We've heard rumours in the past that some people on the creative side of Hasbro feels that certain of the company's legal team's actions aren't always... ideal.This may be one of those occasions.

All Hasbro's got out of this so far is a lot of unhappiness, and unhappy fans don't rush out and buy licensed products. I think it's qualitatively different from what happened with Fighting is Magic, since there you could reasonably argue that seeing the ponies beat each other up was worsening their image. With the possible exception of the bar-room sketch, I don't think you could say that of any of JanAnimations' videos. It will be very interesting to see whether Vogel has more to say in due course.

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