CONAN attacks fans

SFFaudio News

Meego ConanAn 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.

Broken 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 its 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 Robert E. Howard’s Conan fans – 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.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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17 thoughts to “CONAN attacks fans”

  1. Timeline:

    1936 – Robert E. Howard kills himself.

    1976 – Conan Properties International is formed.

    2006 – Robert E. Howard’s fiction becomes public domain.

    December 2007 – BSAP’s Queen Of The Black Coast audiobook COMPLETED

    January 2008 – BSAP’s Red Nails audiobook COMPLETED

    August 22nd, 2008 – CPI’s lawyers send letter #1 to BSAP’s Paul Mannering – demanding BSAP not use the “CONAN logo” (what BSAP had was just the word “Conan”). |PDF|

    September 15th, 2008 – CPI’s lawyers send letter #2 to BSAP’s Paul Mannering – in which they acknowledge the takedown of the word “Conan” and seem satisfied to let the non-profit audio dramatist alone. |PDF|

    December 2008 BSAP’s Queen Of The Black Coast audio drama COMPLETED

    October 2008 – BSAP begins the script for a 24 episode long Hour Of The Dragon audio drama.

    November 2008 – BSAP receives an email from Leslie Buhler (vice president of branding for CPI/Paradox Entertainment) offering a ‘FREE CPI “Conan” license‘ to BSAP for audio dramas and audiobooks based on writings by Robert E. Howard.

    November 2008 – BSAP’s Paul Mannering replies to the Leslie Buhler email with high hopes of receiving the proffered license.

    February 2009 – Casting for the planned 24-episode long dramatization of Hour Of The Dragon is COMPLETED.

    February 23rd, 2009 – Paul Mannering receives letter #3 from CPI lawyers, pulling the offered license, and threatening legal action over “CONAN” related productions. |PDF|

    February 23rd, 2009 – Paul Mannering removes all audiobooks and audio dramas from BSAP.com and BSAP.net websites.

  2. This smells more than a little stinky. Since when does a website’s material have to be in public domain in every country it reaches. Some little country could say their copyright laws never expire and hijack Public Domain from the rest of the world, making it illegal to post anything that’s not personally created by you.

    All those stories on Gutenberg and Librivox that were published in the 40s & 50s shouldn’t be there either according to these jackass’s reasoning.

  3. Okay, CPI themselves admitted that there were over 500 users in the US. Does this not say something to them. Like, “hey, let’s not get these people mad or they won’t buy any our liscensed products either.” I mean here was a chance to jump on the band wagon and get some exposure, like say advertise on the site and get you t-shirts, and what nots sold. And what will they do to those 500 fans that have downloaded those files (legally) who want to distribute them to others? What about Arnold? Are they going to come and get him because he looks too much like Conan? Okay broken sea, here’s what I’d do and it may take some work, re-loop the audio and change titles and names mentioned in the story. We REH fans will know what the story is all about. Then what can CPI do? Call you on copyright infringement? Can’t public domain. You can also call it satire. Satire is free from a lot of legal stuff. Look at how Weird Al and even the muppets get away with it. Keep up the good work Broken Sea. Good stuff from the Kiwis.

  4. The copyright expired in 2006. CPI only owns the trademark, but they are claiming to own the copyright.

    If a non-profit fan group could afford a lawyer, then they might not be intimidated, but as it is, this is going to crush the fanbase’s spirit. They’re forgetting where they get their paychecks from.

  5. LINKINAGE:

    BoingBoing.net [More than 60 comments, some are amazingly thoughtful]

    BoingBoing.net (follow up story on the PUBLIC DOMAIN status of REH’s stories) [Has a giant comments thread too]

    http://technoir.livejournal.com/519501.html [some very insightful comments but some commenters haven’t actually acquainted themselves with the facts]

    cnet’s “Buzz Out Loud” podcast #918 |MP3| [substantially accurate podcast reportage except for the claim that CPI has actually sued BSAP]

    One of the Audio Drama Talk threads

    sample of the twitter chatter: “And suddenly, I feel no inclination to buy anything that’s bringing Conan Properties LLC any money anymore.”

    The Audio Addicts blog

    Kung Fu Action Theatre

    Webplanet.ru (the “leading Russian online daily” news site.) story |RUSSIAN| – |Translated to ENGLISH|

    P2P.net just has syndication of the BoingBoing post, but comments thread is hefty.

    Zonafandom.com (Spanish) |SPANISH| |Translated to ENGLISH|

    The SFFaudio Podcast #027


    computerworld.co.nz
    news article featuring quotes from an interview with Paul Mannering

    Coffee.Geek.NZ

  6. @Time Traveller
    In reference to the Gutenberg publications it HAS happened before. Lawyers for the Estate of Margaret Mitchell successfully managed to get the Project Gutenberg Australia site to remove it’s text of Gone with the Wind, despite Australian copyright law only being 50 years from an author’s death rather than the death+95 that the US currently pursues.

  7. Jason,

    At this point its almost like asking why Broken Sea provoked CPI by recording a story written by Robert E. Howard to begin with.

    BSAP complied with CPI’s request to remove the word “Conan” from the website – then BSAP was offered a free license to use “Conan”, then BSAP was threatened with the removal of the website (without any judicial oversight) if they didn’t pull the story off the internet.

    It’s like: “If only my wife didn’t provoke me I wouldn’t hit her.”

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