Robot 6

Dark Horse apologizes for use of fan-film ship models in Serenity one-shot

Art from "Serenity: Float Out" (top), and the "Bellflower" ship model

"Serenity: Float Out" (top), and the "Bellflower" ship model

Dark Horse’s Scott Allie has apologized to the creators of a Serenity fan film after an artist mistakenly used their ship models as reference for the Serenity: Float Out one-shot.

“While preparing to draw Serenity: Float Out, artist Patric Reynolds researched ships from the ’Verse online, and mistook some ships designed for the fan film Bellflower for canonical ships,” Allie, senior managing editor, wrote on the Dark Horse blog. “The ships were designed by John Douglass, S. E. O’Brien, Sam Osbourne, and filmmaker Mark James. Their work is terrific, and completely professional, like so much of what the Browncoats do, so no one realized the mistake. … We understand that this was a serious oversight on our part. We want to assure everyone that this is not a usual occurance [sic], and we will make sure to be more careful in the future. Please accept my most sincere apologies, on behalf of Dark Horse and artist Patric Reynolds.”

Members of noticed the use of the ship designs within two days of the comic’s June 2 release.

On June 28, Mark James posted that he had written Dark Horse “stating they are in breach of bellflower copyright and that action will be taken. I havent spent this much time on this film to see my ship and verse used in this manner.” He offered an up an update the next day stating he had been in contact with Allie, who had pledged an official apology, artist credits and a donation in charity on behalf of Bellflower.

“Scott Allie and Darkhorse have been absolutely wonderful in regard to this matter,” James wrote, “and I can only say thank you to them for their respect and support. Bless them.”



The fan film makers should have been flattered, not threatened legal action. After all, they’re playing in a sandbox someone else created and someone else owns.

I really don’t understand the legality here or what is or isn’t allowed, but it seems very ironic that a bunch of fan film makers making work clearly based on someone else’s ideas were at all po’d that someone would take that and do something with it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they may have a legal leg to stand on but not much of an ethical one imo.

This is like the hilarious, total inverse of the McFarlane/Gaiman slapfight.

DO they have a legal leg to stand on? Either way this story is pretty bizarre.

On a non-legal note, check out that hilarious ref-pic-flip-trace

Does he even have copyright protection? Just because the ship was his idea, its not like its original, he is creating it from another idea that wasn’t his.

Hopefully the guy doesn’t get Gaiman’s Lawyer

If someone writes a fanfic using original characters but playing within a verse, the OCs are the property of the writer, not the original creator. The ship is the property of whomever designed it. While it was flattering to have the work ‘mistaken’ for one of Joss Whedon’s ideas, there’s still a breach of copyright laws.

What sort of copyright can he actually have? I suppose since the ship design itself is an original creation and not something that’s been seen in any of the shows, movie, comics, etc, then maybe the design can be copyrighted. But yeah. I’d be pretty excited to see a ship I designed for a fan film actually make its way into an official Firefly/Serenity story. I could see dropping a line to point out that he actually designed the ship and clue them in as to where it comes from because everyone likes credit for their work, but threatening legal action?

And it may be his ship but it sure as hell isn’t his verse. I always figured that was something people accepted when they made fan fiction – that they don’t really own any of the toys they’re playing with. That’s why I’d never want to spend that sort of time and energy (not to mention money) on a fan film. If you’re going to put so much work into something, it should be something you own 100%.

Everyone seems to be very amiable and reasonable about the whole thing (especially considering Dark Horse (and Joss himself) could just say, “Okay fine. Here’s your credit and apology and whatever. Now cease and desist with your little fan film, jackass”), but the fact that legal action was even hinted at really bothers me. Also, “used in this manner”? It’s an officially licensed comic book about one of the most beloved characters from the show, not a snuff film. What’s wrong with how it was used?

Just realized something, that looks like the drop ship from Starship Troopers movie. At least it kinda does to me.

This is kind of like when a BOOM! Cthulhu Tales artist used the exact design from the Dagon Industries Cthulhu Fish in their comic, but the Mark Waid BOOM! response was pretty much GFYS.

“Does he even have copyright protection?”

Yes. As other people mentioned upthread, his ship design is copyrightable, as would any original elements of the fan film that are not directly derivative of anything in the official canon.

1. Overreaction on the part of the fan fiction filmmaker. “I haven’t spent this much time on this film to see my ship and verse used in this manner”. Oh please, they mistook it for the real deal and then used it in a comic. Is that a bad ‘manner’?
2. As Lando said, that looks very similar to a drop ship from Starship Troopers. This might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

He should be happy that Dark Horse isn’t suing HIM for copyright infringement.

I’m kind of flabbergasted. They issued a note of credit; I seriously hope that if they don’t drop this idiotic threat of legal recourse that whoever owns the rights to firefly sues the pants off of them for trademark infliction, for any and all references to anything remotely firefly-universe related in their fan film. Shame on them. I’d have assumed that making a fan-film was to help a fictional property you like grow and expand past what is currently available, but apparently it’s something far douchier.

I’ve read through this thread and I’m amazed that the general impression that I’m getting from 97% of the posts here is that Mark James shouldn’t have taken the stance he did.

This is a fan film which was been announced as just that – until this happened, how many of you were even aware that there was such a thing as a “Firefly” fan film? Regardless of copyright infringement (and there is precious little in the “Firefly/Serenity” universe to infringe upon), the Dark Horse artist in question copied an original design without noting the source material. Just because Mr James is a fan, creating within the structure/framework created by Joss Whedon, why should he not be aggrieved that this happened? The excuse about researching for “canonical” ships online is simply a joke as anyone who has watched “Firefly” and seen “Serenity” is perfectly aware that there are very few and anything that can be found online is more likely to be fan designed and therefore non-canon.

On one hand, the fanfilm creator calling *copyright* is not exactly the best way to go. On the other hand, swiping fanworks without crediting them isn’t fair play.

And contrary to what Dark Horse is saying, according to the comic’s artist Patric Reynolds in this Bleeding Cool article, it was a bit more deliberate than “oops, I thought it was canon”.

It does look to be a mix up of some kind, but the point stands. It’s just plain smart to play nice with your fans. The creators of Bellflower aren’t pretending to have created the Firefly/Serenity universe, it’s only fair to acknowledge who made it when you use their work. Most fan creators, if told “We want to use your ship in a comic” and given a one sentence 8 point font acknowledgement in the credits would be thrilled. But the same fans would feel betrayed if they stumbled upon their work in an official comic with no credit attached.

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