It’s not quite as clockwork as, say, the salmon swimming upstream to spawn, but it nonetheless is with alarming regularity that some harebrained scheme to resurrect Firefly, or some ambitious fan effort clueless in the ways of 20th Century Fox Television’s intellectual property (or, worse yet, both), rears its head and causes some of us in fandom to roll our eyes and brace for impact.
Enter the machinations of Fred Leicht and his Action Hero Robot who, claims their bizarre press release, “are bringing Firefly back”.
Only, not so much.
It’s difficult to know where to start with this one. So let’s just take it one step at a time, beginning with the press release itself, which, as stated, begins by declaring that Action Hero Robot is bringing the show back.
Action Hero Robot is looking to do the impossible by convincing Joss Whedon they have what takes to get Firefly back on the air. With a budget of almost 2 and a half million dollars they look to breathe fire back into the hearts and minds of its fan base.
Where is this budget coming from? It’s not entirely clear. While the press release speaks of “Kickstarter and private investors”, the project in fact is fundraising on Indiegogo, not Kickstarter, and that campaign has a goal of less than half of that purported $2.5 million budget.
Yes, they are attempting to raise $1 million.
Really, the important part here is that the project is raising funds at all. It’s important because nowhere in the press release, on the Indiegogo campaign, or on the project’s Facebook page do they even once mention having licensed the property from 20th Century Fox.
In fact, they never once mention even in passing the name of the rights holder. They do, however, make sure to invoke their own copyright on their press page for the project. Classy.
So, what is “Firefly: A New Beginning”, exactly? It’s a prequel pilot for a proposed television series taking place twenty years before the original series (and movie), and therefore involving none of the original cast.
It does, however, feature a young Malcolm Reynolds. Or, if you go by at least two references in project material and the pronunciation provided by Fred Leicht, “Mel”.
(Which I guess is par for the course in a world where half the people out there think Firefly’s creator is named Josh Wheaton.)
More specifically, the pilot “is based on the Mark Twain novel Tom Sawyer Abroad”, although it’s not entirely clear just how. Nor is it clear why Leicht couldn’t have created an original sci-fi adaptation of that work, although that would not generate any interest from an existing, and fervent, fandom.
Leicht’s campaign is pitched mainly by a 38-minute video atop the Indiegogo page presenting interviews with cast members, the sound designer, and Leicht himself. It’s more than a bit painful to watch.
Painful not because of Leicht’s insistence that our eventual captain’s name is “Mel”, but because presumably not one of these people has any clue that they are at the mercy of Leicht’s apparent ignorance of intellectual property, and all are about to get caught up in his being completely and utterly squashed by the lawyers of 20th Century Fox Television.
It’s one thing to make fan films. Various such efforts set in the Firefly ‘verse have been produced over the years. There’s even been a full-length motion picture which indeed was funded by fans. The difference there is that the project was allowed by the rights holders because it didn’t focus on existing characters and was used to raise funds for charity.
It’s something else altogether — and every indication so far is that this is what we’re dealing with here — to solicit fan funding for a prequel pilot focusing on an existing character from copyrighted material, a project which not only appears to be wholly unlicensed but doesn’t even have the decency to mention who owns the rights to begin with.
This isn’t a fan project being produced for the fun and thrill of telling a story in a fictional universe the makers love, the sort of thing that has been known to be tacitly permitted for some franchises.
Rather, this very specifically is a pilot meant to lead to an ongoing commercial enterprise, meant to be aired on television, spearheaded by someone no one’s ever heard of and whose professional background doesn’t exactly suggest this is his baileywick.
And it is actively and very deliberately soliciting fans, seeking their financial contribution.
It’s time for the Firefly fandom to stop allowing itself to be fleeced by people purporting to work in their name, whether they be directing a deliberate scam or simply in over their own ignorant heads.
Do not, under any circumstances, give your money to Fred Leicht, Action Hero Robot, and “Firefly: A New Beginning”.
- The project appears to be purging comments from its campaign sites.
- Comments definitely have disappeared from the video’s YouTube page, and at least one comment was posted to the Indiegogo campaign but no longer is listed there.
- So far, they do not appear to have gotten to deleting comments on their Facebook page.
- Given the botched attempts at posting embedded iframes to Facebook, it’s unclear how much they’re actually looking at that page.
- It’s also important to note, as I did not above, that the Indiegogo campaign is using “Flexible Funding”.
- This means that the campaign will receive whatever funds have been donated by the deadline, even if the fundraising goal is not met.
- In other words, if they were to successfully raise “just” $50,000, failing to meet their $1 million goal, Fred Leicht (et al?) would receive that money despite it not being sufficient to complete the project.
- “You may not use the Service for activities that … relate to sales of … items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction…”
- This might depend upon whether or not Indiegogo considers this “sales”, although it’s safe to bet that 20th Century Fox itself, should they take a look, would not approve.
- Indiegogo says in an email that they “take the rights of copyright holders very seriously and “[comply] with the DMCA”.
- They also, however, go on to indicate that the only intellectual property infringement to which they will react or respond is that bought to their attention by the rights holders themselves.
- In other words, if a third party brings to their attention a blatant violation of someone else’s copyrights, Indiegogo quite simply considers it none of their concern.
- After deleting critical comments from the Indiegogo page, Fred Leicht himself has spoken.
- “Hi, all. I feel I should take a moment to talk with you guys about this project. We are trying to raise funds so that we can get Firefly back on the air. The plan is to produce one high quality episode, with top notch cast and crew. Then present it to Joss Whendon. That is it plan and simple.”
- Indiegogo comments have been locked. “Visitors who have not contributed to this campaign can only post private comments.”
- And the 38-minute video which fronted the Indiegogo campaign has been removed from YouTube, apparently by Leicht.
- The shorter, 11-minute version (called, dangerously enough, “Interviews with the cast of the new Firefly”) still exists on Vimeo.
- A day later, Leicht appears to be clamping down on the Facebook page.
- Different people are seeing slightly different things, but that might be Facebook server weirdness.
- Comments and “posts by others” are being removed or hidden if they ask about the project’s legality.