While I wasn’t looking (immersed in a print story) this week, the twittersphere went into a tizzy. The AMC legal department went after the Mad Men fan base on Twitter. According to venturebeat, Twitter suspended the accounts of nine users after being served with a "DMCA[Digital Millenium Copyright Act] takedown notice" by AMC.
Considering how small the Mad Men fanbase actually is, and that AMC needs every viewer they can get, this was an extraordinarily dumb move.
Biting the hand that feeds: this is getting to be a bad, bad AMC habit.
In summation, some Mad Men fans signed up on Twitter as "Don Draper," "Peggy Olson" and other Mad Men characters.
These users assumed the voices of the characters and Twitter users joined in enthusiastically, enjoying the game that spontaneously emerged on Twitter. "Don Draper" has about 1,700 followers; "Peggy Olson" tops out at about 1,100.
That is - until Twitter darkened the accounts of nine users, under pressure from AMC legal department.
Here’s what Aaron Barnhart had to say on his blog:
And if you were like me, you may have asked yourself some questions:
How can Don Draper tweet if it’s 1962 and the internet hasn’t even been invented?
Is AMC just bored with all the good publicity it’s gotten lately and wants to try some really bad publicity for a change?
Does the network have a case against the "Mad Men 9"? Should Twitter have caved in to them?
I don’t know about 1 and 2, but as for the last two questions the answers are no and hell no, as two leading intellectual property experts confirmed for me this afternoon. The good news is that after I posted this story, I got word that AMC had called off the dogs.
Aaron is right, also, when he called the Twitter posts "harmless" and he wrote an analysis on copyright and the DMCA. Read it, please. Concluded Aaron: "Tweeting in the voice of a fictitious character is fan fiction by another name," concluded Aaron. He called AMC’s legal action "pointless, clueless, tone-deaf and mean-spirited."
I’m going to chime in here with my own perspective. When I saw what happened to those Twitter users, I thought, well - Frak! - join the club. I’m still pretty angry about what the Rainbow Media/AMC drama queens did to me and what the hell. Maybe now’s the time to talk about it.
I’m one of Mad Men’s biggest fans and cheerleaders. Last year before the premiere, I wrote up one of the first reviews. I predicted that the show would launch AMC into the buzzphere.
When I arrived at TCA Summer Tour ‘07, the show did not have that much buzz going. I recall that Aaron Barnhart, Pittsburgh Gazette’s Rob Owen, myself and a few others were talking it up. That really why TCA is so important. When you gather 200 critics in the same hotel, buzz spreads like the Spanish flu.
I landed one of the first interviews with Matt Weiner, an eight part series posted here. At the time, some fans said it was the best interview they’d read.
Then, in February ‘08, I wrote a detailed and laudatory review of AMC’s Breaking Bad. AMC said they "loved" the review.
Fast forward to end of June. My review of the Mad Men season two premiere is posted on July 5. My review is detailed. Even though it’s not required, the review has a spoiler warning and space. Some details contained in the review were given to me by AMC publicity in answer to my questions. AMC was fully and completely aware that I was writing a review.
My review was no more detailed than NY Times Alessandra Stanley or a dozen others. Mine just happend to be first out of the gate.
I call Mad Men the best series of the last decade and call the season two premiere a masterpiece.
Five days later at the AMC/Mad Men panel an AMC publicist gives me a hug and says they "love my work."
I don’t write to be "loved" by networks. But I was certainly getting strong signals from AMC that they were comfortable with my work.
Seven days later - a Friday - I’m sitting in the TNT panel at Television Critics Association. yes, hello, I’m working. I receive an email from someone I’ve never heard of at "rainbow media.’ (Rainbow Media owns AMC.) The email is terse - one sentence stating there’s a "crisis" over my review and I’m ordered to call them.
A few minutes later, someone tape me on the shoulder in the middle of the TNT session, saying I "have" to call AMC "right now." huh!?"
I tell this person I’m working, but if they have a problem to call my editors in New York.
"Who’s your editor," demands this person. I write down the name of my EIC and the name of the publication.
"What’s his email address and phone number?" they demand. At this point I’m getting annoyed. Multichannel is a well-known trade publicaiton. "It’s Multichannel News," I say, "they have his phone number and email address."
No one calls my editors in New York.
Monday rolls around. It’s late afternoon. I scurry back to my room for a few minutes to work on a story. Television Critics Assocation "management" shows up at my door. They’re between the devil and the deep blue sea.
TCA members, of which I’m one, are scheduled to tour the Mad Men set the next day.
I’m signed up for the tour. AMC has apparently told TCA that if I’m on the bus carrying the critics to the set, it will be turned back at the entrance to the studio and no one will be allowed on the lot.
At about the same time, a message came in from AMC saying my name had been taken off the tour list.
Did AMC ever contact my editors? No. But they DID try to sully my reputation with, and humiliate me in front of, my colleagues. This, for me, bar none, is the most unforgiveable.
So, I guess I’m off the list for good. I’ll never write another stunningly complimentary review again. I’ll never again call one of your series "the best drama of the last decade." Or your debuts a "masterpiece."
I want an apology though - not just for myself but for all the other fans out there who only want to love you.