Outlander – Facebook crisis: The difficult relationship between studio, fandom


Outlander - FacebookCarterMatt has been aware over the past several days of what has become a very sad story: A battle going on between many of the fans who love Outlander and the studio responsible for making the show in Sony TV. While it may not be necessarily tenuous in terms of how Sony feels about the fans (they probably love them and all of the attention they bring the show) they’ve managed to completely bungle the optics in a way that you don’t often see with most other shows and fandoms.

Here’s what has been going on — Outlander has a tremendous following on Facebook, but so far this month many Outlander-related sites have found themselves targeted in some shape or form, seeing their accounts suspended. Much of that has been due to a robot crawler known as Counterfind, one that is designed to look for what are perceived copyright violations. You would hope that with some of these suspensions would come transparency, but that has not been the case. Instead, what many fans have felt is a mixture of frustration and sadness that the people behind the show would choose to initiate something that would marginalize them, especially since Outlander fans are responsible for larger charity donations and have supported the series in ways few other followings do.

Just a quick reminder — Outlander had quite possibly the biggest underdog victory at the People’s Choice Awards in the history of that awards show. That’s how devoted some of these fans are.

We’re not going to dive too much into the finer details here, largely because series author Diana Gabaldon does a great job spelling out the situation, and possible solutions for it for fans, in the embedded Facebook post below. What we want to focus on here for a moment instead is this: Why did this really happen?

For the longest time, studios and developers of all entertainment have grown fiercely protective of their brands, and to some extent that’s understandable given that you want to protect your product from piracy. However, some have unfortunately taken it to an unreasonable level. For example, it’s fine for Sony to take issue with a t-shirt that uses their specifically-designed Outlander logo or screenshots from the series itself; it’s another thing to go after shirts that are just referencing events that are in the books.

If there is a product that is in a gray area, why not take a look at things from the fan’s point of view? The majority of the people who make merchandise are doing so out of love — they’re not twirling their mustaches thinking about ways to make money, given that there are so many cheaper ways to do that than coming up with creative products meant to get purchases from a small percentage of the fanbase. Give these people the benefit of the doubt. Having a robot scanning pages and suspending them without any sort of advance warning is impersonal, cold, and cruel; it’s basically treating fans like you don’t perceive them as worthy of your individual time or attention.

This whole situation is a mess, and it’s reminiscent of when Nintendo started going after content creators on YouTube who were playing their games and uploading them. Did they have a claim to some of the games’ content? Sure, but these people were also generating publicity and weren’t trying to exploit them. The majority of Outlander fans are the same way.

Where Sony screwed up

What they should have done was reached out and contacted many of the top Facebook pages individually with some of their concerns, telling them what could have happened if they were doing something that they felt was a big issue. This way, nobody was blindsided and everyone had a chance to be aware of what needed to be done.

Outlander fans are really great fans. They’re not out to exploit the franchise. They just want to express their love of it and celebrate how Gabaldon’s work has enriched their lives. This is a show that has found great success, and as a result of that of course there are people who will try to profit off of it. We just hope that in the process of that success, Sony, Starz, and everyone else involved don’t forget the people who brought them there in the first place. Their own lack of communication turned what could have been a peaceful situation into a social-media quagmire.

Hopefully, all of this is resolved soon so that we can get back to what should matter — enjoying the show itself.

Back to the show

New episodes of Outlander air on Starz Sunday nights, and if you head over here you can see a new sneak peek right away for the installment airing this weekend.

Meanwhile, like CarterMatt on Facebook to retrieve more information on Outlander and some other shows we cover. (Photo: Starz.)

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