There’s little doubt that both Sony and Starz have a major hit on their hands with Outlander, a show that has generated far more than just tremendous ratings. It’s inspired a fandom the entire world over, and did so even before the series came into fruition. Diana Gabaldon’s story has inspired everything from art to fanfiction to music, clothing, accessories, and all sorts of other ideas. Just as the show and the books have exposed many to Scottish culture, these same readers and viewers want to be able to bring a part of the culture home with them.
Unfortunately, over the past several months, celebrating the show has become a little trickier for some, especially on Facebook. The folks behind the scenes at Sony have brought out a Counterfind bot designed to stop the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods. In theory, this is a smart way for the studio to ensure that they keep their profits high and keep the sales of unauthorized goods low. Yet, the bot has struggled to track the right people, and many Outlander fan pages have been locked down while extensive counterfeit goods are sold off elsewhere. While some may have been selling or promoting unauthorized goods, bringing in a bot to destroy enormous fan communities felt like a callous way to go after fandoms that have promoted the show for so long.
We thought for the past month and a half that the problem with the Counterfind bot was over; however, it turns out that is not the case. We spoke earlier today to one of the owners of I Love Outlander, one of the most-prolific Facebook pages tied to the show. The page has been around for years and has more than 200,000 likes; yet, on December 19 of last month they found their advertising side of their page shut down over an ad that ran over the summer — one that had not appeared on the site since. They confirmed that they received a notice regarding the Counterfind bot back in November, which was when many pages were initially shut down, but did not face any consequences since that time.
So, given that there were attempts made in order to correct whatever problem was going on with Counterfind, why still continue the action? Why opt to shut down the page without some sort of communication? As page co-owner noted, it’s the lack of communication that is the most frustrating: “It feels like there’s no one you can talk to. There isn’t anyone.” He notes that he “would like to get the fan page going” so that he and his wife can be admins again, but as of right now they are trapped between a rock and a hard place. They don’t have the ability to change their status with Facebook (he notes that they “can’t look into everything because the advertising account’s shut down”), and they have not been able to get an answer from those operating Counterfind. The Twitter account was for a time issuing statements for impacted pages to contact them directly (you can see a different fanpage interaction with them below); the I Love Outlander owners have done that as well to no avail:
What we’re hoping to highlight through this report
There is still work that needs to be done when it comes to bridging the gap between the business side and the fan side of a given show. Obviously, Sony wants to protect their own brand, and they’re more than entitled to go after people who they feel are infringing. Yet, there’s a difference between punishing someone for selling clothing bearing actors’ faces or someone who posted an advertisement months before the Counterfind bot came into fruition. A little bit of a human element could go a long way.
The I Love Outlander page is a great example of the troubles that are still going out there — it’s a reminder that situations need to be handled with a deft touch rather than a branding iron. The good news for the group is that Diana Gabaldon has noted via Facebook that she is going to look into the issue; through all of this, we hope that Starz does start to take a serious look at some of their practices.
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