On June 1st, the blog and community site Canon Filmmakers announced that their site was coming to an end. However, it wasn’t because the owner of the site was retiring or a server catastrophe ate all of the posts and guides, instead, it was a legal threat from Canon itself forcing them to close and turn over their domain (Note: Link to likely to stop working shortly).
This wasn’t the first time Canon used or attempted to use Trademark to shut down a site about them. In 2009, for example, they sent a takedown notice to WordPress.com, which was hosting a site entitled “Fake Chuck Westfall”, which is a parody of the real-life Canon technical adviser Chuck Westfall and commonly lampoons the company. However, in that case, WordPress.com refused to remove the site and it remains online today.
Other sites have reported problems with Canon, especially when they’ve used the trademark in the domain itself, but Canon is far from the only company to have legal spats with their fans. Fan communities, it seems, are plagued by legal problems, both trademark and copyright related, and are among the most legally-risky sites to create.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create a fan site, be it a blog or a community, just that you have to be aware of the risks and work to mitigate them.