Saturday, June 18, 2016

AMC Needs to Back Off from its Irresponsible and Misguided Walking Dead Anti-Spoiler Crusade

AMC, the cable network that airs the most-watched scripted show on television The Walking Dead, has flexed its muscles against fans this week when they threatened legal action against any websites posting spoilers on which character was killed in the Season 6 finale. Their primary target is The Spoiling Dead which has a particular history of making accurate predictions, but AMC indicated that anybody posting spoilers could face litigation, claiming copyright infringement. TSD has backed down from the television juggernaut, but not because they believe they are wrong. They claimed that they would refrain from releasing any spoilers simply because they could not afford the legal costs involved with defending their position.

Now while I understand that AMC is irritated by the many TWD spoilers regularly appearing across the internet (they annoy me too if I haven’t seen the latest episode yet), their hostile stance toward the fans is nothing more than corporate bullying and poor judgement on their part. The cabler would have a case if someone had leaked a whole or partial script from the show or revealed other inside information. But they are threatening sites that are making predictions on who died in the final scene from the show’s sixth season.

Let’s not forget that the network created this situation to begin with. The last episode to air introduced the antagonist Negan who killed off a major character when he first appeared in the comics (trying not to reveal too many spoilers from either the show or the comics here, though). But instead of letting the episode end with us finding out who met their demise, we were left hanging until October for the resolution of that final scene. And it was a pretty major cliffhanger seeing as the majority of the show’s main characters were present and any of them could have been the one to die. It was purely a manipulative move (and likely ordered by network execs) for a show that doesn’t need it because it is known for telling compelling and engaging tales without stooping to such cheap contrivances (I go into that in more detail at this link).

Guess what, AMC? People are going to speculate when you leave an episode hanging on the imminent demise of one of their favorite characters. That’s what they do! Especially after such an unsatisfying ending to an already controversial season (due to other, similar missteps). People are going to try and fill in the blanks to tide them over because the ending strung them along. And then to threaten them with legal action for making guesses? That’s an inexcusable and irresponsible stance from a corporate entity that knows they can get away with it only because they have the deep pockets to press and sustain legal action.

Just how arrogant has AMC become now that they have the top show on television? Have they forgotten how fickle the audience can be and how quickly a hit can spiral to a bottom-feeder in the world of television? Have they forgotten that they already tempted fate by kicking original executive producer Frank Darabont to the curb and then dropping the show’s budget and increasing its episode order for its second season? That could have easily destroyed the show, but apparently the steady guidance from Robert Kirkman as well as the stellar cast and the strength of the source material helped them dodge that potentially disastrous move (though Season 2 is widely considered the show’s weakest). Have they not heard all of the hate directed at the show this past season for its other misfires that came before the season finale?

And now AMC is going to take a hostile stance with fans for speculating on which character dies? Attorney Mitch Stoltz with the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said that “copyright probably doesn't cover revealing a single fictional detail about a show. And copyright doesn't apply to facts that are discovered without having access to the creative work.” And I’m sure AMC wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on. But as the people running The Spoiling Dead have said, trying to fight Goliath in this case will have too high of a cost.

If AMC wants to throw away money filming eleven different death scenes, that’s their business. If they want to go after people for illegally obtaining and distributing scripts and/or other inside information, they have a right to do so. If they want to respectfully ask that fans refrain from posting spoilers in the immediate public view (i.e., article titles), they might have received some cooperation.  But if they start taking legal action against fans for speculating on how a poorly placed cliffhanger plays out, I believe the backlash will come quick and hard. I’m already seeing a fair amount of hate directed at The Walking Dead from the fan community, and that could spread like wildfire if the network persists with its boorish, anti-spoiler crusade.

It’s time for AMC to BACK OFF on this issue and let people speculate away as they are want to do. That’s not violating any copyrights. If the fans want to take their best guess on who was Negan’s victim (which is not that hard to narrow down as I will go into with an upcoming post), the network needs to just let them do so and get back to minding their own store.

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