Australian Martyn Yang is a big fan of Nerf guns. Like any big fan, he wanted to engage with both the object of his fandom, and other fans, so he started Urban Taggers, a blog about Nerf guns. Everything was going just fine until Yang posted a review on the N-STRIKE ELITE “RAMPAGE” BLASTER, an unreleased Nerf gun that, while not available in stores, was available on eBay and its Chinese cousin Taobao. Shortly after the review went live, Hasbro got in touch with Wang for his mailing address so they could send him some swag to give away to his readers. Wang happily provided the info only to receive a letter from Hasbro’s lawyers, demanding he take down the review, and provide the name, address, email and IP of the person who’d given him his info. But wait, it gets worse.
Yang cooperated with the takedown request and removed any references to the unreleased gun from his blog, but he did not turn over information on his sources and instead referred the lawyers to provisions of the Australian Evidence Act and explained that unreleased guns such as these could easily be found on online marketplaces. This did not go over particularly well with Baker and McKenzie, the firm representing Hasbro. They sent him a follow-up email explaining the apparent dire need of Hasbro to find the source of these unreleased guns. Yang provided no response.
Three weeks later, Yang was warned by neighbors that there were two people creeping around his apartment. He confronted the two strangers who, wielding a tape recorder, claimed to be representatives for Baker and McKenzie. After a short conversation, Yang sent an email explaining the simple facts of the matter to Baker & McKenzie partner Robert Arnold. From Yang’s email:
“I realise I forgot to get back to you because I have been busy with work and non-Nerf matters but I really think that it was extremely unprofessional and wrong to send strange people to come and lurk around my apartment block menacingly like that. You really freaked out the neighbours and people who live nearby mentioned some strange woman and a big-looking repo-man-looking guy hanging around suspiciously.
First of all, you’re lucky that no one called the police. Secondly, I really do not appreciate being ambushed by lawyers or their representatives on a Sunday afternoon when I haven’t done anything wrong, I have taken down the images and it’s not my fault that neither you nor Hasbro seem to be able to find out whoever the original source of the guns. It would also have been appropriate to give me forewarning so that I could have a lawyer present.
I’ve told your friend ‘Christine’ what I know but it was extremely rude to just show up on my doorstep and scare my neighbours like that. Regarding Nitro and Rayven – I really wish that you’d been up front and mentioned the products in question in your first letter, it could have saved everyone a lot of time and Hasbro a lot of legal fees.
Regarding the “Vortex Nitron” and “Rayven”, these products are freely available for purchase online at this website: http://www.taobao.com/index_global.php. I don’t have the listing details anymore, but if you search for Nerf stuff there, you should find it. I realise that the products weren’t officially released yet but it’s not my fault they were on taobao and it’s pretty common to find promo stuff on taobao/ebay that the recipients have decided to sell online … I’ve showed your friend Christine the site but I really can’t be expected to teach people how to use an internet search engine. You’ll also have to learn how to read Chinese. I don’t read Chinese so I can’t help you there.”
In the wake of the controversy, Hasbro is reportedly facing boycotts, though this is nothing particularly new. Hasbro has also lost the complete loyalty of a vocal fan. “I was very, very disappointed with Hasbro,” Yang told Crikey, and who could blame him? So, for any of you companies out there that might be interfacing with some of your fans, take this as a prefect example of how to do it completely wrong.
You can read the entire email exchange at Crikey
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