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What's with the name?

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Unsurprising News of the Day: Inspector Spacetime Webseries Sued Into Oblivion By NBC

Doctor Who fan and Community fan Travis Richey must have been through the roof when he got the small part of playing the lead in a very short joke on Community. One where Abed needed a new television show to be obsessed with and, in desperations, his friends showed him Inspector Spacetime, a half-century old, nearly continuously running low budget science fiction show about a mysterious humanoid alien travels through space and time in machine that looks like a London phone booth but is bigger on the inside.

Well, at least we’re pretty sure he was excited, because after the overlapping Community and Doctor Who communities started, completely of their own volition, to flesh out the fake-universe of Inspector Spacetime, he decided that it would be really cool if somebody could actually produce more episodes of the series. So, naturally, he started a Kickstarter project.

And things were going swimmingly, with about half the money raised, when NBC’s lawyers got in touch with him, with some undoubtedly stern words. The project isn’t going to be shut down, but neither is it going to be calling itself Inspector Spacetime any more. Here’s Richey’s statement:

Lawyers from Sony and NBC have contacted me demanding that I cease production on an Inspector Spacetime web series.

Though I firmly believe the law would be on my side in producing this parody, I have no wish or ability to fight a show that I love as much as “Community.”  I had hoped that they would embrace what is essentially a fan film and appreciate the value it adds to the character, and the audience that we would bring who are finding “Community” for the first time through this character, but alas, that’s not the case.  So, I will be removing all references to Inspector Spacetime from this series (it only happened in the title anyway), and altering the appearance of the Inspector so that he does not look like Inspector Spacetime.  What remains is 100% the creation of myself, my writing partner, and you, the fans.

If you would still be interesting in seeing the series that would have been Inspector Spacetime, I appreciate your support.

It’s the mark of a truly dedicated fan that you wouldn’t even be willing to fight the lawyers of the parent company of the show you love (although I’m sure the cost of such a legal battle was also a significant concern). Richey is now calling the project “Untitled Webseries About a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time” but otherwise going ahead as planned.

What’s interesting to note here is that I doubt NBC would have defended their rights to the Inspector Spacetime name if they didn’t think that they might, at some point, capitalize on it in some way. Whether that’s just releasing some merch or doing their own show/webseries thing, or doing nothing at all and just squatting on the IP, there’s no way to tell.

(via Topless Robot.)

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  • Anonymous

    According to Travis, they didn’t even trademark the name “Inspector Spacetime”.  he checked.  he did his homework as much as he could.

  • David Thiel

    Apparently his research didn’t go so far as the phrase “derivative works.”

  • Nicole

    It’s amazing to me how clueless coverage of this project has been. I don’t think Richey is a bad guy but he is misleading fans into BUYING an actor/writer a ton of equipment that he will absolutely use for his own future projects which have nothing to do with Inspector Spacetime. A web series – and I’ve been a part of many of them – can be made for significantly less with RENTED equipment. There’s no reason that he needs $20,000 worth of stuff for keeps, except that he’s cashing in on one lucky break and the good will of well-meaning fans.

    Also, let’s not paint NBC as bad guys. I know Inspector Spacetime is parody, but it’s not Richey’s idea. It’s not his joke. How would you feel if you were the staff writer who came up with the concept and then it was re-appropriated by an entitled actor under the guide of “owing it to the fans?”

    I know I sound like an angry internet ranter, but coverage of this project has tried to paint it as a David and Goliath issue and it’s just not.

  • Anonymous

    easy solution: nbc taps richey to make the web series for their site.  wtf?

  • Lauren Hutchinson

    So lame, I was super excited. 

  • Anonymous

    My reaction was very similar to yours – there’s no way this is going to come off.  I discussed on my tumblr feed – if I may be so forward to post a link… 

    I’ve got an interview with him coming to the Internet soon, in which he mentions that he already had Plan B in mind all along.

    As fan productions get slicker, and distribution becomes easier, and those one-day t-shirt sites become more profitable, I’m rather expecting to see one company or another come down on them.  Much like the Marvel / Ghost Rider / Artist Alley kerfuffle, the more money on the table, the harder it is to turn a blind eye in the name of good will.  Some day soon, the lawyers are going to start dictating that policy.

  • Emily Hill

    Is he trying to make money off it cause if not its free game