F.A.Q. : Legal Issues
SpiderFan.Org is one of the longest-running Marvel fan sites on the internet. We have been present in one form or another since around 1993. We've seen it all.
Back in those early days there was significant concern among webmasters concerning the legal dangers of running fan sites. Some owners of comic-book, movie and other "pop-culture" intellectual property assets attempted to shut down unofficial sites by intimidation. It didn't last long, and (as you would expect) it did far more harm than good to the commercial goals of the copyright holder.
Marvel was more careful, recognizing the dangers of any potential backlash. But they were not entirely immune. In the late 1990's, Marvel's Legal Team decided it would be a good idea to set up a programme for "accredited Marvel fan sites". Webmasters signed an agreement to never say bad things about Marvel, and were restricted to using only a images from a small approved set of artwork. The unspoken implication was that fan sites that didn't sign up would be vulnerable to legal challenge.
SpiderFan didn't sign up. We just watched as all of the fan sites that did sign up quickly collapsed, as they were so restricted in what they could publish that they soon became irrelevant.
Nowadays, Marvel have realized that they have far much more to gain than to lose from such fan sites. As Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." Fan and Industry Buzz is now a key part of promoting pop comics, books and movies. Marketing Gurus spend a lot of money to try and create "viral" marketing campaigns, where the fans do the work of promoting the product.
SpiderFan tries to be objective at all times. Obviously we're huge fans of Spider-Man, and much of what we have to say is positive or at least balanced. But we're fickle too, and often we do dare speak ill of Marvel. Overall, we believe we're a "very good thing" for Marvel, and as such we hope to avoid their ire. But just to be sure, we also work hard to keep things legal.
Fortunately, the concept of Fair Use is well established in U.S. law, and SpiderFan is one of a huge number of fan sites which are protected by this concept. Specifically, SpiderFan's content falls into a number of different broad categories which generally enjoy protection under Fair Use.
Research: The site database contains a rich cross-referenced analysis of comic printing information, character appearances, groups and categorizes "facts" concerning the elements contained within Spider-Man comics. This is made available for academic and general interest. This is effectively "meta information", or new information created from the independent analysis of other data.
Reviews: The right to critique and discuss the books, comics and movies is long established. At SpiderFan, our long-term goal is to review and rate every comic, book, movie or audio appearance in Spider-Man's history. Naturally, the writer of the review describes elements from the story in order to discuss them in context. When the review is especially detailed, then the associated description of the original story will also be more detailed. However our "reviews" are always intended to be read in conjunction with the original story, and not as an alternative to it. We actively provide information to assist site visitors in obtaining authorized copies of the original product.
Images: We have a strict policy on images. SpiderFan will generally show the front and back covers of copyright material, i.e. those parts of the comic that are already placed on freely-available public display by the owner of the source material. Those images are used to illustrate the reviews, and as part of the research index. In additional, we occasionally offer internal images only when (a) they illustrate a particular element of interest within a review or other database entry, and (b) where the reproduced portion is a small fraction of the original work(s). Under no circumstances would we reproduce a significant part of any copyright work.
Video & Music: We do not provide video or music, with a handful of exceptions. These generally fall into one of two categories, (a) iconic theme tunes which have a specific nostalgic interest, or (b) archive material which is no longer commercially available, and which we are attempting to preserve for the sake of history.