Guide To The Simpsons On The Net

"It's all fun & games until the postman forks over the cease and desist letter." --- the Duke of URL in Suck, December 1, 1995.

If you don't know already, all images, audio, video, and other content relating to The Simpsons are copyrighted by Fox. Most webmasters were aware of this. Students are even taught about the "fair use" laws in computer science classes. But, no one felt Fox would care about the content of Simpson fan sites. Boy, were they ever wrong.

Beginning in mid 1995, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. started to obsessively hunt for copyright infringements on the internet. Fox's lawyers felt that websites devoted to their shows would cause the programs themselves to lose money and interest. One of the first documented cases of Fox's actions occured in the days following the premiere of their new show "Millenium". Here is an excerpt from a website explaining what they did.

" On the day of Millennium's premiere, Gil Trevizo, an excited fan of the show, released his unofficial Millennium site that he spent many hours of unpaid work creating. Fox immediately took action by freezing his college e-mail account and sending him cease-and-desist orders to shut down. Although Fox was bombarded with angry internet citizens, Fox held its position."

In the mid 90's, Simpsons fan Jeanette Foshee created hundreds of icons representing Simpsons characters, and spread them across the internet. On October 19, 1995, Fox legal counsel David G. Oakes sent her a letter forcing her to remove the icons from her page and told her to "provide Fox with the names and addresses of all persons to whom such infringing icons have been sold and/or distributed." In the letter, Fox implied that fines of up to $100,000 could be applicable if she did not take this action. She submitted to their demands, but her C & D letter was soon posted on The Simpsons Archive, and Foshee achieved the status of a hero on the web. Rumors persist to this day that Oakes' computer crashed after a blitzkrieg of e-mail from angry Simpsons fans.

Around the same time, Gary Goldberg of opened discussions with Fox about making the webpage a sanctioned, official site. In this article by The Computer Paper, Goldberg explains what happened next.

"As an offer of good faith I removed access to all the copyrighted materials temporarily, with the message that we were negotiating with Fox over the possible expansion and official blessing on the site," says Goldberg. This was in May, 1995.

In his letter to Fox TV, Goldberg tried to say what he believed were all the right things to gain Fox's official blessing.

"I was pretty excited at this point, and I was positively bubbly to the other maintainers," Goldberg explains. "In my note, I had offered the free and complete resources of DigiMark to design and maintain an official site that would incorporate press releases, biographical information, interviews as well as question/answer feedback with the Simpsons production staff and pointers to other Fox shows and fan materials."

The feedback from his proposal was not what Goldberg expected. "I didn`t receive any response for a week." When Goldberg followed up, the publicist was "completely frigid in her manner, and said that I would be receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Fox legal group," says Goldberg.

The letter never arrived, but to this day The Simpsons Archive is without any multimedia. Fox opened its official Simpsons site in January, 1996.

Roger Meyers: Our research shows that one person cannot make a difference, no matter how big a screwball she is, so let me close by saying...
Marge: And the horse I rode in on? I'll show them what one screwball can do!

As you can well imagine, fans and website owners were outraged over Fox's purge of Simpsons fan sites. Many articles in the media were written blasting Fox's actions and several protest pages sprung up overnight. Two websites received the most attention during this era: FIST and F�XWorld.

FIST definitely was a revolutionary website in its time. Created by the owner of Homer's Head Sound Archive, a site which Fox ordered to cease & desist, it informed hundreds of thousands of surfers about Fox's actions and how they could help stop the shut downs. Hundreds of website owners put FIST's support banners on their sites. Millenium, X-Files, King of the Hill, and Simpsons fans all united in this effort. The FIST banner was one of the first graphics I ever displayed on Evergreen Terrace. It was the right thing to do; to tell Fox how we felt.

F�XWorld was another protest site maintained by webmasters who had received C&D letters. For those of you who didn't get to see it, F�XWorld was simply a parody of It was hilarious to see the amazing similarities between the former official Simpsons site and F�XWorld's "Sampsons" page.

You had better believe that these sites had an impact on the internet. FIST was praised throughout the media, and Fox redesigned its official site half a year after the birth of F�XWorld. As Fox focused its efforts on bringing King of the Hill webmasters to their knees, there were few Simpson site shut downs in 1998.

< Part I: The Early Years
Part II: The Hunt Is On

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Last updated on October 23, 2004 by Adam Wolf (