Blog #87: Toy News: Hasbro Bans Third Party Toys at Botcon

This is in response to Hasbro and Fun Publications outlawing the sale of Third Party toys at Botcon.

An Important Message to the Transformers Fandom!

Sarcasm Power Switch ON! (Just thought I should make that clear.)

I wish to address a serious situation that has developed within our Fandom.  The senseless, cruel, and horrific discrimination against innocent toys is a plague on our Fandom that we should all be ashamed of.

Discrimination against toys is rampant, and no toys are more oppressed and persecuted than some transforming toys are.  Whether they are being discriminated against due to color, designer, or country of manufacture, this epidemic must stop.

The Pro-Toy-Choice movement was dealt a crippling blow recently when a certain convention (henceforth referred to as Boring Old Tools and Killjoys with an Overdeveloped Need to be Greedy or BOT-KONG) announced that along with their multi-billion dollar puppet master overlords (henceforth referred to as Holy Asshattery and Stupidity Batman they’re Royally Overpriced or HASB-RO) will deny toys the right to be sold to loving owners at BOT-KONG.  They will prevent the sale, display, and trade of some of the best and most desired transforming toys available today in order to further their own purpose, to become the greediest corporation in the entire universe and it’s outlying suburbs.  (Seems kind of un-American to me.)

They claim the legal right to incarcerate innocent toys without legal representation, due process, or the most basic of toy rights, forcing them into conditions that even the Chinese factory workers who make their toys would find appalling.  Any toy that they deem to be “impure” will be subject to the harshest of penalties.  Instead of prosecuting toys, their manufactures, and designers in a court of law, they concoct a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo to allow them to commit crimes against toydom.  If they are so certain of their rights they should be able to prove it legally instead of using strong-arm tactics, threats and intimidation.

BOT-KONG and HASB-RO have committed some of the worst atrocities against toys in history, having manufactured such unloved and unwanted toys as Beast Wars Mutants, the aptly named Decent Into Evil box set, Wheelie, and Transformers Bot Shots (AKA Rock, Paper, Scissors, Transformers!).  Their madness and cruelty knows no end!

These senseless acts of toyrorrism must stop!  BOT-KONG and HASB-RO are built on discrimination and greed!

I have a dream!

I believe that all toys have the right to be purchased and taken to loving homes, to transform in freedom without fear of oppression or persecution.  I even think BOT-KONG toys deserve that right!

Toys of all color, design, generation, country of manufacture, theme, and concept should be celebrated, loved, and purchased freely without restriction, discrimination, intimidation, terrorization, inquisition, abduction, recrimination, aggravation, alienation, cancellation, deactivation, decapitation, illegalization, incineration, or any other words ending in tion I can think of!  Stop the madness!

Ask not what your toys can do for you!  Ask what you can do for your toys!

Sarcasm Power Switch OFF! (Okay, I probably didn’t need to say that either.)

Here is a more analytical response.  I’m not a lawyer, so my legal arguments may be based on some supposition, but I think in general I’ve got this right in principle.

Let’s establish some things first.

We are talking about third party toys, not counterfeits.  Counterfeit toys are exact copies of true Hasbro product, for the most part that’s knockoff G1 toys.  There is a gray area for repainted versions of those toys, for example clear versions.  We’re not talking about those either as it muddies the water.  (I’ve expected the banning of knockoff and knockoff repaints for a while, and at least when I was last at Botcon in 2009, there were very few of those.)  We are talking about completely new transforming toys and accessories designed by third parties.

As much as it disgusts me to say this, they likely do have the legal right to prevent the sale of anything they want at their event.  It sucks, but it is probably true.

So, you might be wondering what it is I’m complaining about.  Well, it’s this.  Hasbro and Fun Publications don’t just plan to prohibit sales, but confiscate items and not return them and have the sellers removed from the convention.

And here is where I am outraged.  See, Hasbro is “claiming” that these items infringe on their copyrights and or patents.  The problem is, that is nothing more than their opinion.  If they want to prove it, then they need to go into court and sue the manufacturers and sellers.  If they are successful and the items are declared in violation of copyright, then they would have a legal right to do this.  The question we must ask is, why haven’t they done this?  (Or at least we must assume they haven’t.  If they had word would have surely gotten out.)

The answer is simple.  THEY CAN’T WIN.  They own no exclusivity to transforming robots or pieces of colored plastic (aka accessories).  As long as these items aren’t their designs, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  Their art, logos, and names aren’t being used.  They claim that their intellectual property is being violated.  It is very hard to prove that.  As I understand it, the concept of “fair use” allows the use of intellectual property by others if it is transformative.  (Yeah I know.  That’s hysterical.)  Now, as I said, I’m not a lawyer, so that may not apply exactly, but whether it does or not, it is something that has to be proven in court.  They haven’t done that, and the only logical reason is that they know they can’t win.

Unfortunately, this boils down to what most things boil down to when we start talking about lawyers, and that’s who has the money, and in this situation it’s Hasbro.  The only way to beat them (I think) is for someone to take third party items to Botcon, have them confiscated and then sue Hasbro claiming that they had no legal right not to return the items.  This would make them have to prove in court that the items were in fact in violation of their copyrights or patents.  If the person suing Hasbro won, then I think Hasbro would have a lot of trouble trying to enforce this ban in the future.  Problem is, I don’t think any dealer is going to want to take on Hasbro.  (Screw Fun Publications, they’ve threatened people before and get laughed at because they’re a joke.)

So, to sum it up, Hasbro can’t win it the right way in court, so they’re playing the “we have all the money so we can do whatever the hell we want” game.  It’s underhanded, it’s lousy, and it makes them look like the almighty unfeeling corporation that they are.

The only thing fans can truly do is stop buying their toys, and I can’t even advocate that, since I’m not going to do it.  As much as this whole thing annoys me, it doesn’t really affect me since I buy very few third party toys, just the Headmasters, Targetmasters, Masterpiece accessories, and the Heart of Steel toys.  Also I’m not going to Botcon.  I’m not saying I never will again, but I’m not planning on it in the near future.  So all in all, it’s just not a big deal for me.  I just hate things that are wrong that people get away with because they have the money to do it.

You suck, Hasbro.

Its times like this that I wish Transformers fans were more like Harry Potter fans.  On Friday Lionsgate (makers of the completely amazing “The Hunger Games” movie) sent a strongly worded cease and desist letter to the Harry Potter Alliance whose Imaging Better project is working with Oxfam on their “Hunger is not a Game” campaign.  (Or the letter may have gone to Oxfam, I’m not sure but it’s all the same really.)  Liongate claimed the campaign was attempting to piggyback on their movie.  Less than a day after that letter was made public, and enraged Harry Potter fans lit up the Internet like a Christmas Tree, Lionsgate suddenly changed their tune.  They clarified that they were just concerned about their logos and trademarks, which are under contract to other anti-hunger campaigns and that they would be taking no further legal action.  Score one for the good guys.  If only Transformers fans could organize like that, Hasbro wouldn’t stand a chance.  Alas, you can’t even get ten Transformers fans to agree on FIRRIB or FIBRIR, and if you don’t know what that means, I’m not sure why you’ve read this far.

You suck, Hasbro.  (Just thought that had to be said again.)

Thanks for reading!

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About lmb3

I’m 36 years old, and I work in network tech support for a public school system. I am a huge fan of Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter, and Marvel Comics as well as numerous other fandoms. I’m a big sports fan, especially the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I collect toys (mostly Transformers but other stuff too), comic books, and Red Sox baseball cards. I watch an obscene amount of television and love going to the movies. I am hopelessly addicted to Wizard Rock and I write Harry Potter Fanfiction, though these days I am working on a couple of different original YA novels.
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7 Responses to Blog #87: Toy News: Hasbro Bans Third Party Toys at Botcon

  1. Pingback: Blog #416: Botcon 2013 Toys and Merchandise Reviews and News From Botcon and SDCC | lmb3.net

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  3. lmb3 says:

    GibDozer, thanks for the comment!

    Petty is a good word for it. If Hasbro could make it stop they would have. I do not beleive they could win in court against every company making 3rd party items. Many of the third party products do not in any way infringe on Hasbro’s IP. Think about it this way. If a third party company makes completely new molded accessories for a Hasbro toy, how is that any different from Hasbro creating Kre-O which is advertised as compatible with Lego (though they don’t actually say “Lego” on the boxes). All the 3rd party company has done is make toys compatible with Hasbro product.

    Remember, Hasbro does not own the right to transforming robots, only the toy molds, characters, and logos they create. If the exact molds aren’t used, then there is no issue with toys. If the names and logos aren’t used then there is no issue with that. They are left with arguing color schemes and that is by no means an easy case to win.

    I would love to see a company challenge them, but the problem there is that they would need to have the money and willingness to do it, and I don’t see anyone doing that. Remember, the worst nightmare for Hasbro would be to end up in court and losing to a company over a 3rd party product. That case would become the basis for defense of all other third party products.

    Thanks,

    Lewis

  4. GibDozer says:

    I don’t see it so much as Hasbro being greedy as Hasbro being petty. That said while I don’t think they should ban 3rd party toys I do think they have a right to. I am a huge fan of 3rd party transformers, probably spending as much if not more of my money on their products than on Hasbro TFs. As much as I love 3rd party toys they are undeniably infringing on Hasbro’s IPs! I certainly don’t want them to stop doing it, and I think if Hasbro wanted it stopped it would be. No 3rd party company is going to be stupid enough to poke the bear at botcon, at least I hope not.

  5. Pingback: Blog #90: Toy News: Hasbro Bans Third Party Art at Botcon…Or Do They? | lmb3.net

  6. Pingback: Blog #88: Toy Review: Transformers Headrobots Centurion | lmb3.net

  7. Armchair Warrior needs food badly says:

    Hear hear! Preach on, brother! Don’t let The Man get you down! None of those corporate shindigs for me. I’ve been going to smaller Fancons the last few years, and I find I’m having a better time. You should really consider going to them. Doesn’t have to be about toys- but it helps 🙂

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