Copyright Catch 22 Killed IDreamofJeannie.com
A Ghost Sites correspondent who goes by the name of Valentine filed this report concerning the life cycle passages of a site called Idreamofjeannie.com.*
Once this was the largest I Dream of Jeannie site on the Internet.
Things were going well. Alas, the Webmaster became a little too overzealous and perhaps alienated most if not all of his viewers by demanding they not take his images (even for personal use) and later, threatening lawsuits against anyone who he suspected was using his material. As the cost of Internet space went up, so did the amount of ad content, to a ridiculous level.
Finally, one morning, the site went down entirely, with a promise that it would be updated in a few weeks. A few weeks went by, then a few months and finally a year.
The site was updated... with a new "soon to be update" page. The Webmaster even set up a livejournal (site) to inform everyone of progress to the site. That LJ has also been abandoned.
It's now been three years. Rest in peace, Idreamofjeannie.com
Archive.org's WayBack Machine has several good snapshots of IDreamofJeannie.com in its prime.
Valentine's report provides a cautionary lesson for Webmasters seeking to defend copyrights in cyberspace. Webmasters often find themselves in a painful bind: if they do nothing to defend a copyrighted image, they run the risk of having this posture perceived as permission. If they do act, they can drive their users away to sites where notions of copyrights are completely absent.
It's a classic lose-lose, "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma, and IDreamofJeannie.com is not the Copyright Catch 22's first casualty. I have personally witnessed more than one Internet bulletin board that has collapsed when one enterprising member began a well-meaning campaign against mindless cutting-and-pasting.
A righteous defense of copyrights may win the instinctive applause of copyright holders, but those Webmasters who begin such a battle on their own cyber-terrain run a high risk of losing the goodwill of their users. Once this happens, it is very hard to rebuild trust, and ultimately even the copyright holders lose out once users inevitably migrate to more freewheeling fan sites where nobody gives a whit about copyrighted images, sounds, or text.
*(Note: IDreamofJeannie.com is, as of this writing, still online, but according to a statement on its home page, it is on "hiatus" and evidently has been on such hiatus for some time now. Such a state earns it two "Ghosties", meaning that it is "calling in sick" but not "dead" in familiar Ghost Sites parlance.)
Labels: Old Media