Ninth Circuit Gives FanX/Salt Lake Comic Con a Break

Bryan Brandenburg of FanX, formerly the Salt Lake Comic Con, told Facebook followers on October 16, “Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay pending appeal for the nearly $4 million judgment and a broad injunction” in connection with a District Court judge’s award of attorney fees to San Diego Comic-Con following his decision in SDCC’s trademark infringement suit against Dan Farr Productions (DFP).

KUTV reported a week ago that an emergency appeal had been filed with the Ninth Circuit because the judgment was going to come due October 22 and collection action could begin. DFP’s motion argued —

SDCC’s enforcement efforts would likely foreclose appellate review of the questionable verdict and the erroneous determination that this case is “exceptional,” purportedly justifying $3.9 million in fees on a $20,000 judgment. And if SDCC enforces the judgment, DFP’s destruction will cost Salt Lake City’s economy millions of dollars. But a stay likely wouldn’t harm SDCC: its likelihood of collecting the judgment increases if DFP is not driven into bankruptcy, and DFP has already changed the name of its future conventions.

Deseret News, in “Appeals court grants stay for FanX’s $4 million payout”, notes the verdict is still being contested in the Ninth Circuit:

In addition to appealing the costly judgment, FanX is challenging the verdict that brought it about, including claiming attorneys representing the Utah company were wrongly barred from arguing at trial that the term “comic con” was being used generically long before San Diego secured rights to the phrase.

Brandenburg also said on FanX Facebook page the litigation will be going on for several more years:

We’re encouraged by the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and looking
forward to proceeding with our appeal. Based on the typical time for the appeal
process in the Ninth Circuit, this stay will be in place for at least 2-3 more
conventions before the final decision is reached (which we are hopeful will
bring a positive outcome).

This gives us the time, energy, and financial resources to
focus on producing events for the best fans in the world. Our events next year
will take place on April 19-20, 2019, and September 5-7, 2019.

[Thanks to David Doering for the story.]

Record-Setting Oxonmoot


Three hundred Tolkien fans from around the world are meeting in Oxford this weekend to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The event, taking place at St Antony’s College, Oxford from September 20-23, follows last month’s publication of The Fall of Gondolin and coincides with the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition at the Bodleian Library.

The event itself will include talks from leading Tolkien scholar – including writer John Garth – quizzes, workshops, an art exhibition, a masquerade, a Hobbit bake-off, a party and a visit to the exhibition at the Bodleian Library. The weekend concludes, as always, with Enyalie, a ceremony of remembrance at Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on Sunday morning. With attendees from 25 different countries, this year’s Oxonmoot takes place following the Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, The Fall of Gondolin, proving the continuing popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien as author relevant in the 21st Century. Tolkien’s best-known work was The Lord of the Rings, which has been translated into over 50 languages and estimates put sales at over 150 million copies worldwide.

Founded in 1969 by Vera Chapman, The Tolkien Society is an educational charity and literary society with the aim of promoting the life and works with J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien himself supported the organisation and gave it his seal of approval by agreeing to become The Tolkien Society’s President. On Tolkien’s death the family recommended he stay as President, so, to this day, he remains The Tolkien Society’s Honorary President in perpetuo. The Society has over a 1,600 members and hosts events up and down the country every week.

Shaun Gunner, Chair of The Tolkien Society, said:

This is the largest ever Oxonmoot, and this is testament to the growing popularity of Tolkien and his works, and ever-increasing numbers shows that people want to share their passion for Tolkien with others. Oxonmoot has been going for over 40 years and provides an excellent opportunity for hundreds of fans from around the world to come together for a weekend of fun and fellowship in Oxford, a location so important to Tolkien.

Oxonmoot always takes place in September to coincide with the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo, but this year we have a record number of attendees coming to St Antony’s College to enjoy the longest-running Tolkien event in the world.

[Based on a press release.]

2019 Loscon Guests of Honor Announced

Loscon 46 chair Matthew B. Tepper has announced the 2019 convention’s guests of honor:

Pro: Howard Waldrop
Fan: Edie Stern
Artist: Julie Dillon

The theme of Loscon 46 is “Where Science Fiction Meets Fantasy.”

Loscon 46 will be held November 29 – December 1, 2019, at the LAX Marriott. Further details to be announced later.

Rotsler Award Exhibit at Worldcon 76

By John Hertz: Andrew Porter shot these fine photos of the Rotsler Award exhibit at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention.

Some Worldcons have nicknames.  This year’s Worldcon was just “Worldcon 76” .

In fact I know people whose nickname is “Nick”.  Maybe you do too.

I digress.

The Rotsler is for long-time wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community.  The current judges are Sue Mason, Mike Glyer, and me.  It’s named for Bill Rotsler (1926-1997), a long-time wonder-worker.  It’s ordinarily announced at Loscon.

We try to put up an exhibit at the Worldcon showing sample work by all the winners to date.  The exhibits have been curated by me, recently with first-rate layout and electronics help from Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink.

In building the exhibit I try to choose images that are both representative of the artist, and visually interesting for themselves.  If you happen to know the context, or some of the in-jokes, that might be more fun, but (if I do it right) you needn’t.  The exhibit is designed (I hope) so you can look at it as you go by, or stop and study.

You’ll see from Brother Porter’s photos that winners each have a section, with their name and year at the top.  Also there’s a section about fanzines, and one about Brother Rotsler and the Award.  Many of the images appeared in fanzines.  There are a few other things, like cards from Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck.

The Award is sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, a California non-profit corporation (yes, its initials spell SCIFI – pronounced “skiffy”) – and, because this is fandom, where every day is Anything Can Happen Day, SCIFI the sponsor of the Award is not the sponsor of Loscon where it’s announced.  We are large, we contain multitudes.

Some but by no means all fanart (which, like “fanwriting”, I make one word; a loudspeaker is not the same as a speaker who is loud, a boyfriend or girlfriend is not the same as a boy or girl who is a friend) can be found in Electronicland; if you live there, Bill Burns’ Website eFanzines.com is worth a look.  As to the rest, seek and ye shall find.  If you have nothing better to do (and if you have, do that), you can always write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

Photos taken by and (c) Andrew Porter. Click for larger view.

Court Crushes FanX with Award of Attorneys Fees in SDCC Lawsuit

An incensed federal judge has done his best to make up what San Diego Comic-Con couldn’t get from a jury after winning its trademark infringement lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con, hammering the defendants with a trademark ban and an order to pay nearly $4 million of SDCC’s attorney fees and costs.

Last December, the federal jury ruled that Salt Lake Comic Con infringed on a trademark held by San Diego Comic-Con by using the words “comic con” in their name without permission. However, the jury did not award the $12 million in damages sought by San Diego Comic-Con, only $20,000, finding no willful infringement of the copyright by SLCC.

The Salt Lake Convention has since changed its name to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.

Judge Anthony J. Battaglia’s August 23 order scolded defendant Dan Farr Productions (DFP), run by Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, as he justified the award of attorneys fees. An excerpt from the ruling quoted by Salt Lake City’s CBS station KUTV (see “San Diego Comic Con awarded nearly $4 million in ruling against FanX”) reads:

Battaglia chided DFP for ignoring court rulings, including making items marked “confidential” public, including on Twitter.

Part of what made the case exceptional in the judge’s decision was press releases and interviews DFP gave after getting a cease and desist letter from SDCC. Battaglia wrote:

“The Court’s analysis under this factor is best explained by quoting to Defendant Brandenburg himself. In a news article, Mr. Brandenburg explained his reaction to receiving SDCC’s cease and desist letter:

Our knee jerk reaction was that [SDCC was] trying to intimidate us” . . . “We were not going to cease and desist using the name. We decided to go public about it.” After consulting with their lawyers, the team behind the Salt Lake Comic Con knew they had strong legal ground to stand on, but they didn’t want to go to court, they wanted to win in the court of public opinion . . . “Everyone said that San Diego had no leg to stand on, but the only way to win this would be to outspend them on legal fees” … “Our strategy was, if we are going to spend legal fees vs. legal fees, we wanted to be creative. We put it out to the public, challenging the cease and desist letter publically.

“Refusing to cease and desist and turning to the media to litigate a trademark infringement case in the court of “public opinion” is objectively irrational,” the judge wrote while also explaining it didn’t seek to limit free speech.

“The Court finds that this case is not a dime a dozen. Instead, it is a trademark infringement lawsuit that stands out from others based on the unreasonable manner it was litigated and thus an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to SDCC is justified.”

Courthouse News hosts a PDF file of the court’s attorneys fees order.

San Diego wanted about $5 million in attorney’s fees and it will end up with 80 percent of the request.

The Hollywood Reporter’s article “Judge Issues ‘Comic-Con’ Injunction” says the court also put teeth in the jury verdict by forbidding the defendants from using “comic con” or anything that sounds like it:

Battaglia, in his order on an injunction, has enjoined Salt Lake from “Comic Con” and “Comic-Con” and any phonetic equivalents (i.e. ComiKon). Additionally, Farr and Brandenburg can’t operate any social media site that incorporates the trademark, nor can they even advertise how the festival they run was “formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con.”

On the other hand, the judge rules it would go too far to prevent the phrase “comic convention” and won’t require defendants to destroy all of their already-made merchandise and marketing materials bearing the banned phrases.

The Hollywood Reporter opined that this “may be the beginning of the end of the road for any self-described ‘Comic-Con’ that doesn’t take place in San Diego.”

It’s important to note that San Diego has sued or asserted claims against others who operated “Comic-Cons” around the nation — and most of those cases were put on hold for this one. San Diego vs. Salt Lake was a test case.

Both sides in the SDCC/SLCC case had asked for a new trial, victor San Diego because they disputed the jury’s finding of non-willfulness and wanted more money. That, at least, the judge refused to grant, pointing to evidence that Brandenburg thought it was okay to use “Comic Con” because so many others were also doing it.

The defendants’ past statements indicated a desire to appeal the original verdict. Meanwhile Farr and company will be busy running FanX from September 6-8.

[Thanks to David Doering for the story.]

John Ward Out as GAMA Executive Director

The Game Manufacturers Association announced it will not renew Executive Director John Ward’s contract. An August 24 press release says:

The Board of Directors of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has passed a motion electing not to renew the current employment contract of its Executive Director, John Ward.

John Ward has served GAMA in the Executive Director role for ten years. He led the organization through a difficult time by building its annual events — the Origins Game Fair and GAMA Trade Show — and retiring its debt. The Board thanks John for his service and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.

This is a non-renewal, not an immediate termination, and Ward will be around to assist the transition to new leadership:

…An Executive Director job description and call for applicants will be posted on the gama.org website when the board is ready to consider applicants. The board encourages all enthusiastic, qualified candidates to apply. The board also thanks the outgoing Executive Director for agreeing to help during the transition period.

GAMA runs Origins Game Fair. John Ward first made news at File 770 on May 14 when he withdrew the event’s invitation for Larry Correia to be one of its guests of honor: “Origins Game Fair Drops Larry Correia as Guest”.

…Shortly after publicizing that Correia had been added to the lineup, John Ward, the event’s Executive Director, received so many negative social media comments (on Twitter, particularly) that he announced Correia’s invitation has been rescinded….

This elicited an enormous negative reaction among Correia fans on social media, including people who might otherwise have approved anyone with the kind of background Ward brought to the job. A press release about his hiring in 2009 stated:

…Professionally, Ward has extensive experience in the military and in state government. Ward is a retired Army officer with over 23 years of combined service in the military police and engineer corps. His military experience has provided him opportunities to deploy to Europe, Central America, Korea, and the Persian Gulf for the first Gulf War.

Ward also has over 20 years of government service in the criminal justice field, most recently in the juvenile system as the state of Ohio’s Bureau Chief of Parole and then Bureau Chief of Community Facilities….

The Correia matter was just one of the challenges Ward faced this year. Harassment allegations by one participant against another about an experience during the Origins Game Fair received wide coverage. Polygon’s story covered responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

GAMA’s official statement said in part:

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

A Google search did not find any more news about how the harassment allegations are being handled.

[Thanks to airboy for the story.]

Utah Voted 2019 NASFiC

The unopposed 2019 NASFiC bid for Layton, Utah was officially awarded the con by a site selection vote conducted at Worldcon 76. The bid received 171 votes out of 192 votes cast.

The convention is being called Spikecon and will be held simultaneously with Westercon and will take place in the Davis Convention Center July 4-7, 2019.

The NASFiC bid’s railroad themed emblem is shown and the historic background explained in this announcement:

At this writing both the bid website and the Spikecon site are offline.

Readercon 29 Photos

Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.

GoH Nisi Shawl


More photos follow the jump.

Continue reading

How To Get On Programming

[Editor’s Note: This advice about how to become a panelist on convention programs, written as a comment here yesterday, is so helpful and practical that I asked permission to repeat it as a front-page post.]

By Heather Rose Jones: I think a lot of people aren’t aware that most conventions have mechanisms for volunteering to be on programming. Doesn’t always mean you’ll be offered any, but especially if you aren’t a Big Name, you can wait a very long time to get a personal invitation out of the blue. (Though I am on the side of those who think being a Hugo finalist is a good reason to get a personal invitation out of the blue for Worldcon programming.)

This is, of course, one of the things that contributes to programming often being the same limited pool of people a lot of the time — they’re the people who know the various systems for getting on programming. So what are some of those systems?

  1. Check out the convention website and social media well in advance (and repeatedly) to look for announcements about programming questionnaires and the like. Put your name in and highlight one or two very specific topics or activities where you have expertise and can “put on a good show.”

  2. When you do so, think up entertaining and informative programming ideas and propose them. Conventions are always hungry for new and interesting programming ideas and sometimes they will explicitly prioritize giving programming slots to people who contribute to the process.

  3. Now we come to the “who you know” items. Be an interesting and articulate person in the company of people who are involved in coming up with programming ideas or proposing potential panelists. Engage in casual discussions about the topics of your interest and expertise. Tell people outright that you’d enjoy contributing to programming on a particular topic. One of those people you’re talking to may tell someone else, “Hey, you know who would be great on this panel? So-and-so!”

  4. I’m not going to lie. I got my start participating in convention programming at small conventions where the concom were personal friends of mine. I’m less fond of the notion of Worldcon programming being given out on the basis of “she’s a buddy of mine” but it’s a perfectly acceptable way to get a foot in the door at a local convention.

  5. Find ways of contributing to the convention experience that don’t have gatekeepers: interest groups, spontaneous activities. Be entertaining and informative and get along with people. They’ll remember you. And while I’m at it, never discount the advantages of volunteering at cons to get a chance to get to know people who might help open the door for you. (But be aware that people can tell when you’re trying to get to know them solely for this purpose.)

  6. Some of the avenues to program participation aren’t open to everyone. I believe that Westercon sends out a general programming invitation to SFWA members. There are some cons where I got a program participation invitation out of the blue that I think was based on SFWA membership. Dunno. But conventions who do that also have other ways to get on programming, so it’s not an exclusionary thing.

  7. If a programming topic excites you, follow-up on it with other people (panelists or not) who were similarly excited about it. Discuss your ideas. extend the panel discussion (without cornering a program participant who needs to be elsewhere!). Suggest moving it to the bar or socializing-venue-of-your-choice. Be part of the conversation even if you aren’t behind the table with a microphone.

Well, that moved away from “how do I get onto programming” a bit. But keep in mind that the officially scheduled programming is only one part of a convention. Be the programming you want to see in the world.