VIZ Media Says "All Your Domain Are Belong To Us"
Why you ask? Earlier this month we received notice from VIZ Media, a company who we have always held in the highest regards and been on friendly terms with (they send us free stuff to give away, keep us in the loop by sending us press releases, have had their publishers send us to Los Angeles, given us press passes at major game shows, etc.), that they intend to try and claim the NarutoFan.com domain as a domain that should *rightfully* be theirs, and take ownership of it. This was a complete and total shock for me, and I spent awhile keeping it to myself, unsure what to do about it.
VIZ Media's major complaint is that NarutoFan.com can *easily* be confused for an official Naruto website, and its basic name infringes on trademarks that VIZ owns. With this, they filed a complaint with WIPO, and ICANN (who will ultimately decide whether or not VIZ will take control of our domain some time in mid-February). I personally think it is a *ridiculous* and targeted attack, aimed at capitalizing off of our substantial traffic, and that the basis of their argument is fundamentally flawed.
To claim that NarutoFan.com has ever tried to mislead people in to thinking that we are an official website is completely absurd. To claim that people might think we are is even more absurd. Apart from having the word *FAN* in the domain name, we mention in one way or another that we are a fan-site on nearly every single page of this website. The NarutoFan.com domain name has also been registered for nearly 5 years before VIZ Media even owned, licensed, and profited off of the Naruto series with any copyright or trademark. WIPO and ICANN have dismissed complaints in the past just due to this.
VIZ Media has not targeted any of the other thousands of websites with the word "Naruto" in its domain name. VIZ Media has not done anything in the past to protect its copyright or trademarks, despite being fully aware that many sites were exploiting them in major ways (think of any manga viewer website that hosts pretty much all of their properties). VIZ Media has only issued a rather toothless statement that they are against scanlations, but not once have they ever asked a scanlator to actually stop. They have never, ever, sent us a DMCA or a C&D Order, and are completely aware of our existence for the majority of the last decade, and know that we are not the ones who produce or make available scanlations of their titles. NarutoFan.com is but a small part of a large community when it comes to that, just a fraction of the size of some of the largest manga reader websites.
So why then is VIZ Media targeting us, and only us? I can only conclude that having failed in making any sort of fan community of their own (their forums are deserted, etc.) they have turned to this technique of trying to steal our domain name to make even more money. A multi-million dollar corporation is essentially trying to steal a website that a bunch of teenagers and college students have made in their spare time over the last 8 years, to capitalize on its traffic by forwarding it to their own site, for their own purposes. And they know we can't do anything about it, because they know exactly who we are, and that we will never have the funds to be able to fight them, a huge American corporation.
In the end, I decided to do the only thing I can do. I have voluntarily stopped using the NarutoFan.com domain, hence the new website, and the new name. I have to put my faith in the system that their complaint will be completely dismissed by a nameless person on some arbitration board in Switzerland. I don't know if this will happen, but that is really our only hope. NarutoFan as you know it has now become part of what will eventually be a much larger community, AniFreak. I am amazingly disappointed that it came to this, without VIZ Media ever having contacted us personally about this matter (in fact, we've gotten press releases since this has happened!), but it is what it is, and this is apparently indicative of how they go about things, and like to treat their fans.
Not only is this potentially very bad for us, but if VIZ is allowed to get away with this, it just might put an end to every fan community, of everything there is to be a fan of. It sets a dangerous precedent, regardless of your thoughts of this website, for this to happen. It starts with us, but where does it end? As a community we will come through this stronger, and better than ever. In the mean-time, maybe we can come up with something to convince VIZ that trying to bully nearly 4 million of their biggest fans from around the World really isn't a super idea, and that the success of Naruto relies on ALL of us.
Thank you guys for all of your amazing support over the last 8.5 years! You really have absolutely no idea what this site has meant to me, and by extension what YOU have meant to me. It literally gave me a reason to live in some of my darkest and most depressed days as a young teen, and has taught me many things about life, far more than you'd ever think a simple website could. I promise you now that this is nowhere near the end. This is just a new, exciting, beginning for us all.
PLEASE click the "Like" icon underneath this post to alert your friends to what is going on with us and VIZ Media, and to help spread the word that we have changed domains. You should also please update your bookmarks to point to this website. I don't know how long the NarutoFan.com domain will stay active and pointing to this website, and we don't want to lose you ;)!