Sasha Stone‘s Oscarwatch.com has covered the Oscar scene with class, insight and relentless energy for seven and a half years. She has done more to create a sense of curiosity, suspense and respect for the annual Academy Awards show than the nominations and awards themselves have warranted. Plus she’s a struggling overworked mom who isn’t getting rich off this endeavor. But at least until last week, Academy attorneys had allowed her use the name “Oscar” on her site without acting like insensitive bullies.
No longer. Last week AMPAS lawyers ordered Stone to give up the “Oscarwatch” name or face a lawsuit.
Why the sudden turnaround? Because they read in Stephen Rodrick‘s Los Angeles magazine piece about Oscar bloggers (“The Blog Whisperers”) that Stone makes a piddly $20 grand a year from Oscarwatch.com ad revenues. Being the owners and absolute rulers of the Oscar trademark, they don’t want people profiting from using the name in any kind of commercial venture.
The Academy attorneys are pricks, but they have a point. Stone will probably have to knuckle under and rename her site www.awardsdaily.com, or something along those lines. She should ideally call it www.sashastone.com, but somebody owns that URL, she says. But there’s no website using that name so maybe she can purchase it.
An attorney friend has told me Stone should fight this tooth and nail. “I just don’t like the idea of a huge corporate entity pushing this little journalist around,’ he said. ‘She could probably keep the name if she removed that Oscar trademark ‘r’. The site’s slogan says ‘nobody knows anything’ — maybe if she added ‘an independent Oscar site’ she might be able to keep the name. The bottom line is an issue of people confusing Oscarwatch with the official Oscar site. This could be finessed.
“People are using the word ‘Oscar’ all over the place. They use it in news articles, columns…everywhere. The term ‘Oscar Watch’ is used by the Hollywood Reporter, I think. The usage is obviously everywhere, but they’re pouncing on Sasha Stone because they read in a magazine article that she earns enough ad money to pay the rent for her apartment and buy her daughter some clothes on EBay and buy some food staples at Costco.”
Even if she finally has to surrender the Oscarwatch.com domain name, Stone should fight and stall as much as she can because she needs all the time she can get in order to thoroughly spread the word around about the new site name, whatever it might be.
I think my attorney friend is right. I think is a solvable, finessable situation. If there are any trademark attorneys out there would like to help Stone on a pro bono basis, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that their law practice gets a fair amount of professional attention from the entertainment community.
Scott Martelle‘s Envelope/L.A. Times piece about Stone’s legal troubles says that the Academy “has taken similar measures dating back a decade, including moving in 2000 against some 50 websites that incorporated Oscar or Academy in their site names. But this is the first time the Academy has gone after Stone’s site.
“Stone speculated she was targeted to preclude other potential users of ‘Oscar’from citing her as an example in challenging the Academy’s trademark. Yet the name is already part of the common language, she said.
“‘I really do think I can argue this thing — people do use the name all the time Oscarwatching is its own word, really. But I probably just can’t afford it. I think I’ll just have to comply.” Again — some attorney needs to help this lady out.