Comics / Comics News

Valaverse Slaps a SLAPP on YouTuber

By Hervé St-Louis
April 10, 2022 - 11:01

Most of the criticism and reviews in the North American action figure collecting world comes from YouTube. YouTuber “Ironken 3000” received a nasty surprise in mid-April 2022 when his video was taken down by YouTube based on a copyright complaint from toy maker Valaverse. The complaint was that Ironken had breached Valaverse’s copyrights by making moulds of the head of one of the characters, Steel Brigade.

When manufacturers single out one person for casting moulds like this, it is closer to harassment and trying to shut down a pesky critic. In legal term, it's called a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Valaverse should not be wasting precious resources on such things. The enterprise is feeding Ironken's anger and making a bigger enemy who will continue to criticize the company and its products.

Involving lawyers is irresponsible. It's far easier to let the Ironken have his channel and talk about his custom-building projects. With this takedown attempt, Valaverse is creating a Streisand effect putting Ironken in the limelight, instead of obscurity. Streisand’s effects are created when in an attempt to censor unfavourable news or information an individual or an organization draws more scrutiny and publicity on itself through its censoring attempts. Ironken's channel is not popular and has a tiny subscriber base. Hasbro, Mattel, and NECA usually do not waste time with small players like Ironken. Moreover, he never claimed to be selling his moulds.
In Canada, British Colombia, Ontario, and Quebec have laws against SLAPP suits. Valaverse's takedown attempt would be illegal and deemed a SLAPP. There are 31 US states, such as California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas with similar laws, discouraging SLAPPs.

SLAPPs and related measures, such as YouTube video take downs are used to shut critics. Some large companies use them frequently on YouTube to takedown unfavourable opinions and comments about their products. The claims are always preposterous but are used to "slow down" and hinder the critic. SLAPPs are an attempt to censor freedom of speech and expression.

SLAPP applicants usually use some trite excuses for attacking their critics. They always try to justify their case through some legal shenanigans. Copyrights takedowns are one of the most frequently used tactics. Thus, the claim of copyright violation based on a mould Ironken made for himself and is not selling is a classic tactic used in SLAPPs. Many action figure collectors make custom moulds and show them to the public.
To single out Ironken, while ignoring the thousands of customizers is a telltale of SLAPPs since Ironken has been very vocal in his criticism of Valaverse. Given other reports that Valaverse has sent cease and desists to other collectors in the past, it is quite easy to prove that he hammered a SLAPP against Ironken. If either Valaverse or Ironken reside (or are registered) in a state with anti-SLAPP laws, Ironken could have a case against Valaverse, should he choose to defend himself.
The world of action figure collecting should not be the grounds for silly SLAPPs. I am extremely disappointed that Bobby Vala chose to play this game. Valaverse’s Action Force’s action figure line is becoming a secret hit with many collectors. The potential for the line’s growth is immense. While Ironken’s criticism against Valaverse and Bobby Vala can easily be deemed as annoying, and obsessive, wasting resources on a SLAPP is not in the interest of the toy manufacturer and its founder.
I strongly suggest that Bobby Vala gains a serious understanding copyrights, censorship, and freedom of expression laws, then surrounds himself with a better communication and public relations’ team. Given the growth of his enterprise, it’s time that Bobby Vala let professional communicators handle his marketing and public relations.

The one-man handling the show is often the Achilles’ heel of start ups. Sensible minds would have suggested that Vala not waste precious resources against a YouTuber with such limited viewership and focus on better and more important things. Live and let live is the true sign of a mature entrepreneur.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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