Graduate Student gets threatened with lawsuit from Degrassi producers
Mark Aaron Polger, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, has been served with a statement of claim from Epitome Pictures, the company that produced the Degrassi Television Series (Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, and The Kids of Degrassi Street). After declining to hand over the degrassi domain to the producers of the series on demand, Epitome Pictures has threatened Mr. Polger with a lawsuit. In the statement he has been accused of trademark infringement, using the web site and domain in bad faith, damaging the integrity and good faith of Epitome Pictures, claiming to be an official web site, disseminating official information and claiming to be associated with Epitome Pictures. All of these accusations are false and have been fabricated by Epitome Pictures to intimidate the graduate student into surrendering the domain names of http://www.degrassi.ca, http://www.degrassi.org and http://www.degrassiweb.com, all of which he created. The emerging presence of Degrassi web sites and the increase of the series reruns has sparked a renewed interest by the public. The Degrassi web sites have grown from 3 web sites in 1996 to over 40 web sites in the year 2000 and Polgers site is one of the biggest and most popular. Consequently, it has given Epitome producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn the opportunity to produce a new Degrassi series for 2001.
Mr.Polger has created and maintained the unofficial Degrassi web site since the beginning of 1998. His growing site contains information about the Degrassi television series that ran from 1979-1992. The web site includes information about the show, cast and crew interviews, an Internet mailing list and a webring that contains over 40 related fan sites. He has created a Degrassi mailing list with over 2000 subscribers from Canada, the US, the UK, France, Israel, and Australia. Polger and his web partner Ms. Natalie Earl organized the Degrassi convention in August 1999 at the building where Degrassi High was filmed. The event was successful and was funded by Polger and his web partner Natalie Earl of Los Angeles, California. The event was so successful, it made the front page of the Toronto Star, reported by Chris Nutell-Smith on August 23rd, 1999
Epitome Pictures, formally Playing With Time INC has produced such dramas as the Degrassi TV series, Liberty Street, and Riverdale. Their head offices are in Toronto and their web site is http://www.epitomepictures.com. Producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn are currently in the works of producing Degrassi: The Next Generation, which has been approved to broadcast on CTV in 2001.
Since February 2000, Polger has been repeatedly contacted over email and telephone by Epitome Pictures Inc. (formally Playing With Time). They have requested the transfer of his domain names to Epitome Pictures in order to use the domain as a supplemental tool to their new series. Polger met with Epitome Pictures producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn in June 2000 for a formal meeting. Schuyler and Stohn thanked Polger for his promotion, publicity, and advertising of the series. Their idea was to take over the Degrassi domains and move the content of his site to another domain name of his choice. Polger declined the proposal and was not interested in handing over the Degrassi domain to them considering the domain has been maintained on a daily basis since 1998 by Polger himself and is associated with Polgers Degrassi Webring.
Polger uses this site as a reference centre where he provides free information via electronic mail. Since the beginning, he has used multiple disclaimers all over his web site indicating that the site is unofficial. He has also used disclaimers that state he is not associated with Epitome Pictures and their related companies. It is clear that Polger is not using the site in bad faith with respect to Epitome Pictures. He is offering free promotion and publicity for a series that ended in 1992. The increased web presence has provoked syndication in Canada on Showcase, CBC and on TRIO, an American cable network as well as a reunion show and a convention in August 1999.
Mark Polger is 26 years old, and a native of Montreal, Quebec and lives in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario. He has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Concordia University, a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario and he is currently a student at the University of Waterloo doing an M.A. in Sociology.
His site has been in numerous newspapers as a comprehensive, informative, and entertaining web site that contains and episode guide, a FAQ, cast and crew interviews, photo gallery, fan fiction, a mailing list, and a webring. It is clear that upon visiting Polgers web site, that numerous hours of hard work and dedication have gone into the creation and maintenance of the online Degrassi culture. Without Polgers hard work on his web site, mailing list, and convention, there would not be a market for Epitome Pictures to work with to create a new series. Epitome Pictures should support and thank Polger for his efforts and dedication rather than harass and bully him with the threat of a lawsuit.
Mark Aaron Polger