Hasbro tricks fan-blogger into revealing his address so they can send him legal threats over widely available leaked product

Australian Nerf fans were outraged to learn how Martyn Yang, a Nerf-gun blogger writing for Urban Taggers, was tricked by Hasbro into revealing his home address with an offer of a giveaway for his readers, only to receive a lawsuit threat and takedown demand from Nerf's lawyers at that address. At issue is a review the blogger ran of the N-STRIKE ELITE “RAMPAGE” BLASTER, a product that wasn't officially released yet (though as he points out, there are lots of places you can get them). Nerf's lawyers demanded that Yang turn over the identity, IP address and other personal information on his source, or face legal sanctions.

Things got worse when Yang complied with the takedown demand, but still came home to find "representatives" of Hasbro's law firm, Baker and McKenzie, skulking around his apartment building and freaking out the neighbours, asking nosy questions and demanding to know where he got his information. Meanwhile, there are calls for Hasbro boycotts on Facebook, and Yang says he's reconsidering whether he'll devote his energies to promoting Hasbro's products in the future.

First of all, you’re lucky that no one called the police. Secondly, I really do not appreciate being ambushed by lawyers or their representatives on a Sunday afternoon when I haven’t done anything wrong, I have taken down the images and it’s not my fault that neither you nor Hasbro seem to be able to find out whoever the original source of the guns. It would also have been appropriate to give me forewarning so that I could have a lawyer present.

I’ve told your friend ‘Christine’ what I know but it was extremely rude to just show up on my doorstep and scare my neighbours like that. Regarding Nitro and Rayven - I really wish that you’d been up front and mentioned the products in question in your first letter, it could have saved everyone a lot of time and Hasbro a lot of legal fees.

Regarding the “Vortex Nitron” and “Rayven”, these products are freely available for purchase online at this website: http://www.taobao.com/index_global.php. I don’t have the listing details anymore, but if you search for Nerf stuff there, you should find it. I realise that the products weren’t officially released yet but it’s not my fault they were on taobao and it’s pretty common to find promo stuff on taobao/ebay that the recipients have decided to sell online … I’ve showed your friend Christine the site but I really can’t be expected to teach people how to use an internet search engine. You’ll also have to learn how to read Chinese. I don’t read Chinese so I can’t help you there.

Nerf guns at 10 paces: Hasbro faces boycott after siccing lawyers onto fan site


  1. It’s going to take me a little while to get past “Nerf-gun blogger.” Everything else was a blur.

    1. Not to mention… there’s a BLACK MARKET IN NERF GUNS?

      And it’s big enough that Hasbro involves lawyers?

      WTF MATE?

      1. There’s nothing quite as dangerous as a Nerf gun runner (called a “nerf herder” in the biz).

      2.  The fear here is that some third party might be running Nerf guns to North Korea or Pakistan, or heaven forbid, one of the big kids at Birch Elementary in Broomfield, CO!

    2. There’s definitely a Nerf blogosphere. The thing is right now, Hasbro does keep up with it and supporting it quite a bit through it’s outreach on social media. 

      These series on incidents have really really soured the mood of said blogosphere. Especially at a time that Hasbro has said to it’s investors that Nerf sales are down and they need all of the Nerf sales they can possibly get right now. 

      1. Is it some sort of fetishization of the toys, and their nostalgic ties to one’s childhood (like the transformers fandom)?

        Or is it mainly a community of parents, playing with their kids?

        Or is it just that Nerf put out stuff that is _that_ cool, that adults want to talk about it?

        I must admit, I had some Nerf toys as a kid, and they were almost 100% boring to me.

        1. People can be ardent fans of any hobby, and shooting stuff with nerf darts is a hobby.

          If something is kind of fun, there are definitely going to be adults out there who are really into it.

        2. It’s a really a mix. While there’s plenty of kids/tweens; you also have parents who play with there kids (like you said), Humans Vs Zombie players, those who play “assassin”, people who have office wide Nerf battles (mostly done by tech based companies), folks who repaint blasters to be used as roleplaying or acting props (trivia: most of the prop guns used in the TV show Terra Nova were actually repainted Nerf blasters) and for many other reasons.

          There’s even a offshoot of the whole steampunk movement called Nerfpunk (pic included)

        3. There is a modding community. New guns mean new modding possibilities. Just google nerf mods and you’ll see there is a huge community. They get used for back yard free for alls, all the way up to organized larps. 

        4. Nerf is like a more affordable and customizable version of laser tag or paint ball and has been huge on college campuses for years. There are entire leagues dedicated to nerf tag and one entire aisle in Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us dedicated to nerf guns, darts, and even melee weapons.

          It’s pretty much a full-on hobby for those who love it.

        5. My son gets involved in some pretty intense indoor Nerf action.  During the summer they play airsoft, but in the winter it’s all Nerf.

  2. What does Hasbro (or any other company that outsources production of inexpensive products for that matter) expect to have happen when they send their product manufacturing overseas?  It either gets counterfeited, or due to a combination of poor supervision and middle management who either doesn’t care or is complicit, additional product is manufactured and never provided to the customer (in this case Hasbro) and is then sold through the same channels as counterfeit.

    It would be really, really hard to demonstrate that a Hasbro-designed and packaged product, made in the same plant as the other Hasbro products, isn’t actually a Hasbro product.  When you send your production to effectively a third party, you can not control what happens anymore, and if the incentive to break the rules or laws is stronger than the rules or laws, this kind of thing can result.

    And to think, Honeywell is sending processes to China that are used for military applications…

    1. I recall reading about a electronics company that was made aware of a third shift at a subcontracted factory when they were contacted about a faulty product that did not have its serial number on record. The operation was so professional that the sellers had their own business cards printed and operated distribution networks that looked very legit on the surface.

    2. yeah – if the Hasbro products complained about are for sale on taobo, it’s a good bet that these products walked off the factory floor (or out the back door).  I remember reading an article about a Chinese factory girl who has an apartment full of Louis Vuitton bags – she said the guards look the other way sometimes as “gifts”

      1. Heh, other places the guy provides the card. In China, they simply look the other way at the gate…

  3. It always amazes me that companies still do not recognize that this sort of thing ends in bad publicity for them. You cannot win this, the product leaked, people know about it and throwing lawyers around always makes you look like an asshole. And the resulting scandal atracts a way bigger audience then the details of a leaked nerf gun ever would.

    1. And people wanting to see this new nerf gun/ some of these people are probably nerf heads/ guns will be purchased. = Money for Hasbro

      1.  Hasbro has turned themselves into a license/brand management company that still produces toys and games as a “cheap” method of keeping their brands out in the market.  That’s why they seem more concerned with figuring out how to turn every single product line they have into a Hollywood movie deal instead of figuring out how to innovate new toys and games.  (You can make cases for Transformers and GI Joe as movie properties, but when “Battleship” is coming to theaters and people have options of “Monoploy” and “Sorry” for movies, the world has become a sad, sad place).

        They’re following the path blazed by Marvel Comics, who have also become a brand management company that still publishes comics as a “cheap” way of keeping their brands in the marketplace.

        So, basically you’re right.  Hasbro is now a company controlled by lawyers because “intellectual property” is what they’re selling.  The physical goods are just a sideline that needs to break even at this point.

    2. Plus the person they’re hassling is someone who likes their product so much he’s willing to effectively work as unpaid Hasbro marketer for a fair piece of his free time. Why the hell would you want to alienate someone like that?

  4. Hmm, Hasbro’s marketing/P.R. arm should have been the ones to handle this one. Not just the lawyers.These strong arm tactics are just going to send waves of geek boys to the nets to find ways to make awesome rubber band guns and to lay off of the Nerf. As a guy who’s had to deal with trademarks & copyright issues, I get where Hasbro is coming from and why they do have to push the paperwork for future protections. But really? The backlash will hurt them.

    1. Not to mention that Hasbro isn’t the only company making these kinds of toys – Buzz Bee competes directly against the Nerf brand with their own Air Zone brand. If Hasbro throws away their marketing edge, they shouldn’t be surprised when Air Zone starts selling more toys guns at their expense.

  5. The guy legally purchased a thing from someone then wrote about it. Hes done absolutely nothing wrong. Hopefully he stands up for that fact.

  6. This is hardly a new pattern, but has anyone ever looked into the internal dynamics of when and whether a company decides to send their high-priced lawyers after a fan blog like this?  Sending lawyers from Baker and MacKenzie to go shake down the neighbors seems like a terrible use of Hasbros money, of course, but more than that — how high up the ladder in a corporation do you have to go to authorize that kind of expense?  

    These sorts of decisions are probably not happening at the CEO/COO/General Counsel level — Hasbro has plenty of actual legal things to worry about — but it would be interesting to learn whether this stuff happens because a PR guy has f’d up a product launch and wants to cover his arse (in, apparently, the worst possible way).My assumptions could be wrong, but when I was big-firm lawyering, I got calls from people way down the chain looking to cover their own ass on the company’s nickel.

  7. I’m sure Nerf is being mentioned a lot in the news for free. I had kinda forgot about that company. Now look, I’m mentioning it too. CAn you call it a Barbra Streisand effect if they subject matter in question wants to be advertised?

    1. I suspect it can, because in the end the effect is all about trying to control the narrative and having the attempt blow up in ones face.

  8. Hey, i’ve been in contact with that guy. Submitted quite a few things to his site (nothing that Hasbro has been pestering about though).

    I included an image of the blaster Hasbro and tried (and failed) to keep off the internet.

    Isn’t it ironic all this news started to get picked up on Barbra Sreisand’s birthday. I guess this would be the perfect time for the folks over at Hasbro to look up the “Streisand Effect” online…

    1. odd, i thought that thing was out already. Been seeing it around the web for what feels like ages.

      1. It’s basically a re-shelled and upgraded version of the Nerf Raider but with more powerful internals and a smaller capacity drum.   

  9. Give it a few years, we’ll have cheap 3D printers and can download and print out our own bootleg Nerf gatling guns, that’ll teach the bastards. 

  10. “I haven’t done anything wrong”, says he. Well, you know, aside from buying merchandise that’s not legally available yet via an auction site. Or “stolen goods”, as some might call it.

    1. Do you have actual knowledge that the toys in question were stolen?  Define the phrase “legally available” .  Are you saying that what the blogger did was illegal?  And if so,  how do you know that what the blogger did was illegal in Australia?

      What do you think of the value the blogger adds to the Hasbro brand by giving free and enthusiastic web promotion?  Who damaged Hasbro more through their activities herein described:  the blogger or Hasbro?

    2. As far as I know, outside of contract law, available is available. What concept of “legally available” are you working with here?

        1. If it is a site of major commerce, it is not the buyer’s responsibility to evaluate provenance.

        2. You act like employees of major companies don’t buy things or get things from their employer previous to their launch and dump them straight up on eBay or wherever… 

    3. I find it interesting that you’re assuming that he purchased said goods from said auction site when both he and Hasbro are discussing who had sent him the information for the review:

      “Yang fired back over email, agreeing to take the images down but, citing recent amendments to the Australian Evidence Act regarding a journalistic obligation to protect his sources, refused to name his informant”

      So, by this article, he has done nothing wrong.

  11. “Reconsidering?”   What do they have to do, eat his puppy?  I would have every last bit of Hasbro branded stuff out of my house that day and re-work the blog into an anti-Hasbro site that night.

    1.  Here is what to do:

      1. Create a site: http://www.BetterThanHasbro.com or http://www.BetterThanNerf.com
      2. Fill it with DIY designs for fun easy home pop guns and other toys similar to NERFs.
      3. Right on the home page proudly proclaim: “Better Than Hasbro because (1) Its FREE (2) You made it yourself, with love (3) No one will send goons to your home on a Sunday afternoon to scare you with legal threats and intimidate you by harassing your neighbors (link to articles). Also splash THIS IS A PARODY all over it so mitigate the inevitable legal attack on this site.

      Please someone do this!!!

      Businesses only act by financial decisions. If acting like a bully and an ass COSTS them business they will stop. If it makes money, they will continue. Simple. So let’s make it COST them money.

  12. Just an amusing bit of trivia from the blogger’s letter to Hasbro and their associated law firm:

    “She insisted I must know who the sellers were. I said that I did not remember and even if I did, if you go even to ebay.com.au you will see that vendors call themselves all kinds of odd names like ticklesandbananas and boingboing etc so they might as well be anonymous”

    (Emphasis mine)

  13.  It’s a damn shame one of the neighbor’s didn’t ask the lawyer for their home address so they could drop by unannounced to discuss the issue.

  14. Instead of BoyCotting, why not try to start a shareholder revolt or depress the stock ?

    This is a ridiculous and obvious case of bad corporate governance and wasteful spending.  If they have an idiot legal team that is wasting funds on this, what else are they wasting money on ?

  15. They make f**king TOYS! Had this been actual military hardware I could understand. Jeez! Taking the god damn Nerf a little too seriously boys! Over-reaction and grow up springs to mind.  

  16. Sounds like the phone call and later countless emails I got from Mattel legal for posting photoshopped images their people made and then handed off to retailers, where I picked them up. The person on the phone said I stole the images, conjuring visions of me sneaking up to my Mattel rep and lifting a flash drive from his pocket marked “The Loot!”  These people threaten first and ask questions later..which is funny considering their common target is the web sites covering their items FREE OF CHARGE and more often then not, paying for the privilege out of their own pockets. There is no respect.

  17. Things got worse when Yang complied with the takedown demand, but still came home to find “representatives” of Hasbro’s law firm, Baker and McKenzie, skulking around his apartment building and freaking out the neighbours…

    Eh, those goons don’t seem quite as intimidating once you realize that the sidearms in their jackets only shoot foam rubber darts.

  18. In related news, Hasbro representatives burst into the bedroom of Tiffany Mae Walters and confiscated her My Little Pony collection after word leaked out that she was playing with them wrong.

    1. Who do you mean, Hasbro? No, they are a corporation, but I’ll agree, they DO seem to be acting childish.

  19. Remember this is Hasbro who has been systematically destroying their own market.

    The guy they put in charge of TSR compared D&D to checkers.  They were unprepared for the resulting blacklash wave.  This was after they changed the game yet again to make it so it played like a video game, to appeal to kids.  It did nothing but turn the game into a joke. (Oh and it made the fortune of Pazio’s Pathfinder System.)

    They have people running WOTC who appear mostly clueless about the game they make.  The bean counters decide how much product to print and that is it.  When they hit on something good, they shortprint a future set to get more time on the presses for the old set.  The waste time putting out premade decks that are filled with the worst possible cards, or they make 1 of 5 decks so good stores are left with just the crap to try and move.  This causes issues for players being able to get the product.  They had a huge national system of events, they gutted them and are moving everything to the “local” level. Several of the events on this level have resulted in horrible horrible events crammed into Days Inns where people just leave.  They are trying to focus on the “casual” gamer, but manage to insult them at every turn.

    Even their recent board game offerings have been a freaking joke.  Battleship Galaxies?  REALLY?

    The lawyers are in charge of the place now.  Lawyers know how to sue, litigate, intimidate.  They do not understand if you go after someone actually promoting your products, they will stop promoting your products.  Goodwill is a concept they do not understand.  They don’t get that sometimes its best to ask in your best human voice to get something, rather than show up and be lawyers.

    1.  And then you have their ridiculous policies for ordering Star Wars figures – you can only order a box and the mix of figures in the box is heavily weighted towards figures no one really wants – the 2000th iteration of a Stormtrooper etc – and that hang around on pegs at stores forever.

      I seriously wonder if the higher-ups at Hasbro actually actively hate their customers!!!

      1. They like profits.  Stormtrooper 2000 is cheaper to make.  By making the figures people want rare, the retailer is eating the costs of warehouses full of Stormtrooper 2000.  Of course they will raises prices here and there to make up the losses they have to sell ST2k at.
        But Hasbro makes more money, because every retailer has to order more product from them to deliver what they want.  Because if retailer A won’t play along retailer B will just to get the bodies in the store.  So all of them end up with tons of ST2k making higher prices for everyone.

        1. @facebook-1020314408:disqus @That_Anonymous_Coward:disqus I 
          There is at least some good reasoning behind the way they handle the Star Wars figures. 

          The figures that collectors want have a lot of crossover with the ones that kids want  – so they attempt to give everyone a fair shot at getting Darth Vader and not just Storm Trooper 2K.

          If you look through the selection of Star Wars figures at a store, you’ll find a bunch of Storm Trooper 2K and droids and aliens that were on screen for two seconds. You won’t find the main characters, other than Yoda and maybe prequel Anakin.

          They know the collector market is important – if it wasn’t, they would make the good figures less rare – but they have to try to balance that with making sure kids can get the figures they want.

          They’re not doing a very good job, but at least they’re trying.

          1. As Hasbro isn’t getting a cut of the collector market after the initial sale, why care?
            You have collectors getting deals with shelf stockers to get their stuff pulled aside and not hitting the floor.  Its supposed to be toys for kids.
            If Hasbro wanted to embrace the collectors market they would produce a line specifically targeted at them.  Better sculpts, better materials, etc.

            But most of this is just cashing in on 3 movies made a long time ago, with 3 presequels that crapped on alot of peoples memories and people still buy the crap because of the name.

  20. Was told when Cosmic Encounters was reprinted it sold 800k units in 2 months, a great sales record for a board game, Hasbro considered it a Fail because it was under 2 mill.
    They do not understand the market they have products in.
    As for the strong arming Middle Manger syndrome is to blame I would think, hope the 
    worthless thug gets fired.

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