In an interview, Serenity writer/director Joss Whedon mentions that it might not be a bad idea for studios to look the other way about certain bootleg merchandise. The CulturePulp Q&A: Joss Whedon (be aware, the full interview will spoil major plot points of the film, but not this excerpt):
Q. You've also done an absolutely smashing job of ignoring the massive amounts of bootleg "Firefly" fan merchandise...
A. I'm a Deadhead, and where I come from, bootlegging's a good thing.
Q. If the movie's a hit, and more official merchandise starts coming out, do you think there's going to be a crackdown?
A. I have no idea. I never have a piece of merchandising; I haven't reached a place in the Hollywood DNA chain where I can actually ask for that. So it's not like I'm losing money.
But even if I was? You know, I'm doin' fine. I have a job. I'm doing just fine. And the fact that people are making this stuff? You can call it "bootlegging" or you can call it "free advertising."
Note that these are not knock-offs of official merchandise, or unlicensed shirts with the Serenity equivalent of a picture of Yoda or Bart Simpson, but fan-created products that have to do with minor plot points/secondary background information from the film and television show. These are a way to capture fan energy in ways that the studio or director might never contemplate.
I recently came across screenwriter Josh Friedman's blog, I find your lack of faith disturbing, which is very entertaining-- probably because he can, you know, actually write well. In addition, a couple of his posts can teach valuable lessons about entertainment law practice.
One post explains why credits matter in films: "A shared screenplay credit on WOTW [War of the Worlds] puts my son through school. K thru Graduate. All private if he wants. He can probably bring a friend."
Another post demonstrates why having a entertainment savvy lawyer is very important:
So he recommends me a cheap lawyer friend of his who I find out later only came to this "lawyer gig" late in life. What he really wants to do is park his Volvo near the beach and sleep. But hey, he's got one of those law degree thingies so I figure what the fuck. He then proceeds to negotiate a contract between me and the producers WHICH ALLOWS THEM TO OPTION MY SCRIPT FOR $2500 AND THEN RENEW SAID OPTION EVERY YEAR UNTIL THE END OF TIME.