Will a giganto "Godzilla" site stomp out the little guys?

He’s bigger than a gigabyte, faster than a pentium II, taller than…oh, forget it. After all the hype, everyone knows the monster du jour: Godzilla. But while the beast tromps through the streets of Manhattan and theaters around the world, he’s also been casting a sizable shadow on the Net, via the film’s official site at http://www.godzilla.com. If spunky little fan sites happen to get underfoot—that’s just too bad.

Well before the new film, scrappy multimedia shrines like “Barry’s Temple of Godzilla” (http://www.stomptokyo.com/godzillatemple) and “Godzilla’s Domain” (www. geocities. com/SoHo/4312/godzillasdomain.html) were serving as online nests for global ‘Zillaheads. Last spring, though, production company Centropolis set up Godzilla.com, the slick, sanctioned site for the film. “We’re true Godzilla freaks,” producer Dean Devlin comments, “so we wanted to put that passion into building the ultimate Godzilla site.” In fact, says Devlin, Centropolis intends to keep the site going years after the movie’s gone.

The official site definitely breathes fire. Moving beyond trailers and cast bios, Devlin and company created a plug-in-heavy monster that includes a Godzilla-themed VRML world and a multiplayer online game. Best of all is the G-Database, a fan’s dream encyclopedia of everything you always wanted to know about Godzilla but were afraid to download: bios on the Japanese artists behind the films, scrapbooks on the monsters—even sound files of their screams (you haven’t lived ’til you’ve heard Oodako the Giant Octopus yelp his tinny “eep!”).

So far, fans are filling up the message boards, but for diehards, Godzilla.com is a mixed bag. “Official sites have access to more resources and can therefore have more video clips, sound clips, graphics,” says Barry Goldberg, who runs the “Temple of Godzilla.” “Fan sites, on the other hand, are generally wide open and contain what the fans themselves want to see and know.”

Unfortunately, fans are not as free as they might think. Producers of the official Star Trek and Simpsons sites have gone after webheads who’ve allegedly violated copyrights by posting pictures and sound files on their samizdat sites. On the Godzilla front, neither Sony nor Japanese film studio (and the big guy’s copyright holder) Toho has been litigious with a fan site yet, although Toho has pursued a book publisher for trademark and copyright infringement. In fact, the makers of the new Godzilla actually seem aware that they’re part of a larger landscape. “Fans come to our site and post messages about their own [sites],” admits Devlin, “so ultimately, we’re driving traffic to them.” And that’s as it should be. Godzilla.com might have a killer database, but without the fans, it’s dead.