Whether you're searching for detailed information about an obscure musical group or vetted gossip about your favorite celebrity, it can be difficult to extract legitimate stories from the Web. For every one official site attached to a celebrity, there are no doubt a dozen unofficial fan sites. So how can you tell an official website from an unofficial one, and does it matter whether you patronize one or the other?An official website has the financial, legal, and spiritual blessing of the artist. You can usually find general information about the artist's personal history, recently released albums, movies, or artwork, and detail specs on upcoming shows. However, official sites are not always that detailed. Many artists keep sites running merely as utilitarian tools.Fan sites, on the other hand, are often linked through what's known as a web-ring. Fan site owners often know one another and communicate regularly with the artist or at least with the artist's webmaster. ''Third tier'' fan sites may be outside this web-ring. Even without any access, these sites may still provide unusual, juicy tidbits. If you are researching for a paper, make sure to visit multiple fan sites as well as the official site of your subject to gather details.The distinction between official and unofficial fan sites only really matters when it comes to merchandise sales. When you buy from a fan of the artist, you will likely get unofficial memorabilia. Discriminating between legitimate and illegitimate memorabilia takes practice, so it may behoove you to swallow the bullet and purchase merchandise from the official fan site to be on the safe side.