Feeds

Meet the Warner Bros: Jekyll and Hyde

The truth behind the Harry Potter domain bullying

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

Warner Brothers' stated approach to Harry Potter fan Web sites is in direct contradiction to what is really happening. Not only that but our suspicion that it believes it has a right to any domain containing any reference to Harry Potter has been confirmed. And it doesn't even look at people's sites before firing off threatening legal letters.

Following a couple of days' research into Harry Potter domains, a pattern has emerged in how WB deals with the situation. It's not fair, it's indiscriminate and it's abusive. The official line is that Warner Brothers is simply trying to protect its trademark. It has the rights to the upcoming film version of Harry Potter and doesn't want people to use the character as a platform for their own businesses. Fair enough: companies - especially media companies - have to do this or they'd soon be out of business.

What about all the millions of (mostly young) fans of the Harry Potter books without which a film wouldn't even exist? Warner Brothers loves em - they're the ones that will go to the film and drag their parents along with them. What if one of these fans wants their own fan Web site? That's fine. As long as they don't pretend to be an official site and they don't try to make money from it, Warner Brothers welcomes such enterprising and passionate fans; they were young once too.

Which makes it all the more strange that anyone that registers a domain name with the words Harry Potter in, will soon receive a letter from Warner Brothers telling them that the company is concerned that your domain "is likely to cause consumer confusion". It uses the author's name prominently, saying that Ms Rowling is "concerned" over the site. (We decided to ask single mum JK Rowling why she was so concerned that young children might want a Harry Potter Web site. Her agent informed us that "Ms Rowling won't be available for interview for the foreseeable future".)

The letter will then give you two weeks to get in touch and hand over the domain. If you don't, you'll get a letter from top London lawyers Theodore Goddard. They will inform you that you must hand over the domain immediately or pay the consequences (mostly bills and more threatening letters and lawyers). Interestingly, it doesn't seem too keen on actually going to court and arguing its case. The threat is normally sufficient.

If you co-operate, you will find Warner Brothers understanding and concerned that you aren't upset - you will then get a slightly nicer letter telling you that you must organise transfer of the domain yourself and sign a WB warranty as soon as possible. Once you send proof that Warner Brothers now owns the domain, you will get reimbursed for the transfer costs.

But it's not all bad news. After you've done all this you will probably get a Harry Potter calendar (!). Yes, pretty good, huh? And yes, apparently this is the only Potter merchandise it can get its hands on at the moment. And my gran's a monkey.

Incredibly, Warner Brothers has also admitted to several domain owners that it hasn't actually looked at their site - which kinda begs the question, how do you know it's a "cybersquatter" or a fan that owns the URL? Well, you don't and WB doesn't care either.

It doesn't end there either. A few of those contacted have been sorry that they have unintentionally strayed into WB's trademark and so ask what URLs would be safe to use for their fan sites. The answer is a remarkable one: you can have any domain you want whatsoever. As long as it doesn't contain or refer to any aspect of Harry Potter or the books. So that's ANY reference to anything in the books that is off-bounds. Which again begs a question: what the hell are you supposed to call a Harry Potter fan site, and how would anyone find it? (Would the URL www.glasses.com be safe? Harry does, after all, wear glasses.)

Now we don't want to call Warner Brothers two-faced or make references to Jekyll and Hyde, but that's what it is, so what choice do we have? ®

Related Stories

Warner Brothers shoots at more innocents
Another child's Christmas ruined by Warner Brothers
Warner Bros/ Harry Potter dispute kicks off again
Warner Bros backs down on Harry Potter Web site
Reg to fight for Harry Potter 'cybersquatter'
Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.