‘Sorry about that’

Warner Brothers say ‘sorry’ for putting their tanks on the lawn, but don’t say they’ll move them just yet

Ryan Buell, Editor of Entertainment-Rewired magazine, must be a pretty good journalist. He got Warner Brothers to give comments on the domain name dispute in a recent article.

And they said ‘sorry’.

But it looks like they still want the domains.

So – the war goes on.

Let’s look at – better, lets ‘clarify the intent’ of – what was said by Ms Diane Nelson, Senior VP of Warner Brothers Family Entertainment, in the article.

“We’ve been naive,” admits Diane Nelson, senior Vice-President of Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. “The studio’s letter is an act of miscommunication. We never intended to shut down any websites. In some cases we just wanted those we contacted to transfer the domain name over to us. In no way is our goal to shut down the websites.”

(OK, so far we sort of agree. For those of you out there who don’t speak Corporate, this is Warners saying ‘we made a slip-up here’. I don’t think anyone is accusing Warners of trying to shut down sites. Not in so many words. They simply want the site’s domain names. Which is what PotterWar is campaigning about….)

Questions circulate concerning JK Rowlings involvement with this matter. The letter that sent to Field states, “Ms. Rowling and Warner Bros. are concerned that your domain name registration is likely to cause consumer confusion or dilution of the intellectual property rights described herein.” When asked whether or not JK Rowling is in fact involved in this matter, Ms. Nelson refused to answer.

“Where Ms. Rowling stands with this issue I cannot say for her protection. We are very protective of our trademarks and properties and in fact we have a good history of being overprotective of them, and in this case Warner Bros. and Ms. Rowling are just concerned about protecting the properties.”

(Ah, now it gets interesting. Our strange ally HarryPottersucks.com has mentioned this trademark issue, so check out the section on that site. But what of Ms Rowling’s silence – ‘for her protection’? I really don’t know enough about corporate stuff to know what that means – but does it sound a trifle odd to you?)

Although Warner Bros. apologizes for the letter, it remains uncertain where those who were contacted and Warner Bros. lie. “I cannot comment on where we stand with Field, but I will say that we could have drafted our letter that we sent out better. Warner Bros. realizes how important the fans are, and in no way do we want any of them to shut down. Field has done a wonderful job with her website and there are others out there that are remarkable as well. We cannot stress enough how much we support the fans and we want them to express their love for Harry Potter.”

(Ms Nelson won’t comment on the Claire Field case. That isn’t any cause for concern. My guess is that if she had commented, it would make things even more complicated for Claire, and no-one wants that just yet. But let’s get something picked out of this: Warners are saying that they want fans to express ‘their love for Harry Potter’. But (and it’s a big ‘but’) the moment that love expresses itself into a domain name it’s BANG! lawyers creeping all over you. To misquote Oscar Wilde, it really is ‘the love which dare not register its name’.)

To summarise, then, we haven’t moved very far. To use an analogy, Warners have occupied Kuwait, said ‘sorry, we didn’t ought to have done this’, and then stayed put. There is a change in their position, which is that they’re sorry that they’ve upset some children – but they still want the domain names. They really want you to be Harry Potter fans – which will mean you’ll trot off to their film and buy their merchandise, spending your money on their stuff, not on your domain name.

Don’t get me wrong here – I think Diane Nelson has done a good thing. Sure, part of PotterWar’s problem has been the tone of the letters – and Ms Nelson has conceded that the tone wasn’t right. She does deserve some acknowledgement for that.

You can read the article in its entirity here. You can also read the questions I was asked and the answers I gave here.

Thanks to Ryan for allowing me to quote the article and his questions. The views expressed here aren’t Ryan’s, nor are the interpretations and comments.