Warner Brothers has threatened a 15-year-old fan of Harry Potter with legal action over her Web site. Claire Field is understandably upset at the bullying tactics and not much impressed by the conglomerate's offer of £9.99 in compensation for handing over the domain www.harrypotterguide.co.uk.
This action really, really bothers us here at The Reg. Claire received a letter from WB's legal department, claiming her site is "likely to cause consumer confusion or dilution of intellectual property rights". It looks as though it came from the US, but of course we can't be sure because NO ONE at Warner Brothers will talk to us. One representative said she couldn't comment because her area was the film aspect of Harry Potter. The Internet aspect is run by someone else. And there's no point us talking to the legal department because we "wouldn't get through to anybody". The corporate arrogance is simply staggering. To be fair, she was a very nice woman but what the hell kind of company is this?
This isn't the start of its Harry Potter spree either. Back in February, it first announced its intention to run down Harry Potter "cybersquatters", starting with www.harrypotterisawizard.co.uk. We haven't been able to find an arbitration decision on it, but the site is in WB's hands. Presumably the heavy-handed threat of legal action was enough.
So what we have here is a vast, ugly corporation which makes most of its money from entertaining children, firing out legal letters and bullying those very kids without any thought given to the facts or the receiver. We can't be sure that it has even looked at her site - which, incidentally, carries a disclaimer and links to the official site on its front page.
AND we're talking about harrypotterguide.co.uk - not exactly the first URL you are going to type in. This really is sickeningly abusive behaviour and is an indication of the sorry state the Internet has got into - thanks in part to our old friend WIPO, the arbitrator-come-whore that always seems to find in favour of the rich and powerful.
Warner Brothers seem to be operating under the proviso that anything with the words "harry potter" in are its property. What the hell is wrong with a young fan having a fan site? Nothing, WB will say. Then what the hell are they supposed to call it? We all know that Warner Brothers couldn't give a monkey's about the people that keep it in business, but rarely has that fact been so apparent.
We reckon Warners will call this off once someone with a brain hears about it ("no, cancel it. Think of the cost in negative publicity"). If it goes through with it and takes the issue to an arbitrator - presumably, WIPO - we can't see how it can win.
There's no bad faith here, no profit being made - it's a fan's site that justifies its URL entirely. If WIPO does look at it and does decide against Claire, we will fly over to Geneva and personally slap director general Kamil Idris. ®