Warner Brothers' lawy firm Theodore Goddard, and The Reg are all pretty hard, cynical bastards but we all need to be reminded once in a while that most people aren't.
Les Field, father of www.harrypotterguide.co.uk owner Claire, called up The Reg to explain his despair and hurt over Warner Brothers heavy-handed approach to attaining his daughter's site. WB has gone on an acquisition spree of all Web sites including the words Harry Potter, justifying its behaviour through protection of its copyright.
It has overlooked the fact that many of those with such domains are young fans of the Harry Potter books and that a Web site is the modern way that kids indulge their passions. Instead, Claire Field received a nasty legal letter telling her to hand over her domain or face the music.
After the case received publicity, the head of WB publicity in the US Barbara Brogliatti smoothed the situation over. But when Les read a quote Barbara has given to the press which painted the situation in a very different light, he got angry and fired off an email. Barb-ara responded swiftly and informed Les that the situation would now be dealt with by the company's lawyers.
Les is stunned and fearful of what Warner Brothers may do to him. He explained that the threat of having a huge conglomerate taking him through the courts has overwhelmed him. He has had to take a few days off work and the doctor has prescribed him some sedatives. Warner Brothers still haven't been in contact since Barb-ara's email.
"Claire was in tears again earlier. She's in her final year at school. She has been predicted to get eight As and four Bs [in GCSE mocks] and the exams are in July," he told us. "This has just been so upsetting. I just wanted her to be left alone. I don't know if she'll want to go back to the site, even if we are allowed to keep it."
He's annoyed that Warners Brothers could be so unthinking and says he is incredibly grateful to the support that The Reg and our readers have given his family (the Web site has been inundated with messages of support on its Guestbook). However, he says he can't possibly afford to go to court. Several lawyers have offered free advice on the issue and he said he would ask one of them what he should do.
Les' upset was genuine. While we have been appalled at Warner Brothers' bullying and the intellectual issue of cybersquatting itself, it's all too easy to forget that these situations do have a very real and harmful effect on individuals. ®
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