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The Last Domain Name You'll Ever Register

Jennie-Marie Larsen

Could the Critics in Hollywood be Misinterpreting the Opportunity that Exists for Companies Owning Their Own .NAME/.BRAND?

Co-authored by JM Larsen, CMO, Sedari and Rita Tateel, President, The Celebrity Source

We read with interest the 20 Sept., 2011 article in The Hollywood Reporter. This confirmed that there is a lot of misinformation about the expansion of the domain name space circulating. Sadly, a creative opportunity is being seen as a threat by the most creative of industries.

The arrival of an open playing field for .ANYTHING is not a threat, it is unquestionably a long awaited opportunity and solution to the murky waters of the .COM namespace.

The opportunity is the restoration of trust and authenticity. Trust and reputations have been eroded by cybersquatting, phishing and fraud that are endemic to the current naming system.

Lady Gaga recently lost a legal battle to regain her LADYGAGA.ORG name. Countless other celebrities and brand holders have lost the rights to use their own name as a website, or found others free-riding on their reputation. If, as a brand holder, you didn't think through every possible version of your online name in the existing system, someone else will have done so… and for $5 become the proud owner of, say, LadyGagaNews.com just as if they were 'Born This Way' — even when they were not.

At what point does Lady Gaga put her foot down and demand ownership of her brand online… in its entirety? Until ICANN recently announced the opening up of the Top Level Domain (TLD) space, that option was simply not available. Now, if Lady Gaga applies for and is granted the rights to .GAGA she will own that space, permanently. Finally.

The film industry is concerned with the additional investment, protection and brand vigilance that will be required in the new Internet naming system. Would it not be attractive to the Entertainment industry if an appointed industry representative worked with stakeholders to find a policy system that allowed all new films to release and promote under the .MOVIE or .FILM namespace… if studios and production companies were guaranteed availability, confidentiality, reliability and extended securities? None of this is possible in the current .COM space. Plus no one would willingly act against the film industry for .MOVIE or .FILM, especially if it was under the umbrella of an organization like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and/or the Motion Picture Association of America — the legal defense budget alone would sink any competitors.

The choice is simple — more of the same misery of domain name by domain name fights, or a new world of opportunity for the Industry to command and control it's virtual properties. How it works would be up to the Industry; how it is liked and accessed by moviegoers is up to the Industry's imagination.

Celebrities (and their representatives) may question why it's necessary to buy their new TLD .name if it's already secured by rights of publicity and other trademark/license protections currently in place. However, like the Lady Gaga case, and countless examples of celebrity/studio merchandise fraud, the current .COM world proves this protection assumption to be false. Your name is not yours until you claim it.

Name/brand protection is only one aspect of how the new Top Level Domains (TLDs) are advantageous. For celebrities, as an example, there are at least three other major reasons to apply for and own your name/brand TLD: (1) create new business models for endorsements, advertising and product sales; (2) build out your brand through increased Search Engine Optimization — a valuable exposure vehicle for the non-profits, companies and products associated with and endorsed by the celebrity; and (3) strengthen and expand your fan base by creating virtual "villages" with many websites for shared interests, causes and increased fan connectivity. A sustained communications campaign can tell your fan base or brand customers where the real you can be found. Everything else with your name on line is either misrepresentation; or simply not you.

Hollywood brand owners and their representatives are strongly encouraged to take another look at the new TLD opportunity. It's something that the intellectual property community, charged with the protection of their client's brand equity, have fought for years to see realized. What it is definitely not, is a simple ploy to encourage brands to register thousands of new TLDs.

Ironically, the new TLD opportunity which is being criticized by some in advertising and entertainment law is the exact solution that they have been fighting towards for over a decade — complete and undisputed control over brands and intellectual properties they represent. Imagine if you had been able to influence the way .COM names were sold and to whom? With the new TLDs you can do just that.

This is the entertainment industry's moment. Do your homework, galvanize and get involved. But don't think about it too long. The TLD application process is complicated, and on April 12, 2012 the window of opportunity closes… possibly for several years.

By Jennie-Marie Larsen, CEO at DomainDiction

Related topics: Cybersquatting, Domain Names, Top-Level Domains, Web

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In your opinion, are fan websites good Constantine Roussos  –  Oct 24, 2011 1:01 PM PST

In your opinion, are fan websites good or bad for celebrities? LadyGaga.org is clearly a fan website. So is prince.org for Prince. All they do is promote those artists and are certainly considered superfans of those brands i.e brand promoters. There is no issue of security and control with fan websites. You can not control your fans. On the other hand, your fans control your brand. This is a fine line. Look at ladygaga.org and tell me if that is detrimental to Lady Gaga's brand. I think it reinforces her brand and the these particular fans are good faith actors. The truth with today's internet is that you can not control a brand's message. Consumers have all the control.

My quote in this Hollywood Reporter article in regards to .MUSIC/.MOVIE/.FILM and the creative industries was clearly one of creating a strong value proposition. The article has a fair assessment of the situation. I believe there will be innovation with new TLDs if there is indeed a differentiated strategy and a strong execution plan with long term positive implications. This means connecting the dots as opposed to jumping into the new TLD arena basing your whole strategy on registrations alone.

So here are my questions to your assessments:

"(1) create new business models for endorsements, advertising and product sales;"

Just out of interest, what new business models can a .GAGA do that LadyGaga.com or Blackeyedpeas.com can not, except offer registrations for fans? If the business model is domain registrations, then will the celebrity control fan activity by implementing rules of engagement and what they can do and can not do, especially what they can write and not write (censorship concern?).

"(2) build out your brand through increased Search Engine Optimization — a valuable exposure vehicle for the non-profits, companies and products associated with and endorsed by the celebrity; and "

How would you build out your brand on a TLD using SEO? Launching a TLD does not necessarily mean you have increased search engine optimization.

"(3) strengthen and expand your fan base by creating virtual "villages" with many websites for shared interests, causes and increased fan connectivity."

Isn't the whole point of having one central hub where fans connect the basis of connectivity and feeling of community as opposed to fragmenting it further? Why can't a celebrity official site using a forum or their own proprietary social network different from this. I look at LadyGaga.com/forum/causes vs causes.Gaga comparison and realize that the only 2 true differentiators is that causes.LadyGaga is a shorter URL and more memorable and secondly it is treated as a unique website by search engines.

I believe the .Celebrity TLD advantage is a real opportunity if there is a differentiated strategy that supports and enhances the brand and does not alienate fans. Afterall, the tribe of fans is singular and their only shared interest is their connection as a fan of the celebrity. Just need to be careful on the execution of the strategy so it does not backfire.

Constantine Roussos

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