21

A few moments ago I saw an episode of 'The Blacklist' and recognized a sign with the address of an fictitious estate agent. My curiosity was to check the domain in the web browser. It seems that the domain has not been used so far, but the record of the WHOIS system (which allows you to get information about the owner) showed that this domain is associated with Sony Pictures. Furthermore the agent/company was not very relevant for the story.

So why should somebody buy such an irrelevant domain and not use it?

  • 1
    Registering a domain name is incredibly cheap - for a company like Sony it's probably around $7-$8 per year - so grabbing a few dozen domain names temporarily in the event they become useful later seems like a good strategy to me. – Joe Oct 27 '14 at 17:49
  • Movie poop shoot comes strikingly to mind here. That's not something you can often say. – corsiKa Oct 27 '14 at 19:20
  • See also search-wise.net and Ofcom's numbers for drama. – tobyink Oct 28 '14 at 8:47
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    Sometimes they later do use them as an easter egg. For example savewalterwhite.com from breaking bad – Richard Tingle Oct 28 '14 at 13:43
  • @RichardTingle I wanted to write the same domain. – George Chalhoub Nov 2 '14 at 12:07
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My guess: people like me often visit domains in movies/TV shows/books just for fun.

If I see the domain is unregistered, I can register it myself and draw traffic from nerds like myself. Basically, I'm letting Sony advertise for me.

I can even imply movie affiliation and do terrible things:

"Welcome to Sony's secret site! You have cleverly spotted the Easter Egg and are entitled to a reward! Just enter your credit card number..."

I'm still pondering registering spear-a-boar.com a domain mentioned by Dave Barry in one of his columns.

21

Just a theory, but being able to buy a domain this way is a pretty clear indication that a legitimate company cannot come after the film company to sue for being libelled or defamed for a less than perfect company portrayal. If currently unused, it is an indication there is not a naming conflict to a company that is not well known.

The fact that you noticed this from The Blacklist, which deals in companies on the shady side, including terrorism, corporate espionage, and similar, makes this a very likely financial decision on the part of the production company.

  • Your theory seems logically. I think, you will recognize such things in nearly every movie or tv show, but in the context of 'The Blacklist' is this much more risky. Thanks for your answer ;) – user3147268 Oct 26 '14 at 14:53
  • It's also used for marketing. One example being Armadyne (from Elysium) -- though, the site doesn't seem to be online anymore... – Tom Oct 26 '14 at 17:55
  • This doesn't make sense. Even if you want to infer that an unregistered domain means an unused company name, why would the studio then register the domain themselves? – David Richerby Oct 27 '14 at 15:53
  • You may not have thought this one completely through, lol: although I'm not aware of any examples, I'm sure the implicit point here is that a legitimate company could use that name, but they will have buy the rights from Sony Pictures. I.e., if you want your success to piggy back on "The Blacklist", the people who created it might be willing to accept payment and allow you to do so. That domain name is now presumably worth (much) more than Sony paid for it, because of the added value they brought to it. – goldilocks Oct 27 '14 at 18:27
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Two reasons:

  1. So that the film company doesn't lose out on a potential profit if someone buys a domain name associated with a movie/TV show and sells it. Apparently there's a small culture out there to purchase domain names related to a recently-announced movie/TV show, as when the movie company finds out its already registered most of the time they'll pay hundreds if not thousands to snag the domain name off you.
  2. So that the domain name isn't used maliciously by a third-party. Movie companies also buy-out phone numbers used by their movies; this too happens in other industries such as gaming. A notable example of this is when players of Grand Theft Auto 3 found that a phone number within the game led to a phone-sex line if called (this wasn't intentional).

TL;DR: It's just brand protection.

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    This answer is probably closest to the truth. There are people out there who make a living trading domain names; this potentially includes fake things on popular TV shows. If Sony had not taken it already, guaranteed someone would have before the episode finished airing. At that point, they can now essentially blackmail Sony ("If you want to keep it out of the wrong hands, it will cost you..."). – goldilocks Oct 27 '14 at 18:30
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Theory 1: Trade mark ownership for future profits. Maybe they are owners of the trade mark and wish to have the option to use it for something in the future? Trade marks need to be established, one way is to use them in the marketplace so maybe buying it and owning it is marketplace activity?

I am not a lawyer, but look at this case to see that trade mark rights can be lost: http://www.novagraaf.com/en/news?newspath=/NewsItems/en/pinterest-loses-right-to-use-trademark-in-europe

Losing a licensing deal is a large sum of money lost. Hence they wish to establish ownership asap.

Theory 2: Maybe it would be a phishing site worry and they fear the bad publicity?

Theory 3: Testing for future movie promotion tricks. They are playing with the idea of very elaborate promotion websites and want to see what kind of response they get to them so far.

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