Mr. Bond, we've been expecting you.

Online movie pirates simply use a computer and a web server to upload their dastardly goods online…

Famous words uttered exactly, well word for word, – by none of the many 007 baddies as it turns out. Much like another famous misquotation, “Houston, we have a problem”, the line “Mr. Bond, we’ve been expecting you” was never quite said in this exact form: not by the leader of a global terrorist organization with a penchant for white cats (Blofeld); nor a megalomaniac intent on taking the human race under water (Stromberg); nor a crazed industrialist hell-bent on raising a new pure civilization in outer space (Drax). But the point remains: each sinister baddie knew the inevitable; knew that no matter what hurdles and crazed methods of death they put in front of him, that our intrepid British Secret Service agent would eventually hunt them down and sooner rather than later save the world. Every baddie expected Mr. Bond and there could absolutely be no other way.

But in recent times, those really expecting Mr. Bond, do not hide out in a secret rocket base concealed in a volcano crater, or their own government protected Chinese island assassin lair; or in a clinical allergy-research institute atop a Swiss Alpine mountain top. No, these days, those really expecting 007 are in places as far flung as Crowborough, East Sussex, England, or Noosaville, Queensland, Australia or Culver City, California, USA; places not normally known as hotbeds of evil megalomania. So what nefarious activities are taking place in these locations and others around the globe? Good old fashioned domain name opportunism that’s what. I say opportunism because ‘Skyfall’ is not a dictionary word, yet it is an active trademark in the US USPTO database (although somewhat contrarily applications are being opposed in the EU trademark jurisdiction). And ‘James Bond’ is an active mark in both databases (the American version requiring the 007 suffix). So, really there should only be a handful of domain names related to the upcoming Bond movie, right? And presumably these are owned by the rights holders such as Danjaq, LLC (holding company responsible for all on screen Bond materials, owned by the estate famous 007 producer Cubby Broccoli) or Sony Pictures (producer of the movie), right? Wrong and wrong. As it happens,  there are plenty of domain names in the gTLD zones containing the string skyfall; nearly two hundred of them. But don’t expect the famous gun barrel trailer on these sites; or stills of Daniel Craig looking dapper as our hero. Many of these websites are the usual tiresome pay-per-click efforts (although I did find one site at least attempting to be a fan site).

As you can tell I am somewhat of a 007 aficionado and I simply cannot wait for the twenty third James Bond movie in the series, to be released here in the US on 9 November. But as we have seen earlier, there are people already taking advantage of Skyfall. So what other baddies must 007 consider? Well, there are more villains in this story and not just domain name infringers; villains that do not have steel rimmed top hats or solid golden guns, or even have a mechanical pincer for hand (and a crocodile farm for a hobby). These additional waves of nefarious baddies simply need a computer and a server to upload their dastardly goods online. Of course, I am talking infringements of the movie itself. Now being a resident of the US, I have to wait a while before I am comfortable in my movie theatre seat, but what if I wanted to watch the movie now? A casual search of Google suggests there are plenty of Skyfall torrents online. Which is online pirate speak for bad quality, camcorder shot, shaky rip-offs (or maybe journalist pre-releases or suchlike). Whatever the source, this is not the movie the film studio intended it to be.

And what about James Bond merchandise? Taking a look at one well know handmade and craft marketplace, there is a plethora of Bond merchandise from the usual t-shirts, to iPhone cases to wall art. All very cool, but none of it official gear all counterfeits. Perhaps you may think homemade trinkets are somewhat benign and not damaging to the rights holder? OK, so how about the more well known B2B high volume marketplaces? A few I checked are clearly complying with enforcement by the rights holder, others are not and are carrying soundtracks, movie tie-in soft drinks and, my favorite, 007 branded nail varnish.

007 has made a pretty steady career out of staying one step of ahead of those wanting to put a bullet in his back. However, in a new age of silent and faceless cyber criminals, even the brand of “Bond, James Bond” is not untouchable from brand infringement and dilution. After all, the online villains had been expecting him.

Luge Pravda, Senior Vice President, NetNames USA

30 October 2012