There’s little disagreement that the film industry is in a state of flux, with a tremendous amount of effort spent addressing new distribution platforms, contending with the tide of digitally-supplied content, protecting intellectual property, and fighting cybercrime. Yesterday’s launch of .film’s (read: dot film) web extension may be a step in the right direction to confront these challenges.
To understand the benefits of .film, it is necessary to go back to the story of Internet suffixes. Before 2013, only 22 generic web extensions existed, including .com and .edu. (Generic web extensions are also known as generic Top Level Domains or gTLDs.) In 2011, the governing body of domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), voted to expand web extensions and the program launched in 2013. Since then, hundreds of new ones have emerged, for brands like .bmw, industries like .organic, occupations like .plumbing, and locations like .miami. Millions of domains with new web extensions will appear in the next few years.
New web extensions are controlled by domain registry operators, which contract with ICANN. For example, Google GOOGL +0.06% won the auction to become the registry operator of the coveted .app, with a $25 million bid. Many registry operators act as wholesalers and assign retailing of domain names to registrars such as GoDaddy or Yahoo YHOO -0.20%. In a sense, the Internet world can now be divided into sub-worlds that are managed by registry operators, for their own self-interest, or for the interest of an industry, community, interest group, etc.
Yesterday, .film was officially launched. This web extension is particularly interesting because its operator, the Motion Picture Domain Registry, has developed policies for this sub-world directed at satisfying the particular needs of the film industry in the digital era. According to the press release, “.film, being the newest web extension to launch, is aiming to reinvent the film industry’s approach to online activity with a business model which protects the authenticity of the film business.”
Based on conversations with ICANN, .film, and one of its clients, I compiled the following list of benefits that .film could potentially bring to the industry:
Benefits of new web extensions
Some of the benefits of .film apply to all new web extensions:
Dream sub-Worlds for marketers and advertisers. Marketers and advertisers can now better associate a brand, product, or industry to a domain name, by using the right web extension. Also, consumers will have one more pointer about the content of a particular site. For example, www.february.film sends a much better message than www.february.com.
Proactive action against cybercrime. For new web extensions, ICANN enhanced its contracts with operators and registrars against cybercrime. The new contract states that registrars should “have a point of contact to investigate reports of illegal conduct, and the allegations must be investigated within 24 hours.” An example of illegal activity would be a fake phishing site set up to steal credit card data using a domain name that is close enough to a movie title.
Trademark protection. Cyrus Namazi, ICANN’s VP of Domain Name Services & Industry Engagement states that “for new gTLDs, trademark holders can register their trademarks and they will be notified promptly by a clearing house when a domain matching its trademark has been registered. There are also procedures to promptly lock down a site for blatant violations of trademark, like cyber-squatting.” Cyber-squatters register, sell or use a domain name with the intent of profiting from someone else’s trademark.
Benefits specific to .film
Further deter cyber-squatting and other cybercrimes. The ICANN trademark program only prevents cyber-squatting for previously registered trademarks. But to register a domain name under .film, the registrant must belong to a film association and must provide evidence of rights to a movie with a title as in the domain name requested. Even if a cyber-squatter gets around these safeguards, there is a dispute process for the rights holder to earn back the rights to the domain name in just a few days. These additional safeguards will also further deter cyber-criminals including pirates, who will prefer to invest in less controlled Internet sub-worlds.
Provide authenticity to the film business. The press release states that “a specialist domain such as .film, brings consistency across film projects.” Film owners, the industry value chain, and consumers can now live in an Internet sub-world with reliable information about a film throughout its life cycle, from pre-release to post-release, to digital distribution.
Enable a direct-to-consumer channel. Patrick Donaldson, General Manager at .film, believes that “.film can be a new channel for streaming revenues. As consumers learn to find movies in .film domains and trust its content, .film becomes a viable channel for direct distribution.” So there you have it. One more direct-to-consumer option for video content, among the multiple that have emerged this year.
The success of .film hinges on massive adoption by content owners, support by film industry associations, and increased awareness by consumers. But there will be competition: .movie has been claimed by a different registry operator and its domain registrations are open to the public (not just to the film industry). Let’s see how it goes.
By: Nelson Granados
I cover digital trends in travel, media and entertainment.