The path to easy affiliate money seems so clear. Just watch the college and prep sports rankings to identify future stars, jump into GoDaddy (or your domain registrar of choice) and lock up that “PlayerName.com” domain. Once that player gets drafted into their professional league , you throw up a quick data feed powered site featuring their gear and you are on your way to affiliate earnings right? Not so fast. Do you have permission from the player to use their name for your own profit seeking ventures? If so, is it in writing? If not, you really don’t have permission. Have you licensed it’s use?
Just like using a trademarked team name, league name, team mascot name, or event name (think The Super Bowl, the Final 4, March Madness, etc) using the name of a player in a domain for your own profit without their permission is risky at best and illegal at worst. Take a look at what happened to the owner of AdrianPetersonOnline.com -
Adrian Peterson took the domain owner to binding arbitration and had the domain seized and cancelled for “bad faith” use of the domain to sell “unauthorized merchandise.”
Call me old fashioned, but to me it makes a lot more sense to have a domain strategy that is a little more vague and focused on the exact match when it comes to trademarked names. If I’m going to invest money in a domain, hosting and building a site, I’d like to know that what I have built can’t be quickly and easily taken away because I didn’t do my homework and exercise some common sense. It is 100% possible to choose a smart domain that doesn’t infringe on someone’s name or trademarks, and SEO that site using the content on the site. It’s funny how people who get cracked for this are usually getting to a point where they are driving some interesting revenue from their project when the legal letter arrives. The bottom line is this: the teams, leagues, the players and their representatives, and their unions are getting more savvy and more moves are being made by the players themselves to get online and make money using their names. When they see someone else doing this without permission, they are going to take action, and when they do, they are likely to seize the offending site, and if any revenue has been generated through use of the name, they will ask for that as well.
The next time you have a “great” idea for a domain, do yourself a favor and at least consult with the TESS or send some business to an attorney with experience in Internet Law and Trademarks for some good advice. Some research and planning up front can save you a ton of wasted time, effort and lost revenue down the road.
Please note – as a policy moving forward the Fanatics affiliate program will not be accepting applications from domains using the full name or trademarked nickname of a player, team, league, mascot, or event.