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Fiction To Fact: Joke Site Just A Mana-tease?

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After Conan O’Brian adlibbed a fictional website just to make a joke, the late night talk show host reported back the next night that NBC’s legal department contacted him saying the network was required to own it.

This has been a hot topic in the blogosphere in the last few hours because it’s news to everybody. And if true, then it could have some interesting implications.

During a bit on the show Monday involving a “horny manatee,” O’Brian quipped about the then fictional website www.hornymanatee.com. Last night, O’Brian revisited the topic revealing the website’s creation. NBC bought the domain on a ten-year contract.

The site is very simple: somebody in a manatee mascot-style suit posing in various suggestive, luridly funny, situations. At one point, there’s even a ball gag involved, a la the gimp from the Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction.

The viewer waits for the show “go Medieval,” but instead is invited to check out the Horny Manatee live webcam.

This appears to have happened before. Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central host of the “Colbert Report,” who is known for his audience interactive Internet shenanigans (see the trouble he caused Wikipedia), told “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart about a site called the “I Got Dibs Registry,” where people can call “dibs” on anything.

Stewart, knowing Colbert’s effect on Web movements, said if the site didn’t already exist, he was sure it did now. And yes, it certainly does, even if it’s far less interactive than O’Brian’s new website.

At www.igotdibsregistry.com, visitors are met with a photo of Colbert announcing “I got dibs on I Got Bibs [sic] Registry and you don’t.” The site is registered to MD Productions, though it’s unclear which company by that name owns it, and whether they are affiliated with Viacom somehow.

If it’s true that fictional websites mentioned in the media carry the requirement of ownership, then that could have broad implications (or O’Brian was just BS-ing from the start.)

It would seem that if television, which is basically governed by the same general laws for all media, falls under that requirement, then would bloggers and website operators, podcasters and vidcasters, who, in jest, created a fictional website be required to do so also?

“[Conan's] probably joking again,” says Groklaw.com’s Pamela Jones. “Or maybe they have a PR policy that you don’t mention the competition.”

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Fiction To Fact: Joke Site Just A Mana-tease?
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