FSC steps up anti-.xxx campaign

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2011, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition is trying to rally its supporters into a legal nastygram campaign against ICM Registry ahead of the launch of .xxx next month.

The California-based porn trade group wants webmasters to inform ICM that if it sells their trademarks as .xxx domains, they may sue.

It’s released a template letter (pdf) for members to use. It reads, in part:

ICM is now on notice that the registration of any domain name using the .XXX extension that is identical or confusingly similar to one of the trademarks or domains listed on Exhibit A will violate (COMPANY NAME)’s intellectual property rights and constitute an unfair business practice. ICM must take steps to prevent such activity before it can occur. Failure to take affirmative steps to prevent this conduct will establish ICM’s substantial liability.

The FSC believes that because .xxx is squarely aimed at porn webmasters, it smells like a shakedown a lot more than a more generic-sounding string would.

Its tactics are interesting – encouraging others to issue legal threats instead of doing it itself.

As I’ve previously noted, top-level domain registries based in the US have a pretty good legal defense against cybersquatting suits under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

Whether those defenses extend to claims of trademark infringement is a different matter. As far as I know, a sponsored gTLD manager has never been sued on these grounds.

The .xxx gTLD is of course one of the most cybersquatting-unfriendly namespaces ever, in terms of the number and strength of its trademark protection mechanisms.

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Breaking: Ad industry piles on ICANN

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2011, Domain Policy

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents over 500 companies including Facebook, Google, eBay and Microsoft, has told ICANN to put a stop to its new top-level domains program.

The cry calls just a couple of weeks after the Association of National Advertisers said it would lobby Congress and may take ICANN to court over the controversial program.

Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the IAB, said in a press release:

ICANN’s potentially momentous change seems to have been made in a top-down star chamber. There appears to have been no economic impact research, no full and open stakeholder discussions, and little concern for the delicate balance of the Internet ecosystem.

This could be disastrous for the media brand owners we represent and the brand owners with which they work. We hope that ICANN will reconsider both this ill-considered decision and the process by which it was reached.

The IAB’s membership is a Who’s Who of leading online media companies, purportedly responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the US.

It counts AOL, Digg, Amazon, the BBC, Bebo, CNN, Ziff Davis, LinkedIn, Time Warner, Slate, Thomson-Reuters, IDG, the Huffington Post and many other well-known names as members.

Demand Media, too.

If the ANA represents advertisers themselves, the IAB represents the places they spend their advertising money.

It looks like a large portion of corporate America is not happy about new gTLDs. ICANN may have found itself a new, extremely well-funded enemy.

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IFFOR names .xxx porn council members

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2011, Domain Registries

The five porn industry members of the body which will set the rules for .xxx domains have been named by the International Foundation For Online Responsibility.

IFFOR is the policy shop set up by ICM Registry to oversee the new top-level domain. It will be funded to the tune of $10 a year from every .xxx domain registration.

The newly announced members of its Policy Council are:

Jerry Barnett, managing director of Strictly Broadband, a UK-based video-on-demand provider.

Florian Sitta, head of the legal department of the large German porn retailer Beate Uhse.

Trieu Hoang, based in Asia, counsel for AbbyWinters.com.

Chad Bellville, a US-based lawyer who advertises UDRP services.

Andy Kayton, general counsel for WebPower, which runs iFriends (a pornographic webcam service) and ClickCash, a large affiliate network.

Both Americans are members of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, according to IFFOR.

It will be interesting to see what the adult industry makes of this. Usually when a porn company throws in with ICM Registry and .xxx there’s a bit of a backlash on webmaster forums.

That said, I doubt these names will come as much of a surprise. Some if not all of the companies these people represent have already engaged in the .xxx Founders Program.

IFFOR’s non-porn Policy Council members were named in June.

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New gTLD conference planned for Bulgaria

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2011, Domain Services

Bulgaria is to get its own conference on the new generic top-level domains opportunity.

Set for the Grand Hotel Sofia in the nation’s capital, November 7 (and possibly November 8, according to the schedule), Domain Forum is being organized by Uninet.bg and Register.bg.

Uninet is the organization that’s been pushing ICANN, so far unsuccessfully, for a Cyrillic version of Bulgaria’s ccTLD, .bg.

The program looks like a mix of local-interest talk and general gTLD discussion, and I’m told it will be conducted in a mix of English and Bulgarian. Two-way translation will be provided.

The organizers expect about 100 attendees. ICANN staff will be there, but names have not been confirmed. I’m also planning to attend.

Oh, and registration is free.

The new gTLD conference diary is certainly filling up.

We have Kieren McCarthy’s .nxt coming up next week in San Francisco. I attended the first one in February and thought they did a great job. I wrote about it here.

And next month there’s United-Domains’ two-day newdomains.org meeting in Munich, Germany, which I believe will be Europe’s first new gTLD show. I’m on a couple of panels at this event.

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Go Daddy confirms .xxx pricing, will host porn sites

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has revealed its pricing scheme for .xxx domain names and confirmed that it will indeed host the porn sites that use them.

When .xxx goes into general availability in December, Go Daddy will charge $100 per name per year.

That’s surprisingly high – a $40 markup on the $60 ICM Registry fee – for a registrar generally known for its reasonable prices.

I know of at least two registrars planning to sell .xxx more cheaply – the UK’s DomainMonster ($75 if bought in bulk) and Spain’s DinaHosting ($67). There may be others I haven’t come across yet.

Sunrise period pricing at Go Daddy is $210 for applications from the adult entertainment industry and $200 for trademark holders from outside the industry. Landrush prices will be $200 too.

Those fees represent some of the better deals I’ve seen for .xxx’s pre-launch phases.

The prices have not yet been published on the Go Daddy web site, but a company spokesperson confirmed that some of its larger customers have been privately notified.

That apparently includes Mike Berkens, who broke the news last week.

Go Daddy also confirmed that it will host .xxx porn sites, though only on its paid-for hosting accounts.

I’ve always been a little confused by Go Daddy’s hosting terms of service. By my reading, porn was outright banned. Apparently I was dead wrong.

The company’s general counsel, Christine Jones, said in a statement:

Go Daddy’s Web hosting agreement does not currently prohibit pornography, except in the case of ad-supported hosting. Those terms will continue for all TLDs, including .xxx, unless otherwise prohibited by our agreements with the various registry operators.

I know I’m not the only person out there who was confused by the ToS, but I can’t think of a better person to clarify the situation than the company’s top lawyer.

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