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Will URS really be as cheap as ICANN says?

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2011, Domain Policy

I’m having a hard time believing that trademark holders will be able to enforce their rights in new top-level domains for just $300.

The Uniform Rapid Suspension policy (pdf) is one of the new systems ICANN is putting in place to deter cybersquatters from abusing trademarks in new gTLDs.

It’s very similar to the existing UDRP, but it’s quicker and it only deals with the suspension – not transfer – of infringing domain names.

No URS arbitration provider has yet been appointed, but ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook, which spells out the policy, currently estimates a price of $300 per single-domain filing.

At least twice during the newdomains.org conference in Munich this week I heard ICANN representatives quote a price between $300 and $500.

I’m wondering how realistic this is.

Typically, domain arbitration fees are split between the provider, which receives a third, and the panelist, who receives the remaining two thirds.

With a $300 fee, that’s $100 to the provider and $200 to the sole panelist – who must be an experienced trademark lawyer or similar – compared to a $500/$1,000 split with the UDRP.

My question is: how many trademark lawyers will get out of bed for $200?

The URS gives panelists between three and five days to come up with a decision, but I’m guessing that you’d be lucky, for $200, to buy three to five hours of a panelist’s time.

Even I charge more than $200 for half a day’s work.

The Rapid Evaluation Service recently introduced by ICM Registry, which serves essentially the same purpose as URS but for the .xxx gTLD, costs $1,300 in National Arbitration Forum fees.

Like URS, the RES is designed for a speedy turnaround – just three days for a preliminary evaluation – of clear-cut cybersquatting cases.

Like URS, complaints submitted using RES have a tight word-count limit, to minimize the amount of work panelists have to do.

With that in mind, it seems to me that a $300 fee for URS may be unrealistic. Even the $500 upper-end ICANN estimate may be optimistic.

It will be interesting to see if ICANN’s negotiating clout with likely URS providers is better than ICM’s and, more importantly, to see whether $200 is enough to buy consistent, reliable decisions from panelists.

RodBeckstrom.xxx will never see the light of day

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has reserved the names of dozens of ICANN directors, former directors and members of staff from the new .xxx top-level domain.

RodBeckstrom.xxx, it seems, is going to be permanently protected from cybersquatters.

I’ve reported before that thousands of celebrity names – about 4,300, it has since emerged – were placed into Registry Reserved status.

I can’t believe it did not occur to me until now to see if any domain industry “personalities” were also given the same preemptive protection.

It seems that every current member of the ICANN board has had their name reserved. One borderline case appears to be Ray Plzak, who’s only protected as RaymondAPlzak.xxx.

Two former ICANN directors who left the board this year – Peter Dengate Thrush and Rita Rodin Johnston – are also reserved, though Rita only as RitaRodin.xxx.

Further back, there’s spotty coverage. Raimundo Beca (left the board in 2010), former CEO Paul Twomey (2009) and Michael Palage (2006) have their names reserved, but many others have not.

Lots of ICANN staffers have been bestowed reserved status too, but again it appears to be quite random whether they’re included or not.

It does not appear to be based on rank (some VPs are excluded, but some mid-level employee names are reserved) or profile (some reserved names will be unfamiliar to anybody who does not attend ICANN meetings).

ICM has also reserved the names of all of its own employees.

I have been unable to find any big industry names from outside ICM and ICANN that are on the list. Bob Parsons is going to have to defensively register bobparsons.xxx, for example.

It’s worth noting that it’s against ICM’s rules to register any personal name under .xxx that is not the registrant’s own legal name or stage name, no matter what their intentions are.

Unlike .com, with .xxx registrants have to enter into an agreement with the registry – not just the registrar – when they buy a .xxx name.

It’s quite possible – though I’ve yet to confirm – that ICM will be able to disable any unauthorized personal name registered in .xxx without the offended party having to file an expensive claim.

And because registrants’ identities will be checked by ICM at the time of registration, even if they use Whois privacy, that should presumably be fairly easy to enforce in most cases.

Watch ICM’s first .xxx TV commercials

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has posted its first wave of TV commercials for .xxx onto YouTube.

The theme running through the four commercials is that not registering a .xxx may save you a bit of cash, but that registering one will make you rich.

Or something.

I can’t say I “get” the humor, but I’m probably not the demographic.

Here’s the first three. The character, “King Gavin”, is played by Gavin McInnes, founder of Vice magazine.

ICM says the commercials will start to air on TV in the US soon.

How much money will ICM make from .xxx blocks?

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2011, Domain Registries

There’s a pretty ludicrous report in the Australian media today, claiming that Aussie businesses are being forced to pay AUD $400 million to ICM Registry to protect their brands in .xxx.

The laughable number ($411 million) appears to have been fabricated from whole cloth. The report in the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun does not even bother trying to source or justify it.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that ICM is going to make some money out of its .xxx sunrise, including from Sunrise B – the one-time defensive “blocks” that do not result in a domain registration.

The company priced Sunrise B at $162 per domain based on an assumption that it would see 10,000 of them. Any fewer and it would lose money, any more and it would profit.

According to official registry reports, no TLD launched in the last five years – .asia, .co, .jobs, .mobi – saw more than about 10,000 domains defensively registered during its sunrise period.

But my hunch is that .xxx will blow those out of the water. I would not be at all surprised if the final number tops 20,000 names.

It’s just a hunch at this point, based on a comparison to the .co launch – which had a reported 11,000 sunrise applications last year – and four main assumptions:

First, that 10,000 was a conservative estimate. I don’t think ICM would have risked making a big loss.

Second, based on a very small number of conversations, I think that some companies are not taking any chances. They’re applying for blocks in more second-tier brands that maybe they strictly need to.

Third, ICM has a much larger registrar channel than .co enjoyed, and much more aggressively FUDdy registrar marketing tactics.

ICM has approved about 70 registrars, compared to the 10 that .CO Internet had at launch, and a lot of registrar promotion has focused on the “Protect Your Brand!” angle, which was discouraged by .co.

Fourth, the vast amount of mainstream media attention the .xxx sunrise has been receiving, most which has doggedly followed the same line as the registrar FUD.

While the value of defending against typosquatting during the .co sunrise last year was probably more important to trademark holders from a security and traffic loss perspective, the brand protection angle did not receive nearly the same amount of press as .xxx has.

ICM president Stuart Lawley has done dozens of media interviews since the sunrise kicked off last week. I even heard him on a UK radio news show aimed at teenagers.

And this press has been going on for over six years, remember. ICANN first approved .xxx in 2005, and the story has been in and out of the media ever since.

It’s worth noting that a Sunrise B block, with its one-time fee, basically denies ICM Registry a bunch of recurring revenue events forever.

Nike is going to be paying $20 to .CO Internet for its defensively registered nike.co domain name every year until the end of time, in addition to the up-front sunrise fee.

If it blocks nike.xxx, it will pay $162 to ICM now but it will also deny the registry its $60 fee for every year it could have been a renewing domain. In three years, ICM’s losing revenue.

But Sunrise B is very probably going to be profitable for ICM. At 20,000 applications, its top line would be $3.24 million, with profit probably pushing seven figures.

Nowhere near $411 million, obviously, but not a bad payday for selling domain names that will never resolve.

Google ranks new .xxx site higher than its .com

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2011, Domain Tech

Is Google experimenting with swapping out .com domains when an equivalent .xxx exists?

Last week, ICM Registry announced it had granted ifriends.xxx to iFriends, a popular network of adults-only webcams, as part of its pre-launch Founders Program.

Today, a Google search for iFriends sometimes returns ifriends.xxx right at the top, with ifriends.com nowhere to be seen on the first page.

Other times, ifriends.com or ifriends.net gets top billing.

The iFriends network has been around since 1998, according to an ICM press release, so its .com and .net domains will presumably already have significant juice.

Obviously, Google has been useless for returning easily predictable results ever since it started “personalizing” SERPs a couple years back.

Running a few non-scientific experiments, it seems that the choice of browser, toolbar, Google site and location may play a factor in which results you see.

The significant thing seems to me to be the fact that when your results do include the .xxx domain first, it appears to completely replace the .com.

What do you see when you search? What do you think is going on?