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CNN asks: Will .xxx domains cost $185,000?

If you’ve ever doubted what a rarefied world we work in, check out this new CNN interview with ICM Registry, which confusingly conflates .xxx with ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

Anchor Pauline Chiou uses the approval of new gTLD program as a segue into a brief interview with ICM president Stuart Lawley about the forthcoming .xxx sunrise period.

“If they want to apply for this one-time block do they have to pay this $185,000?” she asks

She goes on to press Lawley into launching a defense of ICANN’s program that I doubt he was expecting.

You’ll notice that Chiou also refers to ICANN as the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names” and flatteringly describes it as “the group that oversees the development of the internet”.

For a casual viewer, it would be fairly easy to come away from this interview assuming Lawley works for ICANN, and that .xxx domains could cost $185,000.

ICM reveals .xxx launch dates, extends sunrise

Citing demand, ICM Registry has lengthened the .xxx sunrise period, which begins September 8, by three weeks. It will now end October 28, running for 50 days.

The new deadlines apply to all three sunrises, which will run concurrently.

Sunrise A-T – for porn publishers with trademarks.

Sunrise A-D – for porn publishers with matching domains in other TLDs.

Sunrise B – for anyone outside the porn business who wants to “turn off” their trademark in .xxx to prevent cybersquatting.

Successful Sunrise B applicants will see their chosen domains resolve to a standard information page explaining that the domain is not available for registration.

Post-launch, anyone can register a non-resolving domain that returns an NXDOMAIN response, but they’ll have to pay for it annually. Sunrise B applicants pay a one-time fee.

If applicants from Sunrise A and Sunrise B both apply for the same domains, the porn applicant will be given precedence, although they will be warned about possible trademark infringement.

If more than one Sunrise A applicant applies for the same domain, the fight will be taken to an auction, managed by Pool.com. Auction rules will be published at a later date.

The sunsrise is outlined in a policy document (pdf) ICM published on its web site today that sets out the rules for its pre-launch period.

The company has not yet announced details of its Charter Eligibility Dispute Resolution Procedure, nor its Rapid Evaluation Service, though it has said it expects them to cost between $750 and $1,500, depending on what deals it can come to with dispute resolution providers.

The Rapid Evaluation Service, previously referred to as “rapid takedown” will be an interesting one.

It’s expected to be a little like the Uniform Rapid Suspension process ICANN’s new gTLDs will have to implement, except it will only take about 48 hours to take down an obviously cybersquatted domain.

ICM says it expects to publish these policies before the sunrise begins.

Landrush is now expected to run November 8 until November 25. General availability will begin December 6.

Will Larry Flynt sue over .xxx domains?

The porn publisher Hustler is “prepared to take whatever legal action may be necessary” to stop ICM Registry letting people register its trademarks in .xxx, according to a report.

I’ve been hearing rumors for several weeks that some companies are so unhappy about having to pay to block their brands in .xxx that they may consider legal action.

Now Xbiz reports that Hustler has said it refuses to be “shaken down” by the registry, but that ICM has not responded to its written demands for protection.

But will the company sue ICM (and ICANN?) over what may amount to just a few thousand dollars in defensive registration fees? And on what grounds?

In the US, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which has been on the books since 1999, is rather friendly to registries unless they behave really, really badly.

ICM will have some of the strongest trademark protection mechanisms of any gTLD, suggesting that it could have quite a strong defense to a cybersquatting claim.

Hustler could of course decide to sue based on a different law.

Threats of lawsuits are something that new gTLD applicants will need to bear in mind if they plan to apply for a TLD that encompasses an industry or community, as .xxx does.

Even if applicants manage to win the support of a portion of the affected industry, community members that think they’re likely to be cybersquatted or lose valuable real estate may well resort to the courts.

This is why about 30% of every new gTLD application fee goes into an ICANN war chest reserved in part for legal fees. ICANN knows what could be coming down the pike.

Xbiz quoted Hustler attorney Jonathan Brown saying: “We are constantly policing the registration and use of domain names that attempt to capitalize on Hustler’s trademarks.”

But the record shows that the company does not appear to be an especially aggressive enforcer of its marks in other top-level domains.

The magazine’s parent, LFP, has filed 29 UDRP complaints since 2002, all relating to Hustler and Barely Legal and, apart from hustler.tv, all for .com domains. The most recent filing was in 2009.

The company does not own the string “hustler” in .net, .org, .info, .biz or in a number of high-visibility ccTLDs that I checked. It does, however, own hustler.mobi.

Firm offers .xxx trademark checks

Kevin Murphy, July 7, 2011, Domain Tech

We’ve seen domain “reservation” services and “preregistration” services, now the soon-to-launch .xxx top-level domain is getting a pre-sunrise trademark verification service.

Trademark Fact Check is a new offering from EnCirca president Tom Barrett and Mark Kudlacik, formerly of NetNames and now president of Checkmark Network.

It’s an automated tool for checking whether a trademark will qualify for the .xxx sunrise period – and the sunrise periods of other new gTLDs – according to the service’s web site.

The output, among other things, consists of a list of domain names you qualify to register in the sunrise.

It supports about 30 national jurisdictions.

Checks will cost $10 a pop, but Barrett and Kudlacik think they can save applicants money.

If a sunrise application is rejected due to a filing error, the only option is to pay again to file again, which for .xxx is likely to cost at least $200 with the cheapest registrars.

There’s a money back guarantee if Trademark Fact Check says an application will pass and it does not.

I’m not sure how much of a market there will be for this kind of thing when the new gTLDs start to launch in 2013 and sunrise trademark validation will be largely handled by the Trademark Clearinghouse.

.xxx domains to get free virus scans from McAfee

ICM Registry has signed up with security software outfit McAfee to provide automatic virus scanning for all web sites hosted at .xxx domain names.

Under the $8 million deal, “every .XXX domain will be scanned for vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, browser exploits and phishing sites, reputational analysis and malware”, ICM said in a press release.

The subscription, which is based on the McAfee Secure offering, will be included in the price of the domain, which is expected to start at around $75 at the cheapest registrars.

McAfee normally charges a lot more than that; ICM has basically negotiated a bulk discount for its customers.

There are two ways to take advantage of the deal.

First, webmasters can choose to put some code on their sites that displays the McAfee Secure logo, potentially increasing customer confidence and ergo sales.

McAfee reckons sales can go up by as much as 12% when sites use this “trust mark”, based on some split-testing it did a couple years ago (results may vary, it adds).

Second, because McAfee is going to automatically scan every .xxx domain every day, whether the registrant wants it or not, porn surfers will be able to use McAfee SiteAdvisor, a free browser plug-in, to verify that a .xxx site is, for want of a better word, clean.

Whether you like .xxx or not, you’ve got to admit that this probably counts as a rare example of “innovation” from a domain registry.

On the flipside, registrars that already offer such services as add-ons, such as Go Daddy, won’t get the up-sell if ICM is giving it to every registrant from the registry side.

But that doesn’t seem to have stopped any registrars from signing up to sell .xxx domains.

Oddly, the press release does not name McAfee as the service provider, but its brand is all over the ICM web site so embarrassment is probably not a factor.

McAfee currently has about 80,000 sites using the service, which could easily grow to 500,000 or more if ICM gets as many registrations as it expects to.