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Governments get .xxx wish-list

National governments have been given the chance to block “words of cultural and/or religious significance” from the forthcoming .xxx top-level domain.

ICM Registry has told ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee that its members have until the end of July to provide lists of names they want banning from the .xxx namespace.

The GAC is due to meet during ICANN’s meeting in Singapore next Tuesday to discuss an “ICM Registry Request”, which is believed to be said block-list.

Approved strings would be marked as reserved and would resolve to a standard placeholder page. Unlike trademark holders, governments will not be required to pay a fee.

Strings in non-Latin alphabets will not yet be supported, according to ICM, but governments are allowed to submit them anyway, for future reference.

ICM will decide which strings make it to the list, but I can’t see it refusing reasonable requests — pissing off governments probably wouldn’t be a wise move given that some of them already plan to block the whole TLD at their national borders.

Go Daddy to sell .xxx domains

Go Daddy has become the latest registrar to agree to sell .xxx domain names.

It’s a bit of a big deal for ICM Registry, given how dominant Go Daddy is in the registrar channel.

There are about 50 .xxx registrars on this ICANN web page, which lists all the accredited registrars along with which top-level domains they’re approved to sell.

Go Daddy isn’t listed as a .xxx registrar yet, but its accreditation was just announced in a press release.

Read more at The Register.

Final call for .xxx policy volunteers

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set policies for the .xxx top-level domain, has issued its final call for Policy Council volunteers.

The deadline for nominations for the nine PC seats has been set at July 5, and IFFOR plans to announce the successful candidates in late August.

Five of the seats are reserved for members of the porn industry. Another will represent privacy/security interests, one will be drawn from the world of child protection, and one will be a free speech advocate.

The final seat will be occupied by ICM Registry, the .xxx manager.

My understanding is that a front-runner for the child protection role is Sharon Girling, a former British police officer who played a key role in child abuse stings including Operation Ore.

I know of a few people who have applied for the free speech spot. Most recently, outspoken .xxx critic “DarkLady”, author of the Dot-XXX Opposition blog, revealed she had put herself forward for the job.

While the PC members are ostensibly volunteers, they do get a $15,000 annual stipend and their travel expenses paid for.

IFFOR will receive $10 from ICM for every .xxx domain that is registered.

Survey shows .xxx is the Marmite TLD

The forthcoming .xxx top-level domain is accepted and hated by equal numbers of adult entertainment industry operators, according to a new survey.

Xbiz reports today that 35% of its members plan to buy .xxx domain names. Equally, 35% said they would not buy in .xxx because they do not want to support the TLD.

Marmite, if you’re puzzled about the headline, is a strongly flavored yeast-based sandwich spread sold primarily here in the UK. It’s cleverly marketed using the frank slogan “Love it or hate it”.

Just like .xxx, it’s banned in some countries.

It may not be an entirely apt simile, however. The Xbiz survey showed that a paltry 13% of the respondents planned to develop sites. The other 22% are only planning to defensively register their brands.

Xbiz, which surveyed 400 of its members, speculates that defensively registered domains “may be key to the TLD’s revenue stream and perhaps its survival”.

I’m not so sure. If ICM gets 22,000 defensive registrations from pornographers (twice as many sunrise registrations as .co reportedly got last year), that works out to only $1.1 million per year for ICM.

We’re likely to get our first indication of adult industry support when ICM announces its Founders Program partners – pornographers that are prepared to publicly endorse .xxx before it launches.

Like any new TLD launch, anchor tenants will to a large extent determine acceptance of .xxx – ICM will need its o.co moment.

Last week, I attended an ICM-sponsored event at a strip joint in London, at which executives from a large British porn publisher expressed enthusiasm about the TLD, so it does seem to have some quiet support in the business.

Don’t rush to defensively register .xxx domains

Trademark owners trying to figure out how to protect their brands in the .xxx top-level domain should wait for ICM Registry to reveal its full suite of anti-cybersquatting measures before deciding whether to defensively register a large portfolio of domains.

With registrar prices for sunrise trademark blocks currently hovering around the $300 mark, an especially aggressive enforcement strategy could rack up six-figure bills for large brand holders.

But it may turn out to be more cost-effective to use ICM’s post-launch enforcement mechanisms to fight cybersquatting.

So far, all we’ve seen from ICM is a white paper, prepared by its partner IPRota, that outlines the policies that will be in place during the pre-launch sunrise period.

But the company plans to have some of the most Draconian post-launch IP rights protections mechanisms of any new TLD to date.

If, as a registrant, you think the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy ICANN plans to enforce on new TLDs is tough, you’ll likely have a bigger problem with Rapid Takedown.

Rapid Takedown is expected to be modeled on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It will use UDRP experts, but will only take 48 hours to suspend a domain name. ICM has described it like this:

Rapid Takedown
Analysis of UDRP disputes indicates that the majority of UDRP cases involve obvious variants of well-known trademarks. ICM Registry does not believe that the clearest cases of abusive domain registration require the expense and time involved in traditional UDRP filings. Accordingly, ICM Registry will institute a rapid takedown procedure in which a response team of independent experts (qualified UDRP panelists) will be retained to make determinations within 48 hours of receipt of a short and simple statement of a claim involving a well-known or otherwise inherently distinctive mark and a domain name for which no conceivable good faith basis exists. Such determinations will result in an immediate termination of resolution of the domain name, but will not prejudice either party’s election to pursue another dispute mechanism. The claim requirements will be modeled after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

It remains to be seen how much this will cost complainants (assuming there is a cost), and there are other unanswered questions such as the duration of the suspension, the ability of the complaint to have the domain transferred and the registrant’s right of appeal.

But it’s clear that trademark holders will very likely have cheaper options than UDRP, which can cost as much as $1,500 for a single domain name.

In addition, ICM plans to permanently ban cybersquatters that are “found to have repeatedly engaged in abusive registration”. Abusers will lose their .xxx portfolios, even their non-infringing domains, and will not be able to register any more.

Combined with Rapid Takedown, and the high price of .xxx domains ($75 a year minimum so far), this will likely make cybersquatting a much less attractive proposition in .xxx than .com.

Trademark holders should wait for their full range of options to be revealed before panicking about high sunrise fees.

It may turn out to be more cost-effective to block just a few primary brands, and leave enforcement of other brands to post-launch mechanisms.