What .xxx means for trademark holders

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders have been screwed over by ISP domain name wildcarding more than they realise, I’ve discovered from the .xxx contract documents.

ICM Registry is planning a novel approach to trademark protection if its application to launch the .xxx top-level domain is successful, but it’s been watered down compared to its original plan.

Hypothetically, let’s say you’re Lego. You really, really don’t want some cybersquatter snapping up lego.xxx and filling it with… well, you can imagine what Lego porn might look like.

At the same time, for the sake of your family-friendly brand, you don’t want to actually own a resolvable lego.xxx either.

And you certainly don’t want to be forced to to hand some pornographer over $60 a year for each of your brands. Some companies could see this as supporting pornography.

ICM had originally planned to allow companies in this position to pay a one-time fee to have their brand.xxx turned off permanently.

Personally, I like this idea. It would give the IP lobby a lot less to complain about in discussions surrounding the new TLD program.

But the company may now water down this plan, called IP Protect, due to the way that non-existent domains are increasingly handled by some ISPs.

As you probably know, ISPs worldwide are increasingly capturing NXDOMAIN traffic in order to show search results and advertising links to their customers.

It’s generally frowned upon in DNS circles, and it’s now likely to have the effect of making IP Protect costlier and more of an administrative hassle for brand owners.

You’re Lego again. You pay ICM the one-time shut-down fee, only to find that Comcast is now showing its users links to Lego porn whenever they type in lego.xxx.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me that one option currently being looked at is to have IP Protect domains resolve to a standard page at an ICM-controlled server.

The problem here is that ICM has to pay ICANN and its registry back-end provider annual fees for every resolving domain name, and that cost will have to be passed on to the registrant, in our case Lego.

Lawley says that ICM is “engaging” with the ICANN intellectual property community to figure out the best solution. It appears that both options are still open.

Why .xxx will be domainer-friendly (and why it won’t)

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

The proposed .xxx top-level domain may be “sponsored”, but the restrictions on who will be able to register names are so loose that pretty much anybody, including domainers, will be able to register one.

I’ve now had time to dig through the mountain of documents that ICANN published earlier this week. I’m submitting something to The Register later today, but I thought I’d first look here at the domaining angle.

First, the bad news: .xxx domains won’t be cheap.

ICM Registry, which wants to run the TLD, plans to charge $60 per year, and that’s just the registry fee.

That’s a lot of money to recoup if you’re planning to park a domain, so it’s likely that much of the value of .xxx for domainers will be in development and resale.

The proposed contract does suggest, and ICM president Stuart Lawley is on record as saying, that the price of registrations could eventually come down. Whether that would include renewals remains to be seen.

Now for the good news: you won’t actually have to be a pornographer to register a .xxx domain.

It’s true that .xxx is ostensibly restricted to members of the adult entertainment community, but the definition also includes companies that supply products and services to the industry.

According to Lawley, flipping domain names falls into that category.

So, if you register a nice .xxx in order to sell it later to an actual pornographer, you’re technically part of the .xxx Sponsored Community. Congratulations, you’re in the adult business.

Parking .xxx domains will also be possible, and it doesn’t look like parking companies will need to make any changes in order to support the TLD.

It’s true that all .xxx sites will have to be “labelled” as porn, but that doesn’t mean, as I initially thought, that all .xxx web sites, including the parked ones, will have to slap a logo on their pages.

Lawley says that ICM will handle all the labelling transparently at the registry end, using a W3C standard called POWDER. Apparently this is doable without touching anybody’s HTML.

Of course, getting hold of a prime piece of .xxx real estate at launch will not be easy.

Anybody with designs on a geo .xxx domain is out of luck. ICANN will reserve all place names, and two-letter domains are banned, due to potential confusion with country codes.

But single-letter domains will be possible. The provision that banned it has been deleted from the new contract.

ICM plans to auction some premium names. It may even reserve some names, such as movie.xxx, in order to offer registrations at the third level.

An additional barrier is that roughly 9,400 people have already “pre-reserved” about 176,000 names (an average of 18 each). That’s about as many words as there are in the English language by some counts.

Quite how these reservations will be handled isn’t spelled out in detail in the contract, as far as I can tell.

The .xxx TLD is still in the application phase, of course, and there are ways it could still fail. If the contract is ultimately signed, general availability is expected seven months later.

ICANN posts .xxx contract for comment

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has just published the proposed contract for ICM Registry’s porn-only .xxx top-level domain, and over a dozen supporting documents.

Now the fun begins!

Another 30-day public comment period is now underway, which will likely see more concerted efforts by the Free Speech Coalition and its accidental allies on the religious right to have .xxx killed off.

It will also be interesting to see whether the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee decides to chip in with its $0.02.

The GAC has always been wary of the .xxx application and remains the tallest hurdle to jump before the TLD has a chance of being approved.

There’s a lot of information in these documents, including much more detail on IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set the TLD’s policies.

I’m going to bury my nose in these docs, and will provide an update later if I find anything interesting, which seems likely.

ICANN releases (censored) board briefing docs

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has given an unprecedented glimpse into the workings of its board of directors, with the release of hundreds of pages of staff briefing papers.

But the documents are quite heavily redacted, particularly when it comes to some of the more controversial topics.

The documents show what ICANN staffers told the board in the run-up to the Nairobi and Brussels meetings, dealing with important decisions such as .xxx and internationalized domain names.

The Brussels decision to put .xxx back on the track to approval sees more than its fair share of blacked-out text, but the documents do show that ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey’s recommendations were pretty much in line with how the board eventually voted.

Other topics seeing redaction include the implementation of DNSSEC at the root, the activities of the Internet Governance Forum, and specific discussion of IDN ccTLD delegations.

Some topics are deemed so sensitive that even the titles of the pages have been blacked out. But in at least one case somebody apparently forgot to redact the title from the PDF’s internal bookmarks.

So we know, for example, that a section entitled “Chronological-History-ICM” is deemed entirely unpublishable, even though ICANN has previously published a document with pretty much the same title (pdf).

Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.