.xxx to tackle piracy, child abuse and censorship

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2011, Domain Policy

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy oversight group for .xxx domains, says it wants to help fight piracy, child abuse material and internet censorship.

Those are the three priorities to emerge from IFFOR’s inaugural two-day meeting last month, according to the organization. It has set up three working groups to look at the issues.

On filtering, a pretty hot topic given the various pieces of copyright-related legislation currently under consideration in the US and elsewhere, IFFOR said:

The filtering working group will review the state of global filtering laws, regulations and plans with a view to educating legislators and others about the advantages and effectiveness of user-defined filtering as opposed to mandated filtering or blocking at the ISP or router-level.

While there’s yet to be a proven case of an entire nation blocking .xxx domains, some countries have said they are considering it and I’ve heard several anecdotal cases of companies blocking the TLD.

IFFOR also said wants to find a way to help combat piracy “that can work across the entire dot-xxx registry” and is looking at both technical and legal measures.

The child abuse imagery working group, headed by veteran cyber-cop Sharon Girling, plans to work with existing third-party organizations on reporting and policy-making.

All three goals are self-evidently noble. Whether IFFOR will be able to make a noticeable impact on any will of course depend on what policies its working groups come up with.

IFFOR’s Policy Council comprises nine members: five from the porn industry, a free speech advocate, a child protection advocate, a security expert and an ICM Registry representative.

YouPorn imposes embargo on .xxx sites

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2011, Domain Registries

Manwin, the company behind YouPorn, has stepped up its fight against ICM Registry by saying it will not do business with any .xxx web site.

Reported in the adult press this weekend, the ban seems to extend to webmasters hoping to promote their sites on Manwin’s “tube” sites, including YouPorn.

It also won’t allow its content to be used on .xxx sites, according to Xbiz.

Manwin is of course already suing ICM and ICANN under US monopoly laws, and has demanded an ICANN independent review, claiming the .xxx launch amounted to “extortion”.

The domain YouPorn.xxx is currently on ICM’s Registry Reserved list, meaning it was not acquired during sunrise and will not become available when .xxx opens its doors on Tuesday.

YouPorn is one of the web’s top 100 sites, according to Alexa.

ICM sells $700,000 of .xxx domains to Clips4Sale

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2011, Domain Sales

ICM Registry has just announced the sale of $700,000 worth of .xxx domain names to Clips4Sale, which operates a network of clip-oriented porn sites.

The cash deal comprises 30 domains including one $300,000 name and two others at over $80,000 each, according to the company.

The domains themselves have not been disclosed.

The $300,000 sale would be the 16th most-expensive domain of the year, according to DNJournal’s chart. Gay.xxx sold last month for $500,000.

ICM is taking .xxx into general availability next Tuesday.

Paul Raymond rebrands under .xxx

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2011, Domain Sales

Paul Raymond, a well-known porn publisher in the UK, plans to rebrand its portfolio around the .xxx top-level domain, according to ICM Registry.

It’s the “largest single migration of an adult brand to the .xxx top-level domain to date”, ICM said.

Raymond could be described as an old-school pornographer, with a history stretching back to the 1960s, better known for its clubs and top-shelf titles than its online presence.

The deal includes the domains paulraymond.xxx, prpvod.xxx, razzledating.xxx, mensworlddating.xxx, menonlydating.xxx, escortdating.xxx, adultsportdating.xxx, clubdating.xxx, fantasydating.xxx, mayfairdating.xxx, and paulraymonddating.xxx, ICM said.

Domains such as mayfair.xxx and razzle.xxx, Raymond’s best-known titles, may also be included, but they’re not mentioned in ICM’s press release. The domain escort.xxx is owned by somebody else.

The migration is expected to be complete by February next year.

The two companies have a relationship going back at least several months, with ICM regularly sponsoring events at Raymond-owned clubs.

YouPorn challenges new gTLDs with review demand

Kevin Murphy, November 17, 2011, Domain Registries

YouPorn operator Manwin is demanding a review of .xxx, and ICANN’s top-level domains program by association, in a new Independent Review Panel request.

It becomes only the second company ever, after .xxx manager ICM Registry, to file an IRP request with ICANN. The filing came at the same time as Manwin sued ICANN and ICM in California.

The IRP demand ostensibly focuses on .xxx, but it also suggests that the forthcoming new gTLD program has many of the same flaws as the process that led to .xxx’s approval.

IRP is the final, and most expensive, appeals process available within ICANN for companies that believe they’ve been wronged by the organization’s decisions.

It was first used by ICM in 2008-2009 to have the rejection of its .xxx application overturned.

To win an IRP, complainants have to convince an International Centre for Dispute Resolution panel (probably three retired judges) that ICANN violated its own bylaws when it made a harmful decision.

The only reason .xxx is in the root today is that an IRP decided by majority that ICANN broke the bylaws when it approved and then rejected the .xxx bid filed in the 2004 new gTLD round.

Manwin’s IRP claims that ICANN failed to “adequately address issues including competition, consumer protection, malicious abuse and rights protection prior to approving the .xxx TLD”.

It also claims that ICANN failed to enforce ICM’s compliance with its registry contract, allowing it to engage in “anticompetitive conduct” and help violate IP rights.

The company is basically miffed that it felt it was being forced to spend money in ICM’s sunrise period, and that it was not allowed to block its trademarks and variations of its trademarks.

One of its oddest claims, which is in the IRP as well as the lawsuit, is that ICM was selected in a “closed process” that did not consider alternative .xxx operators.

The 2004 gTLD round was of course open to any applicant, so there was nothing stopping anybody else from applying for .xxx. One gTLD, .tel, did in fact have multiple bidders.

Essentially, the IRP demand cuts to the heart of the domain name industry and the new gTLD concept in general, challenging many practices that have become norms.

Sunrise

Sunrise is “extortion”, according to Manwin.

As well as being opposed to the idea of paying for defensive registrations in general, Manwin also thinks that typos and brand+keyword domains should be eligible for blocking, presumably for free.

It also believes that porn companies should have been able to defensively block some .xxx domains (which ICM called “Sunrise B”) and register others for active use (“Sunrise A”).

Speculation

Manwin’s IRP says that ICM did not act in the best interests of its sponsored community (ostensibly the porn industry) when it sold premium .xxx domains to “known domain name speculators”.

Well-known domainers Frank Schilling and Mike Berkens have invested millions in .xxx, but Manwin says their profit motives show ICM broke its commitment to serve the adult industry only.

Schilling, who signed up to buy domains 33 domains including amateur.xxx before ICM’s registry contract had even been approved, is reportedly already leasing out some of his .xxx names to porn companies for five figures a month.

New gTLDs

Manwin seems to support what you might call a ‘string first, registry later’ model for delegating gTLDs.

It states in its lawsuit and IRP that ICANN should have opened up .xxx for competitive bidding, apparently ignoring the fact that the .xxx string was proposed by ICM, not ICANN.

In the IRP demand, it suggests that allowing gTLD applicants to select their own strings is in violation of ICANN’s bylaws. The complaint states:

[ICANN] gave ICM a permanent monopoly over the .XXX TLD without considering other candidates for registry operator and without making provision for considering other potential registry operators at the end of the initial term of the .xxx Registry Agreement.

If Manwin wins, ICANN could be forced into a situation where it must ask for string proposals from new gTLD applicants and then open up each proposed string to competitive bidding.

That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of how the ICANN-approved new gTLD program is going to work.

The IRP and the lawsuit are also notable in that they target the alleged lack of economic studies that support .xxx and new gTLDs in general.

It states that ICANN “failed to conduct proper economic studies of the impact of the introduction of new TLDs, including the .xxx TLD”.

This is a frequent criticism leveled at ICANN by opponents such as the Association of National Advertisers and the newly formed Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight.

Manwin is being represented in the suit and IRP by the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, the employer of Steve Metalitz, a well-known figure in ICANN’s intellectual property constituency.