Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

ICM sells tube.xxx (again) in $500,000 deal

Kevin Murphy, April 7, 2015, Domain Sales

ICM Registry has sold the premium domain name tube.xxx for a second time, after repurchasing it from the original buyer.

The sale was part of a $500,000 package that also included livecam.xxx, affair.xxx and hookups.xxx.

The buyer this time is Inn Productions, a previous supporter of .xxx.

The tube.xxx domain was originally sold to a porn producer called Really Useful as part of a deal that also include the plural, tubes.xxx.

But after Really Useful was acquired by former ICM nemesis Manwin Licensing, ICM reacquired the undeveloped domain to resell later.

After lawsuit, YouPorn buys into .xxx portfolio

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

Porn site operator Manwin Licensing, known to the domain industry for its antitrust lawsuit against ICANN and ICM Registry that was settled last year, has taken over a portfolio of .xxx domains from a staunch .xxx supporter.

Now known as MindGeek, the YouPorn operator is to manage sites for Really Useful, one of the most enthusiastic buyers of premium .xxx domain names.

Really Useful was the first company to have a live .xxx web site — casting.xxx. It has also bought premiums such as orgasms.xxx, bdsm.xxx, mature.xxx, publicsex.xxx, czech.xxx, tubes.xxx, teen.xxx and mom.xxx directly from ICM.

Its spokesperson, “JT”, has expressed his support for .xxx in a few ICM press releases.

MindGeek is also taking over a selection of .com domains as part of the deal.

As Manwin, MindGeek sued ICANN and ICM in late 2011, alleging breaches of US antitrust law. It claimed the need for defensive registrations when .xxx launched amounted to “extortion”.

The suit was settled by ICM last year, but not before a California court ruled that ICANN is not immune to antitrust law.

Now, MindGeek seems to think .xxx domains are okay. Its director of global sales, “Nick P”, reportedly said: “JT’s content and brands are among the hottest on the Internet right now and the future sites planned are phenomenal.”

In unrelated news, MindGeek came under fire this week for producing a series of porn videos that allegedly depict the simulated rape of illegal immigrants by US border patrols.

YouPorn spanks ICM as .xxx prices slashed

YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing scored a PR coup in its lawsuit against ICM Registry today, when the .xxx registry agreed to steep financial concessions in order to settle the case.

One of the effects of the settlement, at least according to Manwin, is that .xxx is slashing its registry fees from $60 to $7.85 a year for any new domains registered in May.

That brings .xxx into line with .com pricing, temporarily.

The discount only lasts for a month, but it applies to any length of registration up to 10 years. A 10-year registration would see ICM get $78.50, as opposed to the usual $600.

ICM said it will offer price reductions in future years too.

According to Manwin, this reduction is part of the settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit that it filed in November 2011.

“One of Manwin’s key motivations was to make .XXX pricing lower and more competitive,” the company said in a press release.

However, ICM told its registrars about the price reduction over a month ago, so Manwin’s claims might not be as straightforward as they seem.

What’s less open to interpretation is ICM’s agreement to donate $2 from every new .xxx domain created into “a fund designated by Manwin to support the adult entertainment industry”.

In return, Manwin has agreed to drop its boycott of .xxx — ads for .xxx sites will now be allowed to appear on its highly trafficked “tube” sites.

According to a Manwin press release, ICM has also made the humbling admission that “websites hosted on their adult-specific TLDs are not the only responsible and safe adult content websites.”

The lawsuit originally claimed that ICM and ICANN acted anti-competitively by introducing .xxx. ICM counter-sued saying that Manwin’s boycott was illegal.

ICM’s claims against Manwin thrown out of court

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2013, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has suffered a blow in its ongoing lawsuit with porn merchant Manwin Licensing, with a judge this week dismissing all of the registry’s counterclaims against the YouPorn owner.

ICM was sued by Manwin on antitrust grounds in late 2011, but returned fire last October with is own set of allegations, which also included claims that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was anti-competitive.

But the judge in the case, Philip Gutierrez, on Tuesday granted Manwin’s motion to dismiss all of ICM’s claims.

Gutierrez ruled that ICM had failed to argue it had standing to complain under competition law, stating: “Harm to ICM only is not sufficient to constitute antitrust injury. It must allege harm to the competitive process.”

He also granted Manwin’s motion to strike ICM’s claims under California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws, which are designed to protect free speech.

The judge decided that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was protected under the anti-SLAPP statute.

ICM is now entitled to re-draft and re-submit its counterclaims; if it does not do so it will have to pay Manwin’s legal fees in connection with the anti-SLAPP action, Gutierrez ruled.

“The judge has granted us 30 days to amend our counterclaims. We are exploring all options open to us,” ICM CEO Stuart Lawley said.

Manwin’s owner, Fabian Thylmann, was arrested in Brussels last December and extradited to Germany to face charges of tax evasion.

YouPorn owner arrested in tax evasion probe

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2012, Domain Registries

YouPorn owner and regular ICM Registry antagonist Fabian Thylmann has reportedly been arrested in Belgium in connection with a German tax evasion investigation.

He was taken into custody at Brussels airport today under a warrant from the Cologne District Court, according to German daily Die Welt.

Thylmann is the owner — some say nominally so — of Manwin Licensing, the online porn empire behind brands such as YouPorn, Brazzers and, under license, Playboy.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM late last year over the .xxx gTLD, saying it violates US antitrust laws, charges which are denied.

The company is also engaged in an ICANN Independent Review Panel procedure over the same issues.

ICM says that the lawsuit, and a related boycott, are merely attempts to disrupt its business. Thylmann, the company claims, offered to invest in ICM but was rebuffed.

According to Die Welt, Manwin’s German headquarters was raided last Tuesday as part of an ongoing tax evasion probe, which was spurred in part by the newspaper’s own investigation into the company.

ICM files $120m lawsuit over Manwin’s .xxx “boycott”

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2012, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has counter-sued YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing, looking for at least $120 million in damages, saying the porn giant is using its market power to sideline the .xxx domain.

The company claims that Manwin’s antitrust lawsuit, filed last October, is merely one of several attacks against its business.

The counter-suit alleges that Manwin, after trying and failing to invest in ICM, illegally restrained trade by forcing its business partners not to do business with ICM.

The suit (pdf) reads:

Manwin has utilized its dominance in the adult entertainment industry to encourage the wholesale boycott of the .XXX TLD in the industry in order to destroy any competition tat may arise from the commercialization of .XXX and has secured agreement, either express or implied, by those within the industry that they will not do business with .XXX.

Manwin, for example, “coerced .XXX spokesmodels to end relationships with ICM” and “conditioned contracts with third parties on their non-involvement with the .XXX TLD”, according to ICM.

The counterclaims were filed in a California court on Friday, as the latest stage of the two companies’ ongoing legal battle.

The registry is looking for $40 million in damages for Sherman Act violations, trebled.

Manwin claims ICM and ICANN broke US competition law by setting up the .xxx “monopoly”, which both ICANN and ICM deny.

ICM hires Fausett to help with YouPorn antitrust case

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has hired new lawyers to help it fend off the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing.

Gordon & Rees senior partner Richard Sybert is taking over as lead counsel in the case, which relates to the launch of .xxx last year.

Notably, the new team includes long-time ICANN legal expert Bret Fausett of Internet.Pro, who represented the Coalition For ICANN Transparency in its antitrust case against ICANN and Verisign.

That’s a bit of a coup for ICM. Manwin’s recent legal arguments have relied heavily on the antitrust precedents Fausett helped set in the CFIT case.

Gordon & Rees replaces Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as ICM’s outside counsel, due to the recent departure of Wilmerhale’s ICANN guru and ICM defender, Becky Burr.

Burr joined Neustar as its chief privacy officer in May.

Manwin sued ICM and ICANN last October, arguing that the launch of .xxx was little more than a shake-down.

Earlier this month, a California District Court judge ruled that ICANN is not immune from competition law and that the litigation can proceed.

The case will turn in part on the question of whether there’s a market for “defensive registrations” under competition law and whether ICANN and ICM illegally exploited it.

Court rules YouPorn can sue ICANN for alleged .xxx antitrust violations

Kevin Murphy, August 14, 2012, Domain Policy

A California court today ruled that ICANN is subject to US antitrust laws and therefore the lawsuit filed by YouPorn.com owner Manwin Licensing over the .xxx gTLD can proceed.

In a mixed ruling, the Central District of California District Court granted some parts of ICM Registry and ICANN’s motions to dismiss the case and rejected others.

Here’s what it had to say on the subject of antitrust law, which ICANN argued back in January did not apply to it because it “does not engage in trade or commerce”:

The Court finds the transactions between ICANN and ICM described in the First Amended Complaint are commercial transactions.

ICANN established the .XXX TLD. ICANN granted ICM the sole authority to operate the .XXX TLD. In return, ICM agreed to pay ICANN money.

This is “quintessential” commercial activity and it falls within the broad scope of the Sherman Act. Even aside from collecting fees from ICM under the contract, ICANN’s activities would subject it to the antitrust laws.

That’s a pretty definitive knock-back for ICANN’s ballsy opening manoeuvre.

The court is allowing Manwin’s claims against ICANN to proceed. Manwin has until September 9 to amend and re-file its complaint.

As you may recall, Manwin sued ICANN and ICM last November, alleging that they conspired to break competition law by, among other things, forcing companies to defensively register .xxx domains.

ICM and ICANN filed separate motions to dismiss the case on seven grounds, but according to today’s ruling only two of these requests were successful.

What strikes me as particularly interesting on a first read are the definitions of the relevant domain name markets.

Under the Sherman Act, antitrust allegations have to be based on a defined “market”. Manwin’s complaint was based on the markets for “defensive registrations” and “affirmative registrations”.

The court ruled today that the company failed make the case that “affirmative registrations” is a market — because Manwin is happily running hundreds of porn sites in .com:

The Court finds Plaintiffs have failed to adequately plead the affirmative registration market. Plaintiffs have not alleged why other currently operating TLDs are not reasonable substitutes to the .XXX TLD for hosting adult entertainment websites. To the contrary, Plaintiffs allege that Manwin’s own website YouPorn.com is the most popular free adult video website on the internet.

However, the court found that “defensive registrations” is a market for the purposes of this case.

I am not a lawyer, but my sense is that this (pdf) is important stuff.

Lawyers: do feel free to chip in in the comments or via email.

YouPorn says ICANN not immune from .xxx antitrust

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Domain Policy

YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing has rejected ICANN’s claim to be immune from antitrust liability.

The company has told a California court that its lawsuit against ICANN and .xxx operator ICM Registry is little different from the landmark case Coalition For ICANN Transparency v Verisign.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM last November, claiming the two illegally colluded to create a monopoly that, among other things, extorted defensive registration money from porn companies.

But ICANN has said in its attempts to have the case dismissed that the antitrust claims could not apply to it as, for one reason, it “does not engage in trade or commerce”.

Manwin’s oppositions to ICANN’s and ICM’s motions to dismiss rely heavily on the fact that the court allowed CFIT v Verisign, which challenged Verisign’s 2006 .com registry agreement, to go ahead.

Essentially, ICANN is trying to wriggle out of the suit on legal grounds at an early stage, but Manwin reckons there’s precedent for it to have to answer to antitrust claims.

You can read Manwin’s latest court filings here and here.

The case continues.

YouPorn’s .xxx settlement talks extended

YouPorn owner Manwin, .xxx manager ICM Registry and ICANN have asked a California court for a few more weeks to settle Manwin’s antitrust lawsuit.

According to a court filing yesterday, the three want to extend ICANN and ICM’s window to respond to Manwin’s complaint extended from April 17. The submission reads:

The parties’ settlement discussions have not yet finished. In order to complete those discussions, the parties stipulate to extend, by an additional about three weeks until May 8, 2012, the deadline for Defendants to respond to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint.

By May 8 the world is going to know whether ICM and/or Manwin have applied to ICANN for other adult-oriented gTLDs (.sex, .porn, etc), which could change the picture considerably.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM in November, alleging that they colluded on .xxx to deliver “monopolistic conduct, price gouging, and anti-competitive and unfair practices”.

ICM and ICANN have denied the allegations.

  • Page 1 of 2
  • 1
  • 2
  • >