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Porn domain firm urges ICANN to ignore the haters

ICM Registry has asked ICANN to set aside the views of thousands of naysayers and approve the porn-only .xxx top-level domain as soon as possible.

The company has sent three documents to ICANN today, two of which set out ICM’s position in the same firm tone that has characterized its previous missives.

Basically: no more delays, your only option here is to get back into contract talks now.

I would say ICM is drawing a line in the sand, but ICM has drawn so many lines in the sand recently it’s beginning to look like a game of beach tic-tac-toe (which, visualizing it, is kinda appropriate).

The third document is a post-game summary of ICANN’s recently closed comment period on the .xxx application, which attracted record comments. That’s written by former ICANN public participation wonk Kieren McCarthy and is more measured in tone.

ICM president Stuart Lawley believes that the thousands of copy-paste comments from US-based anti-porn Christian groups can be safely ignored. I get the impression ICANN will probably agree.

The volume of comments on an entirely irrelevant issue – that is, the content of websites on the Internet – was one of the original reasons this process went off the rails. ICANN should not repeat its earlier mistakes and pander to those interests.

Given that a substantial number of comments came from the porn industry itself, notably the Free Speech Coalition, Lawley wrote that “debate about community support is no longer appropriate”.

ICM’s on shakier ground here than with the Christians. A TLD for a sponsored community that is unequivocally hated (NSFW) by a vocal part of that community can’t look good.

But the FSC, along with the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, one of its members, “represent only a small fraction of the adult industry”, Lawley claimed.

Over 100,000 .xxx domains have been pre-registered over the last five years and several hundred of these people sent ICM’s copy-paste letter to ICANN. ICM says this indicates adult industry support, though I think that’s a less than watertight argument.

ICANN’s board will undoubtedly have a good old chinwag about their current predicament at their retreat this weekend, but they’re not due to make any decisions until the Brussels meeting a little over a month from now.

Porn trade group director says .xxx could be a gTLD

One of the directors of porn industry organization the Free Speech Coalition has suggested the .xxx top-level domain could be approved as an unrestricted gTLD.

Tom Hymes, who sits on the Free Speech Coalition’s board of directors, wrote to ICANN urging it first and foremost to kill ICM Registry’s .xxx application once and for all.

But Hymes went on to say: “If that scenario is unacceptable to the Board for one reason or another, I would then encourage it to explore a gTLD option for ICM.”

He noted that he was writing in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the FSC.

ICM’s application was filed under the 2005 round of “sponsored” TLDs, which meant it had to show backing from a sponsorship organization and some measure of ownership restriction.

For example, the Society for Human Resource Management is the sponsor for .jobs and the Universal Postal Union backed .post.

ICM, which has never been part of the adult entertainment industry, created a policy-making body called the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, IFFOR, to act as its sponsor.

In my view, IFFOR was basically a crude hack to get around the fact that in 2005 ICANN was not looking for any new gTLDs.

The FSC doesn’t like IFFOR, because a) it will make policy on what can be hosted under .xxx domains and b) the adult industry will not control its board or see any of its money.

Hymes, in his personal capacity, seems to be saying that an unrestricted .xxx gTLD would be okay. It’s the first ground I’ve seen anyone in the porn industry give in this debate. He says:

To its credit, the Board is striving to solve the dot xxx imbroglio by dangling a gTLD in front of ICM, a solution ICM thus far has refused to consider. But that sort of suspicious recalcitrance can no longer be tolerated. Instead of threatening to bring a costly lawsuit against ICANN in order to secure control of a policy making regime for which it does not have the required support, ICM should cut its losses, save everyone a lot of money and take the gTLD while it has the opportunity.

I happen to agree, mostly: .xxx would make a heck of a lot more sense, and would be a whole lot less controversial (Christians notwithstanding), as a gTLD.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening. Not easily, anyway.

There’s no ICANN process in place for approving gTLDs today, and if ICANN were to choose to kick ICM into the next new gTLD round, there’s a pretty good chance that ICM would find itself fighting a contested string battle with other applications.

From a process point of view, sponsored TLDs are a failed experiment.

Iron Mountain gets into bed with CRS

Iron Mountain and Central Registry Solutions have made a deal to referrer prospective new gTLD applicants to each other’s services.

The companies said that Iron Mountain will refer wannabe registries to CRS for registry services and CRS will refer them to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

It strikes me that the deal is probably better news for Iron Mountain, given that CRS is actively engaged in seeking out new TLD applicants to partner with whereas Iron Mountain, presumably, is not.

Iron Mountain already does a lot of work with registries and registrars that have to escrow their Whois information under the terms of their ICANN contracts.

Some of these contracts specify the company as the only escrow agent allowed, whereas the current Draft Applicant Guidebook for new gTLD applicants is less prescriptive.

CRS is a partnership of Network Solutions and CentralNIC, manager of the .la ccTLD and a handful of geographical second-level domains such as uk.com and us.com.

AusRegistry scores Japanese .brand deal

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2010, Domain Registries

AusRegistry, the .au registry, has inked a deal with Brights Consulting, a company offering .brand domain services to the Japanese corporate market.

The company said the deal will mean AusRegistry will provide the technical back-end for any successful new gTLD applications that Brights manages to secure.

Other companies competing for new gTLD business include old hands VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias, as well as hungry newcomers such as Minds + Machines.

AusRegistry currently manages Australia’s .au, .qa for Qatar and .ae for the United Arab Emirates.

Brights is a corporate, rather than retail, ICANN registrar. I may be wrong, but it looks like the company counts Sony among its clients.

Could there be a .sony on the horizon?

.co enters pricey global sunrise

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders can from today apply for their brands as .co domain names, even if they do not do business in Colombia.

The second stage of .CO Internet’s sunrise period allows owners of non-Colombian trademarks to apply for their domains through one of 10 chosen launch registrars.

Prices vary from $225 with OpenSRS to $335 through Dotster, with most deals comprising non-refundable application fees plus first-year registration. Go Daddy is charging $299.99 and Network Solutions is charging $279.99.

With the possible exception of .xxx, I’ve got a suspicion that this could be one of the last “generic” TLD launches with such expensive sunrise periods.

It’s quite possible there could be pricing pressure if ICANN quickly approves a few hundred new gTLDs next year. If each charges ~$300 for a pre-launch, it could cause some some registrants to rethink their defensive registration strategies.

The .co sunrise ends June 10. General availability begins July 20.