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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.