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Sex.com writer Kieren McCarthy buys sexdotcom.com

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2010, Domain Sales

If you’ve written a book called Sex.Com, what domain name do you use to promote it?
For former ICANN staffer Kieren McCarthy, the answer to that question is now sexdotcom.com, which he has just picked up for a bargain $360 in a Sedo auction.
He has previously promoted Sex.com: One Domain, Two Men, Twelve Years and the Brutal Battle for the Jewel in the Internet’s Crown on sexdotcom.info, but says it makes more sense to use the .com.
The book, which is very entertaining, chronicles the fight for control of sex.com between original registrant Gary Kremen and the conman Stephen Cohen, who stole it in the mid-1990s.
McCarthy tells me he’s had some Hollywood interest in his story, so his new domain could turn out to be a worthwhile investment.

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ICANN switches off .mobi land-rush flipper

ICANN has terminated a domain name registrar that seems to have been made its business flipping land-rush domains, especially in .mobi.
Mobiline, doing business as DomainBonus.com, is an Israeli outfit that received its registrar accreditations about five years ago.
While it seems to have registered a very small number of domains, domainbonus.com did provide DNS for a few thousand dictionary .mobi domains, registered during the September 2006 land-rush.
A lot of these domains appeared to have been originally registered in the name of Mobiline’s owner, Alex Tesler.
Many have been since been flipped and archives of the DomainBonus front page show the firm was mainly preoccupied with aftermarket sales rather than fresh registrations.
ICANN has revoked its accreditation (pdf) for failure to pay its dues and escrow Whois data with Iron Mountain, as all registrars must.
ICANN is also switching off Western United Domains, a Spanish outfit that appears to have no web presence whatsoever, for the same reasons.

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Cheaters’ dating site wins 101 typo domains

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2010, Domain Policy

You’d think a web site that enables married people to cheat on their partners would have difficulty taking the moral high ground on any issue. Apparently not.
AshleyMadison.com, which offers an “Affairs Guaranteed” promise, has just won 101 typo domain names under a mass UDRP claim against a single respondent.
The disputed domains included everything from zashleymadison.com to aeshleymadison.com. Two were PPC pages, the remainder apparently remained unused.
Judging from the National Arbitration Forum decision, this was an open-and-shut case of typosquatting.
The registrant was hiding behind a Bahamas-based privacy service that declined to close his true identity.
He did not respond to the UDRP filing.

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Crypto legend Diffie joins ICANN

Kevin Murphy, May 16, 2010, Domain Tech

Whitfield Diffie, one of the fathers of modern cryptography, has been hired by ICANN as its new vice president for information security and cryptography.
ICANN said Diffie, who was Sun Microsystems’ chief security officer until last November, will advise ICANN “in the design, development and implementation of security methods” for its networks.
Diffie, along with his colleague Martin Hellman, basically invented the first method of securely exchanging cryptographic keys over insecure networks, in the 1970s.
The coup comes at an appropriate time for ICANN, which intends to start signing the internet’s DNS root servers with DNSSEC security keys on July 1.
Diffie will no doubt be pushed front-and-center for the photo ops during the first signing ceremony.

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Registrars responsible for proxy cybersquatters

Domain name registrars can be liable when their customers break the law, if those customers use a privacy service, according to new ICANN guidance.
The ICANN advisory clarifies the most recent Registrar Accreditation Agreement, and seems primarily pertinent to UDRP cases where the registrar refuses to cooperate with the arbitrator’s request for proper Whois records.
The advisory says:

a Registered Name Holder licensing the use of a domain is liable for harm caused by the wrongful use of the domain unless the Registered Name Holder promptly identifies the licensee to a party providing the Registered Name Holder with reasonable evidence of actionable harm

In other words, if a domain gets hit with a UDRP claim or trademark infringement lawsuit, as far as the RAA is concerned the proxy service is the legal registrant unless the registrar quickly hands over its customer’s details.
Law enforcement and intellectual property interests have been complaining about registrars refusing to do so for years, most recently in comments on ICANN’s Whois accuracy study.
ICANN offers a definition of the word “promptly” as “within five business days” and “reasonable evidence” as trademark ownership and evidence of infringement.
I don’t think this ICANN guidance will have much of an impact on privacy services offered by the big registrars, which generally seem quite happy to hand over customer identities on demand.
Instead, this looks like it could be the start of a broader ICANN crackdown on certain non-US registrars offering “bulletproof” registrations to cybersquatters and other ne’er-do-wells.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find the number of ICANN de-accreditations citing refusal to cooperate with UDRP claims increasing in future.
The new ICANN document is a draft, and you can comment on it here.

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ICANN closes .xxx forum after 14,000 comments

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has finally shut down the latest public comment period on the proposed .xxx TLD, and now faces the task of finding the few dozen grains of wheat in about 14,000 pieces of chaff.
It’s general counsel John Jeffrey’s task to provide the round-up on this, possibly record-breaking, public comment period, although I understand ICM Registry may also provide its own, alternative, summary document.
I had a quick chat with Jeffrey yesterday. He told me comments were kept open beyond the advertized Monday shutdown because ICANN staffers are allowed to use their discretion when forums are seeing a lot of activity.
He also noted that the comment period was not a referendum on the merits of .xxx; ICANN had solicited feedback on a specific set of process options on how to handle .xxx.
It’s my impression that the 10,000+ identical form emails from the American Family Association may, rightly, wind up being considered as a single comment.

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.jobs seeks comment on dictionary domains

The sponsor organization behind the restricted .jobs domain is soliciting comment on a plan to substantially liberalize the TLD, allowing generic and two-letter registrations.
The Society For Human Resource Management has published a very brief survey, asking HR folk what they think the pros and cons to the plan might be.
The .jobs domain is run by Employ Media. It’s currently restricted to companyname.jobs registrations, and as such has been predictably unsuccessful.
Now Employ Media wants to branch out into geographical and generic domains. As I reported last month, it looks like it’s trying to remove essentially all of its significant registration restrictions.
The attempt at a policy shift follows a deal made with DirectEmployers Association to monetize geographic domains that raised eyebrows at ICANN late last year.
ERE.net has more here.

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German domains see severe downtime

Many domains ending in .de, Germany’s country-code TLD, have seen downtime today, after something went wrong at Denic, the registry manager.
Details are sketchy at the moment, but it appears from chatter on the DNS-Ops mailing list that several instances of the .de zone stopped serving addresses this morning.
It appears that the affected servers were responsible for .de domains beginning with F through Z, so facebook.de would have worked, but heise.de would not.
The German slice of Twitter has been going a bit nuts with comments, and the German press is already on the case.
This is obviously a huge headache if you’re German or do business in Germany — I hate to think how many transactions could have been disrupted by the downtime — and I expect Denic will take a lot of flack at home over the coming days and weeks.
The problem, however, does appear to have been fixed. SANS estimates the outage as a little over an hour.

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Google Translate turns ccTLDs into .com

Kevin Murphy, May 12, 2010, Domain Tech

I’ve found Google Translate an invaluable tool for researching overseas news stories, but it’s a pain in the neck for reading about domain names in foreign languages.
The service seems to have developed the habit of turning all freestanding ccTLDs into “.com”.
For an example, head over to Norid and turn on Norwegian-to-English translation (or, if you don’t have the Google Toolbar, use Google Translate on the web).
Every instance of “.no”, Norway’s country-code domain, is translated into a .com, more specifically “. Com”.
Ditto for German. Translate this story about Denic’s troubles today to see all instances of “.de” translated into “. Com”.
However, the front page of Afnic sees .fr translated to “. Com”, leaving .re, for the Reuinion Islands, untouched.
I should point out that the service leaves domain names alone, so nic.fr is still nic.fr. But you’ve still got to wonder what Google’s designers were thinking.

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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.

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