.XXX Marks The Spot, ANA Cites Porn Suit In Domain Battle

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An antitrust lawsuit by two porn companies against Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers about the forthcoming “.xxx” domain names has drawn the attention of the Association of National Advertisers, which says the case raises some of the same issues about new domain names that trouble marketers.

The lawsuit, filed by Manwin Licensing and Digital Playground, is just “one more example of many potential problems that would be multiplied by hundreds” should ICANN go ahead with its controversial plan to allow companies to purchase brand names and other words as top-level domains.

A top-level domain is the string of letters to the right of the last dot in the URL. ICANN intends to accept applications between Jan. 12 and April 12 of next year.

The ANA opposes the plan, arguing that companies would have to pay hefty fees for “defensive” registration -- that is, registrations of their own names in order to prevent them from getting scooped up by others. Registering a new top-level domain costs at least $185,000 and operating it costs $25,000 a year.

Companies with trademarked names have the ability to stop their names from being used in URLs, but even those companies could end up paying large sums for monitoring.

The lawsuit by Luxembourg-based Manwin and Digital Playground, of Van Nuys, Calif., touches on some of those points, though their case deals with the narrow issue of the “xxx” top-level domain. That domain was approved by ICANN in March and is slated to roll out next month.

Companies can pay to block anyone else from registering their names with an .xxx at the end, but doing so costs an average of $150 -- which the Manwin and Digital Playground say is artificially high.

They allege that a host of businesses, celebrities and others will have an incentive to pay to block their names from the “xxx” domain, in order to prevent confusion. “Owners of names not associated with adult content need to prevent the names' use in .xxx in order to avoid an undesirable association,” Manwin and Digital Playground argue in the complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

“For example, prominent celebrities may wish to avoid .xxx Web sites under their names. Owners of children's character names may wish to bar registration of such names in .xxx to prevent any resulting adult or sexual connotation to the character. Those owning names already associated with adult content also have a particularly acute need to defensively register in .xxx.”

Manwin and Digital Playground allege that ICANN and the registry ICM (which is registering the new names) engaged in price gouging and other “anti-competitive and unfair practices.” They “conspired, intentionally agreed, and intended to eliminate competitive bidding and competition ... and to create illegal monopolies,” the lawsuit alleges.

The companies are seeking an injunction banning ICANN and ICM from going ahead with the planned rollout, as well as “reasonable price constraints and service requirements on permanent blocking services.”

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2 comments about ".XXX Marks The Spot, ANA Cites Porn Suit In Domain Battle".
  1. Rhen Wilson from Aristotle Interactive , November 23, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.
    Can someone please explain why this .XXX is such a big deal? All search engines will inevitably block these sites from showing up in SERPs for the average user because the average user will have his Safe Search set to Moderate (the default). Google, Bing, and others will have .XXX sites flagged not to show up. Even if you're Justin Bieber and don't want someone registering JustinBieber.XXX, who cares? Reason #1, when someone searches for "Justin Bieber," the .XXX will not show up. (If you search for "Justin Bieber porn," that's a different story). And reason #2, what's to stop anyone before now from registering JustinBieberPorn.com of JustinBieberNude.XXX? My point is, this all seems like an non-crisis crisis. If anything, these lawsuits justify the fear of a .XXX domain and cause people to actually think there is merit to the .XXX doman. Which, frankly, makes me think that was ICM's point all along.
  2. Chris Nielsen from Domain Incubation , November 26, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
    If you don't realize why it's such a big deal I can explain with another gTLD: .$$$ That and massive power of Christian morality, powerless against porn as a topic sees .xxx as something they have a chance of stopping that lends some "validity" to the porn industry. I'm no fan of porn although I have viewed some here and there in the past on the web. I would envy all the money being made, but then I would also have to envy all the money made selling illegal drugs, since I see very little basic difference. At least drug abuse does not demean the drugs abused... But I mostly agree with your points, but while I think that the blocking won't be as good as you think, I suspect the porn industry is afraid that it will be forced to move to the reservation of .xxx which could restrict their business. It certainly would be easier to block porn content based on the domain extension. But I think the reality is that porn won't be slowed down by any measures that are not far more restrictive than anything that is realistically possible. It's too popular and too lucrative. Just look away.