ICM extends .xxx startup phase

ICM Registry, the company managing the upcoming .xxx Top Level Domain for adult web sites, has extended the sunrise period for brand names to prevent their trademarks from being commandeered, but critics – to include much of the adult content industry – maintain that the .xxx TLD is more trouble than it’s worth.
 
ICM said Monday that its sunrise period, which kicks off September 7, will now last for 50 days rather than the originally planned 30 days, during which non-adult brands can apply to ICM to block their name (say, Coca-Cola, Disney and Telecoms Europe.net) from being used for .xxx domains.
 
The sunrise extension doesn’t affect the .xxx general release date of December 6.
 
ICM CEO Stuart Lawley says the company is extending the sunrise period due to huge demand. “Many of our registrars are reporting back to us that there’s huge interest in this,” Lawley told Telecoms Europe.net.
 
Part of that interest stems from the fact that ICM is offering a one-off fee of $200 (€141) to $300 that brand owners can pay to have their trademark permanently blocked from the .xxx registry (as opposed to paying an annual fee as companies must do now with existing TLDs). Lawley adds that ICM doesn’t make a dime off the fee, which only covers the cost of processing applications.
 
Lawley also says the one-time fee will save trademark owners a lot of money not just in annual fees, but also the legal fees they’d normally have to pay to go after cyber squatters – a key selling point for ICM when considering that cyber squatting is a perennial headache for trademark owners when any new TLD is introduced, and that in general trademark owners aren’t crazy about having to buy domain names simply as a defensive measure to protect their intellectual property.
 
However, many adult content players have complained publicly about that very aspect of ICM’s business model. ICM sales director Vaughn Liley has been making the rounds at summits with adult industry reps making the case for .xxx with mixed results, according to reports. Despite additional sweeteners ICM is adding to the mix – such as a free anti-virus service via an $8 million deal with McAfee last month and (starting in the middle of next year) a payment platform Stuart Lawley describes as “iTunes meets PayPal” – many adult content companies remain unconvinced that .xxx will bring them any additional value.
 
A poll by adult industry news site Xbiz [slightly NSFW] in June found that only plan to buy .xxx domain names. Just 13% would do so to actually develop new sites. The other 22% said it was purely for defensive measures. The rest either don’t support .xxx at all or see no added value.
 
Stuart Lawley insists that there’s plenty of demand for .xxx. “We just closed off a pre-reservation service, and we had nearly 900,000 requests, with 630,000 different strings from 91 countries,” he says, adding that “a lot of major brands from the US, UK, Holland, Germany are onboard – some are household names, some are less famous to the general public but still pretty sizable companies.”
 
Lawley says it’s too early to name names, though he says some public announcements will be forthcoming next month.
 
But it’s a fair bet that Hustler will not be among them. Hustler president Michael Klein stated earlier this month that it will not be “shaken down” by ICM to protect its IP and will sue ICM if it sells any of Hustler’s trademarks to a third party.
 
Julia Dimambro, managing director of adult content company Cherry Media, also condemns the .xxx TLD as “detrimental and costly” to the adult sector.
 
And all of that’s just the business case. The .xxx TLD comes with all the other baggage that usually comes with adult content, particularly censorship. Many adult content players have complained that an .xxx TLD would relegate adult content to ghettos that makes it easier for regulatory authorities to censor them wholesale.
 
“Having listened to the arguments on both sides, how can something that is so fiercely and widely opposed, not only by the adult industry and Free Speech Coalition, but even by religious groups, have been passed if not purely for prejudiced financial gain?” Dimambro told TE.net in an email. “The whole debacle goes entirely against the premise of the internet, what it stands for and amounts to little more than the means for unadulterated censorship.”

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