Major Porn Sites Sue ICANN Over .XXX

Major Porn Sites Sue ICANN Over .XXX

Summary: Major pornography companies have filed a lawsuit against ICANN over adult TLD .XXX.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Legal
1

The company behind major porn sites including YouPorn, PornHub, Brazzers, Xtube and Playboy.com have been joined by adult industry powerhouse Digital Playground to file an anti-monopoly lawsuit against ICANN over the dot-XXX TLD.

Luxembourg-based Manwin and Digital Playground are suing both ICANN and the company that created and manages dot-XXX, ICM Registry. ICANN is the non-profit that, among other things, oversees the management of the top-level domain name space.

Manwin and Digital Playground want an injunction to stop the .XXX TLD and require its re-opening with competition and "reasonable price constraints."

Aside from that, if their allegations against ICANN are anywhere near true, I think this case could impact the entire domain name system and how it is run.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday, November 16 in the U.S. District Court of California stating that both ICANN and ICM Registry have engaged in,

(...) monopolistic conduct, price gouging, and anti-competitive and unfair practices, broadly harming competition, businesses, and consumers, arising out of the establishment of .XXX, a new Top-Level Domain Name (“TLD”) intended for adult-oriented content.

Oh, snap. Big Porn has officially opened 44 pages of anti-monopoly Federal lawsuit whoopass on ICM and ICANN.

But it's really quite serious. In the 44-page suit Manwin and Digital Playground allege,

ICM initially attempted to coerce ICANN to approve the .XXX TLD and to approve ICM's anti-competitive .XXX registry services.

That coercion took the form of misleading predatory conduct and aggressive litigation tactics, described more fully below.

Eventually, ICANN agreed to approve the .XXX TLD, and to approve ICM as the XXX registry, not only in response to those improper and coercive tactics but also because ICM promised to pay ICANN what is expected to be millions of dollars in fees.

The full text of the lawsuit can be read in Manwin DP vs. ICM ICANN .PDF (link is to file hosted on a NSFW website).

ICM is shrugging off the suit's sentiments. In a statement on The Domains ICM was quoted as saying, "ICM Registry will vigorously defend their position against any merit-less claims such as this one."

The offhanded response should come as no surprise to anyone following the dot-XXX saga. ICM has pretty much always considered the porn industry's concerns to be without merit - especially any concerns that might get in the way of ICM making money.

ICM Registry pressured ICANN for 10 years to pass .XXX, with ICANN repeatedly rejecting the proposed TLD for lack of demonstrated community and failure to prove an 'unmet need' for the extension, among other reasons.

ICM had originally positioned dot-XXX to ICANN as working in concert with full support of the pornography industry and full support from anti-porn "family" groups.

The porn industry banded together along with anti-porn "family" groups to publicly deny any support of .XXX and opposed it in a variety of ways. Human rights organizations were against it as well.

In July, porn industry leaders and an expert panel held a business summit with .XXX’s Vaughn Liley to form the adult industry’s business plans for the new TLD; Liley was to meet with porn industry leaders and “win hearts and minds.”

The discussion amounted to an hour of Liley’s obfuscating answers about the implementation and administration of .XXX, his reluctance to deliver clear answers on brand registration questions, and increasing ad hominem attacks on fellow panelists.

During the summit, ICM’s rep was repeatedly called out on inaccuracies and self-contradictions including one made later regarding Twitter’s potential participation in .XXX.

Attending businesses left the summit expressing that there were few reasons to buy a .XXX domain other than in self-defense.

Dot-XXX: A Business Built On Fear

Non-porn entities are defensively registering .XXX names to block them out of fear. Recent headlines report that colleges and schools have felt compelled to make sure there are no confusing, unwanted and possibly reputation-damaging triple-X versions of their educational institutions coming up in future search results (or worse).

I have to say, if that's the business plan it's a brilliant - if evil - one. Just think of how much would be made if someone could bluster ICANN into approving .PEDO.

If you are like me and feel grossed-out that this is happening to notoriously cash-poor schools (and I'm very pro-porn, mind you), you have a taste of what those in the actual, -and I'll add legal - adult internet space are facing right now.

For trademarked brands it is $300 to purchase a 10-year block, and right now lots of non-porn companies have poneyed up the money believing that it will be cheaper than dealing with even a single problem once it occurs.

And we all know that problems will absolutely occur. Because of this, non-adult businesses are buying dot-XXX domain blocks by the score, paying ICM Registry what amounts to wheelbarrows of cash for the privilege. (Disclosure: I hold a Federally trademarked brand and have filed to block the single instance of the name allowable by ICM Registry at this time.)

In some instances, domain names that adult businesses thought they had rights to may have been reserved by ICM for auction to the highest bidder.

I wonder if that's the case with gay.xxx which has already sold for $500,000, and poor-taste porn terms that are selling for $200,000.

Unfortunately, business owners could only block registered trademarks during ICM's "Sunrise B" period (e.g., not even pending TM applications).

Assuming you are not a member of the "sponsored adult entertainment community," the period for defensive registrations to block domain names which are not registered trademarks begins on December 6. It is first-come, first-served, so it's good luck in anticipation of that Dec. 6 date.

Interestingly, registrants of names in .XXX must waive legal rights and claims against ICM as a condition of registering.

ICM’s Stuart Lawley bragged to Bloomberg that ICM is set to make at least $200 million a year, and he predicts to snag between 3 and 5 million registrations.

In regard to its lawsuit, Manwin told the Wall Street Journal the dot-XXX domain creates "an unnecessary cost on everybody, without any benefit for the adult entertainment community."

Basically, these pornography giants are holding ICANN responsible for the whole dot-XXX mess.

I think that Manwin and Digital Playground have a lot more properties, position, and resources than the press I'm seeing is giving them credit for. People forget that porn is a business like any other.

While ICM might be playing off the lawsuit as fluffy meritlessness to the press, ICANN still has yet to comment.

Photo by HarshLight under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license via Flickr.

Topic: Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • ZdNet.xxx ?

    ;-)
    kd5auq