Sunday, April 15, 2012

.XXX Owner Attempting to Add .SEX, .PORN, and .ADULT to its Portfolio

Although this in and of itself is not a huge news story, I thought it provided some interesting commentary on possible uses of new gTLDs and business strategies. ICM, the registrar of .XXX, has announced bids for .ADULT, .SEX, and .PORN gTLDs, and presumably filed applications. (PCMag article here and marketwatch article here).

It remains to be seen whether or not they are able to obtain these registrations, as obvious adult related gTLDs will likely be seen as a potential opportunity for several potential registrars. More interesting is perhaps ICM's proposed use. ICM has stated that they will offer package deals for registering websites across all four adult domains, including the opportunity for other rights holders to block registrations across each with one fee and filing.

The first question is whether or not this is wise. The .XXX registrations have yet to set the internet aflame as adoption remains slow. Anecdotal evidence suggests the most profitable use has been blocking registrations by non-adult rights holders. Perhaps ICM simply believes that by obtaining as many top level domains that a rights holder would want to block is the most profitable approach, and thus the 'package deal' is simply to avoid the wrath of rights holders.

This registration also highlights another problem inherent in the gTLD process. ICM, one registrar, will potentially own four competing domain names. What, therefore, will ICM's liability be to trademark holders if it offers infringing registrations across its own holdings? Will the current safe harbor provisions be enough if the same company registers playboy.xxx to the Hefner media empire, and then gives playboy.porn to a start-up competitor and playboy.adult to a cyber squatter?

Furthermore, one begins to wonder why so many top level domain names are needed, unless it is decided that each one represents a separate market. Although there are grandfathered exceptions, generally a registration of a trademark on .com is enough to prohibit a non-rights holder from registering it on .biz. Therefore, will each new gTLD simply be pre-filled with the same famous names that already exist?

These also have the potential to fully test the dispute procedures. These adult oriented names are likely to be applied for by others. Will ICM's current status as .XXX registrar help or hinder their chances? They can surely prove that they have the technical ability to operate a top level domain, but will they have to worry about antitrust regulators with their power over the adult domain name market?

Only time will tell on this one. It seems somehow fitting that, as per usual, a momentous development in the history of the Internet will be worked out by porn companies.

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