DomainRush.xxx

Kalen Lumsden is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

In response to the creation of a new, adult entertainment-centric domain – .XXX – many universities and trademark holders are buying up potentially pornographic versions of their web properties before they fall into irresponsible or malicious hands.

The .XXX domain names are reserved for adult-themed websites to create a red-light district on the internet, with all attendant advantages and disadvantages. The domains will be easily identified and blocked, likely seedy, and a headache for trademark holders. The University of Kansas spent almost $3000 on domains, such as www.KUgirls.xxx and www.KUnurses.xxx, and intends to sit on them and do nothing.

Beginning in 2000 ICM Registry LLC (a private company from Palm Beach, Florida) began applying to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, an international, not-for-profit organization that regulates internet domain names) proposing the creation of new Top-Level Sponsored Domain Registry – .XXX. As opposed to unsponsored domains, such as .com, sponsored domains are intended to represent a specific community, in this case, the adult entertainment industry. ICM’s proposal was repeatedly rejected by ICANN. Only after a February 2010 hearing by ICANN’s Independent Review Panel in Washington was ICM found to have met the required sponsorship criteria and on April 7, 2011 ICANN delegated .XXX to ICM.

Intellectual property issues were among the main reasons .XXX was rejected for so long. The international nature of the internet conflicts with the regional nature of trademarks, so multiple valid trademark holders may by vying for the same domain name. ICM has a IP claims notifications procedures in place for this eventuality. Another obvious concern is brand damage via pornographic parodies.

In their FAQs, ICM helpfully suggests that those not in the adult entertainment industry take a preventative approach and reserve their domain names, even though there are post-launch rights protection procedures in place. Of course, this conveniently aligns with their business model. The .XXX domain names go for $60 – $100 each, which is significantly more expensive than most .COM domains. For this reason, many critics view ICM’s business model as tantamount to extortion.

The sale process was designed by ICM to address many of these concerns. It consisted of two “sunrise” periods, an auction and then a general sale. In the first phase, trademark holders inside the adult entertainment industry could claim .XXX versions of sites they already held the trademark for. In the second, non-adult brands could have their names removed from circulation. What followed was a “landrush” in which premium addresses that hadn’t removed themselves were auctioned off, for example: www.nike.xxx. Finally, as of December 6, 2011 everything remaining is being sold on a first-come-first-served basis through a variety of middlemen domain registries.

What about Canadian universities? Major Brands? All registrations are public, mildly entertaining and viewable here. Both www.yorku.xxx and www.utoronto.xxx have been registered by 1764210 Ontario Inc. of Kleinburg, Ontario, perhaps as an investment in future mischief or for resale. UVic registered www.uvic.xxx. Others, such as www.ualberta.xxx and www.mcgill.xxx were reserved during the sunrise phase and are not available for registration.

At present, www.osgoodehall.xxx is currently available for purchase here for the low price of $99.99 USD a year if any law students are seeking a fallback career or foothold in the adult entertainment industry.

One Comment

Comments are closed.