Businesses spend a surprising amount of time and effort protecting their brand and intellectual property from cybersquatters. It often takes the threat of litigation or creative domain name registry to prevent random people from registering websites like Pepsisux.com.

So, it’s kind of funny that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in the process of introducing a new top-level domain — .XXX — built specifically for porn websites. In doing so, it may have created a cybersquatter’s dream come true.

Eighty thousand .XXX domain names have been registered in the past few months. A new lawsuit shows that some companies are registering even though they really don’t want to. Let’s find out why….

It turns out that companies with a normal .com web address are registering with .XXX simply because they don’t want someone else to swoop in, take the same .XXX URL, and potentially confuse consumers or tarnish the brand.

Even porn companies are worried about .XXX domain squatters.

Manwin Licensing International, a Luxembourg-based company that runs YouPorn, Playboy Enterprises, and Digital Playground’s web brands, has sued ICANN, arguing the new top-level domain is pointlessly expensive. PC Mag has the scoop:

Manwin alleges that the new domain space forces companies to buy .XXX names to prevent acquisitions by domain squatters, thus incurring significant new costs with no measurable benefit to their existing businesses.

The .XXX domain was originally conceived as a way to separate porn sites from non-porn sites on the Web, but the new designation has quickly turned into the newest frontier in pricey Internet domain names.

Porn companies apparently aren’t the only ones worried about triple-X domain squatters. Columbia State Community College, in Columbia, Tennessee, recently spent about $1,000 registering .XXX domains to protect its intellectual property:

The idea is that the purchase prevents others from setting up pornographic websites at addresses such as columbiastate.xxx and chargers.xxx — a reference to the school’s mascot.

Emily Siciensky associate vice president of information technology at Columbia State, told The Daily Herald the school spent about $1,000 acquiring eight domain names from GoDaddy.com to prevent others from using them.

How embarrassing is it that a tiny little community college has to spend a G on this? What a waste of time.

So far, all this is happening before .XXX domains are even available to the general public. Last month, ICANN had a “sunrise” period where only trademark holders could pay to register — specifically to protect their non-porn brands. Right now, it is a “land rush” period, which lasts through the end of the month. That means only members of the “adult sponsored community” can sign up. Starting in December, anyone who feels like it can register.

Bruce Carton at Legal Blog Watch makes some good points about how ridiculous this whole thing is:

In a press release, ICM stated that “We couldn’t be happier about the success of the Sunrise period. There is always a risk with a new TLD that you may build it and nobody will come. We are thrilled that over 80,000 applications came!” ICM’s break-even point was reportedly 10,000 applications, so I’m sure it is thrilled to have received 80,000 applications, but let’s think about this. I don’t know how many of the 80,000 applicants in the Sunrise phase were non-”adult” companies that just want to protect their good name from ending up on a .XXX website, but ICM said it was “well balanced” between adult and non-adult applicants so let’s assume 40,000 “non-adult brands.” That means ICM had roughly 40,000 paying customers that had zero interest in actually using this product but bought it for $162 anyway as a form of reputation insurance. Brilliant! And that does not even take into account the recurring revenues ICM will take in down the road when these customers must renew the registrations on these domain names.

I wonder if Lat has registered abovethelaw.xxx yet? It might be a good place for stories like this and this.


Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He covers legal technology and the West Coast for Above the Law. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at cdanzig@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at chrisdanzig.com.


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