Porn sites sue internet regulator over .xxx web address

.xxx domain name ICM Registry plans to launch the .xxx top level domain name for pornographic websites next year

Two of the internet's biggest pornography firms are suing the net's address regulator, Icann, over its introduction of the .xxx suffix.

Manwin Licensing and Digital Playground have also filed a lawsuit against ICM Registry, which is running the new top-level domain name (TLD).

The firms claimed that the decision to create .xxx had been flawed and that ICM had abused its position.

ICM said that the claims were baseless. Icann said it was reviewing the case.

Non-profit organisation Icann initially opposed the creation of the .xxx suffix when ICM first applied for the name in 2000.

Icann (Internet corporation for assigned names and numbers) argued at the time that it "did not appear to meet unmet needs" since adult content was already available on the web and "no mechanism exists to require adult content to migrate from existing TLDs to an .xxx TLD".

Much of the adult industry also opposed the idea, saying it would raise costs and could lead to a "ghettoisation" of the industry.

However, ICM repeatedly appealed against the decision. In 2008 it requested that an independent panel review the issue. The panel backed ICM's application and in March this year Icann's board voted nine to three in favour of the move.

Earlier this month ICM announced that it had received more than 80,000 applications for .xxx website addresses, of which 78,938 had come from trademarked or pre-owned names.

ICM said it planned to launch the suffix in 2012 and hoped it would become a "trusted brand... extolling responsible and safe behaviour".

Expensive

Manwin - which runs the Playboy websites - issued a press release alongside the lawsuit claiming that ICM was charging annual registration fees of about $60 per address. It claimed that was 10 times the fee charged for other comparable top-level domain names.

It said costs mounted up because website owners had to register mis-spelt versions of their addresses to prevent cybersquatters exploiting them.

Manwin has also filed papers with Icann complaining that the body never sought competitive bids for the .xxx registry, and failed to conduct "proper economic studies" to support its creation.

The filing goes on to claim that ICM "generated fake comments in support of its application" and that it has "knowingly sold domain names to persons and entities who are known domain name speculators".

"This... uncovers a pernicious monopoly at the very heart of the internet," said Fabian Thylmann, managing partner of Manwin.

"Ending anti-competitive practices by ICM and Icann will not only protect our business, but help other companies compelled to pay a fee to keep their names unassociated with a .xxx designation."

'Without merit'

However, ICM rejects the pornography sites' allegations.

"The claims are baseless and without merit and will be defended vigorously," ICM Registry president Stuart Lawley said.

"They also show an apparent lack of understanding of the Icann process and the rigorous battle we went through with Icann over eight years in full public scrutiny to gain approval."

A spokesman for Icann said that its lawyers were reviewing the claims and it had no further comment at this time.

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