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New XXX Domain Forces Companies to Register Thousands of Zombie URLs

The new ".xxx" top-level web site domain appears to be on course to consist mostly of defensively registered brands that will redirect to the .com world, according to a poll of adult businesses and the consumer marketing trade press.

As such, ICM Registry's push to introduce the new URL -- intended to give pornographers a "wild west" to live in and to make it easy for those who want to avoid adult material -- is turning out to be a classic example of rent-seeking, the act of extracting a tax from the marketplace without any benefit in exchange, simply because you can.

A poll of 400 porn businesses by XBiz, an adult trade publication, found that only 13 percent want to use .xxx to open new sites. When asked if they plan on purchasing .xxx URLs, respondents broke down like this:

  • 13 percent: develop and market new websites.
  • 22 percent: to protect existing brands and trademarks.
  • 17 percent: won't acquire/don't see the value.
  • 35 percent: do not want to support .XXX.
In other words, 74 percent of adult businesses have no current use for .xxx.

$300 for a zombie URL
To allay the fears of regular businesses who don't want their brands held for ransom by cybersquatters, ICM has begun a "sunrise" registration period that allows any company to register (and thus remove from use) its existing trademarks on .xxx for a one-time fee of up to $300 per URL. That will create a vast army of unused "zombie" URLs, such as Tide.xxx, Pepsi.xxx, and so on.

That doesn't sound too onerous until you realize that some companies, such as movie studio Fox, own hundreds of brands that need to be registered. Each one needs a .com address plus a defensive block on the equivalent addresses at .org, .mil, .edu and 17 other generic top-level domains. On top of that, there are 300 country code URLs, such as .uk, .il, and so on. Registering all of Fox's brands could cost $120,000 per URL, or $12 million for all of them, according to Mei-lan Stark, svp/intellectual property at Fox:

If there were 400 new gTLDs launched-- we'd be looking at a list of 300 to 400 names that we'd have to defensively register in each. Therefore, a minimum of $12 million investment.
Worse, when an address is disputed by an adult business and a regular business, the adult business will get the benefit of the doubt, according to The Register:
In the event that a porn site and a non-porn site both apply for the same domain name, the porn site will be given priority, although they will be given a warning that a trademark owner is also interested in the domain, and may find themselves on the receiving end of a complaint.
Related: Image by Flickr user eschipul, CC.
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