Colleges Pay For Protection Vs. Porn

Jan 15, 2012
Random Adult News
0 0

For $200 a pop, schools, other organizations are buying .xxx addresses to safeguard brands.

Muhlenberg College is definitely, positively, absolutely not getting into the porn business.

Neither is Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Penn State or Disney. They promise.

But all have recently paid to register dot-xxx websites, a new, smutty sector of the Web opened last year for the sole purpose of hosting adult content.

Penn State has bought four addresses: pennstate.xxx, psu.xxx, ThePennsylvaniaStateUniversity.xxx and Nittanylions.xxx. Is porn becoming part of the curriculum? Not quite.

Across the nation, hundreds of colleges, corporations and nonprofits have locked down .xxx domains as a hedge against cybersquatters, protecting their good names from look-alike sites that might give you a bit more Nittany Lion than you bargained for.

“We debated on whether to do it or not,” said Jeffrey Hermann, a member of Penn State’s University Licensing Committee. “No one could believe that we would actually be able to protect our eggs. We got reassurances from legal counsel that that’s indeed what it was designed to do.”

For the privilege of keeping sites like muhlenberg.xxx off the Web, Muhlenberg and other organizations have paid $200 per address, buying nearly 80,000 in all. Unlike a traditional .com or .org registration, which typically costs a monthly fee to maintain, these so-called defensive registrations permanently remove the address from the Internet.

And though the preemptive registrations have been pitched as a courtesy to organizations intent on protecting their brands, they’re making one small company — ICM Registry, the sole provider of the .xxx domain — a lot of money.

“This looks more like a shakedown or an extortion racket than a legitimate response,” said Rob Friedan, a professor of telecommunications at Penn State. “I’m of a mind that some of this process is more about generating registration fees than it is about responding to consumer demand.”

ICM Registry only recently started selling domains. Based in Florida, the privately held company is headed by British businessman Stuart Lawley, who made his millions in the dot-com boom. Until now, it hasn’t earned a cent of profit, company spokesman Loren Pomerantz said.

Instead, for the past 10 years, ICM has badgered, berated and even filed lawsuits in an all-out effort to secure rights to the .xxx domain, which it says will bring order to an unregulated sector of the Web, and which critics argue will stigmatize pornography even further.

Last year, the registry got its wish. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a international non-governmental organization that sets policy for Web addresses, agreed to grant ICM exclusive rights to sell the .xxx domain. The action came despite protests from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which told ICANN in 2005 it received thousands of letters against the plan.

When the domain was approved in 2011, Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling cautioned that repressive regimes abroad could block it by default and undermine the Internet.

Critics say when ICANN gave the .xxx domain a green light, it didn’t insist on its usual conditions, including a competitive bidding process or price caps for domain fees. Some accused ICM of colluding with ICANN, which will receive a $2 fee for each domain registered.

ICM immediately embarked on a massive public relations campaign, producing a series of humorous Internet commercials urging companies to buy up domains before someone else does.

In one, ICM’s bearded spokesperson asks a business executive to explain why he’s buying a .xxx domain. The straight-laced executive says he’s looking to protect his traditional business, but he is soon distracted by the appearance of two busty women. They take off his glasses. You can imagine the rest.

The ad worked. By its own records, ICM has sold 80,000 domains, for $200 each, to organizations uninterested in pornography. Most were afraid of cybersquatters, the company said.

“Nobody’s making anybody buy anything they don’t want to buy,” Pomerantz said. “I don’t think anybody thinks Disney or Walmart are really building an adult site. I think the thought is, ‘For $200, this is just one less problem we have to have.’ “

Some buyers agree. Harry Miller, Muhlenberg College’s information technology director, said the administration thought $200 was a small price to pay for lifetime security. It was the same for Lafayette, which bought lafayette.xxx and goleopards.xxx.

And although ICM hasn’t yet cleared a profit, that stands to change this year. Aside from the defensive registrations, which netted an estimated $16 million, ICM stands to make millions more from “active” addresses, which are sold to host adult content. Those registrations run at $62 each and must be renewed every year. The registrar has already moved 120,000, netting more than $7 million.

But ICM’s hard sell has drawn plenty of critics, who say ICM has wielded its new prize like a set of brass knuckles.

In a lawsuit filed in November in California, Manwin Licensing International — a pornography mega-giant that hosts the popular Youporn.com website — accused ICM of price-gouging, crushing competition and monopolizing. Saying the registry’s position as the sole provider of .xxx domains gives it the corner on the adult market, Manwin charges the company with demanding 10 times the normal price for a Web address.

What’s more, Manwin says ICM has pressured businesses to defensively buy the .xxx domains that ICM persuaded ICANN to create.

“In fact, ICM promoted .xxx in large measure first to create and then exploit the need for just such defensive registrations,” the suit reads. “Indeed, the .xxx [domain] has been strenuously criticized for extorting defensive registrations … which primarily serves to enrich ICM and its affiliates.”

Manwin also claims in the lawsuit that ICM manufactured a nonprofit organization to sponsor its application and fulfill an ICANN requirement. It says the sponsor — the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, based in Washington, D.C. — is a puppet organization manipulated by Lawley, who served as chairman of its board of directors until late last year.

ICM has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, but Pomerantz said Manwin’s claims are off base. She said ICM’s proceeds from the defensive sales — nearly $16 million — only cover the costs of maintaining the permanent blacklist. And ICM’s main goal has always centered on providing a secure home for pornography, away from children’s eyes but still easily accessible, she said.

“It’s easy to avoid. It’s easy to find,” Pomerantz said. “The concept is a win-win-win for everybody.”

Manwin doesn’t see it that way and asks the court in its suit to rebid the .xxx domain rights in an open auction, impose price constraints or shut down the domain altogether.

Critics in the adult entertainment industry say a dedicated domain essentially forces pornography into a digital ghetto. Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida who has written extensively on adult entertainment issues, said most porn sites would rather stay in the .com domain, which gives them more legitimacy.

“Others in the adult industry see this as a money grab,” he said. “ICM Registry is the go-to source for procuring and safeguarding and covering all of your bases. The road to .xxx runs through them. And it’s all done in the name of safeguarding minors.”

andrew.mcgill@mcall.com

610-820-6533

THE PATH TO DOT-XXX

• The Internet is a series of computers networked together in a looping chain that encircles the world. When you go to a website, your browser first looks up the Web address in a central database to find out where in the world the Web page is based.

• The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decides which top-level Web domains — .com, .org, .gov and so on — can be used for Web addresses.

• Last year, ICANN approved the formation of the .xxx Internet domain, saying the new address will bring order to a cluttered and unregulated sector of the Web and allow parents to more easily shield kids from pornography.

• ICM Registry won rights to sell the new domain after 10 years of lobbying. It has since offered companies, colleges and nonprofits a chance to permanently remove their trademarks from consideration for $200.

Source: TheMorningCall.com

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Spread the love
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
TrafficHolder.com - Buy & Sell Adult Traffic
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x