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Porn companies sue ICANN over .XXX domain

Digital Playground and Manwin accuse ICANN and ICM Registry of antitrust violations

Two of the world's biggest porn companies have teamed up to sue the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and ICM Registry over their introduction of the .XXX top-level domain.

Digital Playground and Luxembourg-based Manwin, which owns a network of websites including YouPorn.com and manages Playboy's brand on the web, claim that ICANN and ICM are guilty of antitrust violations.

The .XXX domain was given the green light by ICANN earlier this year - in spite of warnings that it would become "the red light district of the Internet". The idea is that the .XXX TLD will be used to flag sexually explicit material on the Internet. ICM is the sole operator of the .XXX registry.

During a "sunrise" period earlier this year, ICM gave companies the option to pay a one-off fee, which will ensure that their brand is never used within the .xxx registry. However, from 7 December a "land rush" period will ensue, where businesses from the adult entertainment industry will have premium access to remaining .xxx web addresses.

Under an agreement between ICANN and ICM Registry, ICM will use a portion of the fees collected to fund efforts designed to keep children away from online pornography.

However, according to Digital Playground and Manwin, the creation of the .XXX TLD forces owners of trademarks and domain names to purchase expensive "defensive registration" from ICM to prevent cyber-squatters from exploiting those names in .XXX. Annual profits from this process are expected to reach $200 million, Manwin said.

"This is a monumental case impacting the entire business community and the Internet ecosystem," said Fabian Thylmann, managing partner of Manwin. "It uncovers a pernicious monopoly at the very heart of the Internet.

"Ending anticompetitive 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," he added.

The .XXX TLD's activation last year drew the support of 16 of ICANN's board members, but none of the governments participating in ICANN's policy process supported the plan. The issue has also divided those in the adult entertainment industry, with some fearing the domain will make it easier for sites to be censored.

"This decision represents a difficult, careful balance, weighing the extensive community advice both for and against," ICANN stated at the time.


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