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ICM Registry Opens “Industry Reservation” Period for .XXX, in Spite of Recent ICANN VoteBy: Q. Boyer (Courtesy of YNOT.com)
CYBERSPACE – As an old saying often attributed to Yogi Berra goes, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
ICM Registry, the registry operator whose application for a new .XXX sponsored top-level domain was rejected by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) earlier this month, has taken a cue from the old cliché and continued with its efforts on multiple fronts to win approval from ICANN for the much-debated .XXX sTLD.
In addition to actions previously reported by YNOT and other sources, including the initiation of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act and an official request for reconsideration by ICANN’s Reconsideration Committee, ICM Registry has now opened an “industry reservation period” for .XXX names, despite ICANN’s recent vote rejecting the proposal.
Critics of ICM question whether the reservation period is really what ICM depicts it to be, a previously-planned measure being taken in anticipation of ICANN reversing itself, or if the reservation period is a ploy designed to bolster ICM’s claims of widespread support for .XXX within the adult industry.
“My interpretation of this move is that ICM is trying to play upon people’s greed and defense posture and prove through a land-rush of pre-registrations that the adult biz wants .XXX,” writes Brandon Shalton, technology consultant to the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), a vocal opponent of .XXX, in a recent post to an industry message board.
Stuart Lawley, President of ICM Registry, dismisses this notion as baseless, conspiratorial thinking, saying “our detractors are already disingenuously labeling all of the reservations taken to date as ‘defensive’.”
In Lawley’s view, there should be no concern about ICM using pre-registrations or reservations as proof of industry support, because “the ‘demand’ for .XXX has never been in doubt.”
“We are doing this for the reasons stated, having already invested several million dollars into this and having systems built and staff on hand,” Lawley adds in an email interview with YNOT. “All applications will be treated in a confidential manner, which is how we have behaved throughout.”
Tom Hymes, Communications Director for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), another critic of the .XXX proposal, says he takes no comfort from any assurances Lawley or ICM provide.
“I’ve become rather cynical with regards to ICM and rather suspicious of the things that they say and do,” says Hymes, adding that the “whole thing makes me extremely angry.”
Hymes contends that by opening the reservation period, “Lawley is trying to create the impression that it’s ‘business as usual’ and the ICANN vote was just a ‘bump in the road’ along the way,” to eventual acceptance of ICM’s .XXX proposal.
“They’re making it clear they won’t take no for an answer,” Hymes asserts, “and they are in apparent denial about the clear lack of support from the industry.”
Hymes faults, at least in part, ICANN’s own protocols with respect to determining whether “constituent support” exists within an industry or market segment for a proposed sTLD.
“ICANN’s support oversight procedure is flawed,” says Hymes, describing ICANN’s current methodology an “utter failure.”
Many webmasters and other observers of the debate have voiced concern over how disputes regarding multiple claims to the same .XXX domain name will be handled.
“Why should the .com owner get .XXX when there are other TLDs?” Shalton asks in his recent thread. “Bondage.com, bondage.dk, bondage.co.uk, bondage.jp – who gets the .XXX?”
Lawley says that while a “tie-breaker” method has already been decided upon, ICM has “purposely not published what the tie-breaker in this case will be.”
“We have done so to reduce the potential for ‘gaming the system’ that has invariably dogged many TLD introductions,” Lawley explains. “This way we believe we will get good faith applications from qualified parties.”
Lawley also emphasizes that the reservation process is “simply an allocation method of the right to first register,” and “does not replace the Start up Trademark Opposition Policy (STOP), that is detailed in our application and gives a further layer of protection to members of the community who feel someone else may not have the ‘rights’ to register a particular .XXX domain.”
With respect to ICANN’s vote, ICM maintains that the decision was based upon flawed reasoning and without a full disclosure of allegedly inappropriate, behind-the-scenes influence exerted on the ICANN Board by individuals within the US Government, the US Commerce and State departments, specifically.
“We have scrutinized the reasons given by Board members for making the decision and are satisfied that the principal concerns expressed (including ICANN having greater liability if it were to pass the application) are unfounded,” ICM states in a message posted on the company’s website. “Accordingly, we are continuing to address those concerns in order to obtain approval of a revised contract.”
“We are hopeful (but of course cannot guarantee) that these efforts will prove successful and will lead to the introduction of the .XXX Top Level Domain,” the statement continues. “We have invested a lot of time and effort into this initiative and are determined to see it through to completion.”
Lawley asserts that ICM’s effort to gain approval for .XXX has been, from the beginning, straightforward and forthright, despite claims to contrary by ICM’s critics.
“If people don’t see the benefit or value in .XXX or the works of IFFOR they are free not to register,” says Lawley.
According to Lawley, the reservation process, as with the whole of ICM’s efforts include “no deals, no favoritism,” and “does exactly what is says on the side of the tin.”
“This was always set out to be equitable,” Lawley adds, “and I think this first stage dispels some of the scurrilous rumors put out and promoted by some of our detractors.”
Not surprisingly, ICM’s “detractors” don’t see things quite the same way.
“In any case, I know people will have to make this tough decision and all I can say is pre-registering is a defense business move, and while you may have done so, [it] doesn’t mean you like it, or support it,” asserts Shalton. “But understand that your pre-registration will be pitched by ICM to ICANN as a ‘vote’ for .XXX.”
In addition to contributing to YNOT, Q is the Director of Traffic Development for NicheBucks.com and an eight-year veteran of the online adult industry.