Three of us were standing around at the AVN Novelty Expo the other day, having a discussion about .XXX domains and the negative effects the new sTLD will have on adult online businesses.

One of our colleagues, a rather well-known adult performer, said he had pre-registered for fear of squatters leeching off his traffic, but he wasn’t quite sure what to do with the address if he decided to purchase it.

“I understand why it’s so bad,” he said, “but I don’t want someone using my name…” His content, though, is very unique and he was reassured that he was very unlikely to lose traffic to an inferior web para-site. Still, the problems of squatting and price gouging do seem inherent to the .XXX business model.

“Well,” he said, pondering the problem, “What if I buy the address and put up a landing page that says the only reason I bought it was because I felt extorted into buying it, and I was afraid that someone would squat on it?”

There was a snort of skepticism, followed by mutual response, “Hah! ICM [Registry] will NEVER let you do that. Are you kidding? ICM is a private company – they don’t have to allow you any free speech. You’ve got to follow their policies and the policies of the IFFOR board. It will all be in the contract. There’s NO way they would ever let you do that… Besides, you can’t ever link it to your .com address because then that site has to comply with their policies, too.”

So, a private company like ICM Registry is under no obligation to allow freedom of speech on a piece of Internet property that they administer and operate? In fact, part of that $70 dollars paid annually for a .XXX address (projected to go much higher by the launch in September) will fund the IFFOR Advisory Board that will decide policy for the sTLD. This reality is somewhat precedent setting in an Internet where people have traditionally assumed a tremendous amount of freedom to put up and post whatever they want.

Goes without saying – ICM Registry is probably not going to allow a paying customer to put up content that defames them or is critical of their methods. Not when Facebook can pull your profile page without giving you an explanation of how you violated their policy –  nearly every adult performer knows about that.

So, the real question is: What else are they going to decide doesn’t belong on a .XXX site? And WHO decides that? And WHAT will the criteria be for controversial content?

The adult industry is nothing if not controversial. And what is YOUR recourse, if you violate policy by being controversial?

It’s like buying a house in a community that has an HOA. If you want to paint your garage door pink or own a pit bull, they probably won’t let you do that. Oh, and the .XXX HOA Advisory Board? None of them actually live in your neighborhood, but they get to make the rules. Better make sure you know where all the fences and easements are supposed to be, before you start planting that wicked garden.

New media has overgrown the boundaries of free speech; with the Internet’s boundless territory, it has redefined “community” as global. It has been referred to as the Wild West, where hackers and pirates make their own laws. In some quarters, that freedom is very, very scary.

And nearly 20 years after the rise of the Internet, regulation and restrictions have become a hot-button topic. Even as China builds its Great Firewall, with claims that it took down 1.4 million sites last year – Italy has decided that the government’s telecomm agency can seize websites without a court order. The U.S. claims its seizure of popular Spanish P2P site is the same as confiscating a crack house or any other property involved in illegal activities. In Australia, a country literally populated with shiploads of outlaws, Internet analysts debate the filter that will block child pornography sites; are the protocols for the filter transparent enough and will it give lawmakers authority over other forms of content? And what about the new “six strikes” policy adopted by the U.S.? ISPs will send notices out to IP addresses where illegal downloading may have occurred; by the fifth strike, you’re almost out – will this sink the international pirate armada?

India and Kenya have already promised to block the .XXX domain and, presumably, so will all Islamic countries.

The Free Internet Posse wants the Internet to be free and accessible for all – but .XXX’s potential for regulatory oversight, mandated categorization, Internet fragmentation and wide-scale censorship must make them shiver in their boots.

And the conservatives? Well, they don’t want .XXX unless there IS legislation mandating that all adult online businesses be corralled in the .XXX “red light district” – the shadiest part of town. Classification by content is the only way to arrive at all-encompassing censorship of an unpopular form of speech.

And the Mormons? They’re are wondering why they have to pay to block

In the past two weeks, two of the adult industry’s big guns issued their demands to ICM.

Manwin, operator of many popular adult online franchises (including Brazzers and Twistys) sent a letter to ICM Registry demanding that 57 of its domain names and various similar names be blocked from being registered by third parties – and Manwin does not want to pay the blocking fee.

“The misuse of our intellectual property will not be tolerated,” said Manwin Managing Partner Fabian Thylmann.

Hustler issued a similar challenge to ICM Registry to protect one of the most recognizable, iconic adult brands in the world.

“It appears that the .XXX TLD will do nothing but drive up costs to the adult community and will force us to fight infringement on yet another front,” Hustler president Michael Klein said.

Well, ICM Registry can’t rightfully do this for one adult brands without doing it for all the other adult brands, right? And all the other mainstream trademark owners out there, as well – right?

FSC opposes the .XXX domain and urges all adult online businesses to stay .COM. – jc

(Photo: Some rights reserved by Publik15)