Should you register your .XXX domain name or not?

As you may know, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) last year authorized the creation of .XXX as a new top-level domain (TLD). Launching .XXX was done through a three-phase process, promoted as way to create competition and fairness across adult entertainment companies. The third and final phase – open enrollment – is now in effect.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of hype and, frankly, fear-mongering by some less scrupulous vendors. Basically, their pitch goes like this:

“Pay us to register www.yourcompany.xxx to protect your brand and good name. If you don’t, well, you never know when someone might create a porn site under your name. Act now! Every day you wait is a day you are at risk.”

Although technically true, this type of implied threat comes dangerously close to “internet blackmail” in our view.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • .XXX is the newest of nearly 400 active top level domains.
  • .XXX was created to make it easier for individuals seeking adult entertainment online to find it, and those who are not interested in such material to avoid it.
  • Like all TLDs, anyone can register “somename.xxx”.  This includes both legitimate use (i.e., “hotporn.xxx”) and cyber-squatters (i.e., “yourbusinessname.xxx”).
  • Cyber-squatting is a contentious business practice, whether it involves XXX or not.
  • The policies, laws, and regulations governing cyber-squatting are complex, vary from country to country, and are an active battleground in the courts. If you are interested in the gory details, http://www.caslon.com.au/domainsprofile13.htm provides a good jumping-off point.
  • In the U.S. and many countries around the world, you can request arbitration under ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Compared to litigation in U.S. courts, costs are quite low. However, remedies are limited to transfer (from loser to winner) of the domain name, or outright cancellation of the “squatted” domain.
  • In the U.S., you can file suit against cyber-squatters under the Federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999. ACPA provides for statutory damages up to $100,000 per domain name, or actual damages and profits, plus court costs and legal fees.
  • Perhaps because of the enormous global value of the adult entertainment industry (some estimates suggest that $3,000 – $5,000 per SECOND is spent on porn worldwide), domain name registrars are charging premium prices for .XXX domains. For example, a 5 year registration ofwww.johnsrepairshop.com retails for $114.95 ($23/year) at Network Solutions, butwww.johnsrepairshop.xxx retails for $649.95 ($123/yr) for the same 5 year term.

Should YOU register a .XXX?

It depends:

  • Is it likely that someone would want to operate a legitimate adult entertainment website with the same name as your brand or company? For example, www.realestatenashville.xxx is an unlikely choice for a porn site, whereas www.BestSkinUS.xxx might be more at risk.
  • Do you think that squatters might want to target your brand or company with the intent of selling it back to you (“ransom”)? Clearly, you’d be a greater risk if you have a global brand and deep pockets, like Coke or Apple. Is there a personal or political reason someone might target your brand or company for financial gain: www.joesmithforgovernor.xxx, orwww.yourcompanynamesucks.xxx ?
  • If your customers stumbled upon www.yourcompany.xxx, is there a meaningful risk they’d believe that you operate a porn site as a sideline business? Aren’t they more likely to realize that the overlap is coincidental or that someone is trying to take advantage of you?
  • When looking at search results, are prospects likely to get the wrong impression or make the wrong choice if they see listings for both www.yourcompany.com and www.yourcompany.xxxlisted? Or are they more likely to choose the .COM link and move on?
  • If you found that someone had registered your company or brand name as a .XXX site, would you be willing and able to commit the resources required to litigate? Would you have time and resources available for arbitration?
  • How effective is your current domain name registration position? Could you benefit more by adding registrations under .INFO, .BIZ, and .CO (for less money) than under .XXX?
  • How well does you current site perform in SEO rankings? Is your content fresh and authoritative? Would legitimate search results overwhelm whatever www.yourcompany.xxxlinks that might exist? Remember, the best defense is a good offense.

These questions should be considered as a part of your overall strategy for establishing, promoting and maintaining your online brand identity. Domain name coverage beyond www.yourcompany.com can be beneficial, both in terms of brand protection and in link-building; so are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FourSquare, and other social media outlets.

We’re happy to discuss your online brand presence at any time, including questions about .XXX. And yes, if you want to lock-down your .XXX, we’re happy to help. But don’t succumb to high-pressure sales tactics or email scare campaigns.

Garry Hornbuckle

By Garry Hornbuckle, Compliments of Bytes of Knowledge Management