Celebs play de­fense on dot-porn

They’re buy­ing up new Web ad­dresses in an ef­fort to pro­tect their rep­u­ta­tions.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Paresh Dave

Some in­ter­est­ing new web­sites will be un­veiled in May: ParisHil­ton.porn, Bey­once.porn, Game­OfThrones.porn, Justin­Bieber.porn.

Go there, though, and you’re likely to find lit­tle more than a blank screen. Fa­mous peo­ple and well­known brands are buy­ing up In­ter­net ad­dresses with con­tro­ver­sial end­ings such as .porn, .adult and .sucks to make sure they don’t end up in the hands of some­one who could be­smirch their names and rep­u­ta­tions.

The de­fen­sive moves come amid a ma­jor ex­pan­sion of In­ter­net ad­dresses be­yond the familiar .com, .org, .net and .edu end­ings. In hopes of spurring cre­ativ­ity among Web en­trepreneurs, thou­sands of new “top-level” domain names — the part that comes af­ter the pe­riod — are be­ing made avail­able in­clud­ing .pet, .joy, .lol, .ho­tel, and .bank. About 600 new suf­fixes have launched over the last cou­ple of years, with hun­dreds more in the pipe­line.

Now, it’s .porn’s turn. Paris Hil­ton doesn’t need fur­ther ad­ver­tise­ment of the sala­cious images of her that ex­ist on the Web. Her lawyer, Robert Tucker, de­scribed the pur­chase of ParisHil­ton-.porn as a de­fen­sive mea­sure that takes less time and costs less money than try­ing to wrest back con­trol of an ad­dress from in­di­vid­u­als of­ten de­nounced as cy­ber­squat­ters or ex­tor­tion­ists — peo­ple who buy up domain names to sell later at a far higher price. Or, from those who might get their jol­lies post­ing con­tent that might em­bar­rass celebrity vic­tims.

Dot-porn and .adult names are be­ing ad­ver­tised as $100-a-year pur­chases.

“It’s still true what Benjamin Franklin used to say,” Tucker said: “An ounce of pre­ven­tion is worth a pound of cure.”

The cre­ation and sale of the new names is man­aged by the non­profit In­ter­net Con­sor­tium for As­signed Names and Num­bers, or ICANN, based in Playa Vista.

To pro­tect trade­mark hold­ers, ICANN rules give them an early-ac­cess pe­riod that al­lows them to buy their domain names be­fore it’s a free-for-all among the public. But some who do the early buy­ing com­pare it to extortion.

“Es­sen­tially, you have to pay hun­dreds of dol­lars to make sure other peo­ple don’t in­fringe on your trade­mark,” said Howard Ho­gan, an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty at­tor­ney at law firm Gibson Dunn. In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty law al­ready protects trade­marks, but try­ing to evict a cy­ber­squat­ter can be­come a costly pur­suit.

ICANN’s dis­tri­bu­tion of top-level domain names is a com­pli­cated process. Busi­nesses and other or­ga­ni­za­tions paid a $185,000 ap­pli­ca­tion fee to pro­pose new end­ings, which gen­er­ate rev­enue for the ap­pli­cants once sold.

A few of the new ap­pendages, such as .bank and .ho­tel, come with a re­stric­tion that only a ver­i­fied busi­ness in that in­dus­try can buy an ad­dress. Other ap­pli­cants are re­serv­ing some end­ings for their own use. Google, for ex­am­ple, won the rights to .google, and has said it wouldn’t be for sale to the public. Ama­zon grabbed .book af­ter a pri­vate auc­tion among sev­eral en­ti­ties vy­ing to con­trol it.

A Florida firm, ICM Reg­istry, won the rights to .porn and .adult.

Ac­cord­ing to Stu­art Law­ley, ICM’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, the .porn ad­dress will make for a safer In­ter­net — sort of like truth in la­bel­ing. “With the great­est re­spect, no one is go­ing to go to a .sex or .porn site by ac­ci­dent,” Law­ley said.

Pur­chasers of ICM do­mains must agree to let the com­pany scan web­sites for viruses and child pornog­ra­phy. If child pornog­ra­phy is spot­ted, ICM will no­tify child pro­tec­tion hot­lines and has the right to re­move those sites.

“We want peo­ple to go there with a re­laxed mode,” Law­ley said. “And make it so peo­ple who want to see the images can find them eas­ily and safely and those who don’t can stay away from it.”

Vox Pop­uli Reg­istry is be­hind the .sucks domain that’s set­ting trade­mark hold­ers back about $2,500 a pop. Af­ter a trade group for trade­mark own­ers called the scheme “preda­tory,” ICANN last week asked the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion to re­view whether the ex­tra­or­di­nary price vi­o­lates any laws. Though ad­dresses such as Mi­crosoft. sucks will in­evitably pop up, Vox Pop­uli is point­ing to the po­ten­tial of web­sites such as can­cer. sucks or racism. sucks to be­come ral­ly­ing sites on the Web for noble causes.

“The word sucks is now a protest word,” for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ralph Nader says in an ad for the domain that also fea­tures the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

At­tor­neys said they’ve ad­vised clients to pur­chase their trade­marks on the new ex­ten­sions that rep­re­sent the big­gest dan­gers.

“You want to be com­pre­hen­sive, but at the same time not be friv­o­lous on blow­ing your bud­get on things un­likely to cause harm,” Ho­gan said.

Be­tween de­fen­sive reg­is­tra­tions and in­ter­est from the adult en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, .porn and .adult should be­come main­stays. But Doug Isen­berg, an at­tor­ney who spe­cial­izes in domain-name is­sues, ex­pects plenty of re­cently ap­proved suf­fixes to dis­ap­pear. Just 16 out of the more than 300 new end­ings on sale to the public have reached 50,000 signups, a mile­stone that typ­i­cally trig­gers reg­istries such as ICM and Vox Pop­uli to pay fees to ICANN, ac­cord­ing to track­ing site nTLDs­tats.com.

Said Isen­berg, “Ev­ery­one’s hop­ing they have the next .com but very few, if any, of them will be as suc­cess­ful as .com.”

‘With the great­est re­spect, no one is go­ing to go to a .sex or .porn site by ac­ci­dent.’

— Stu­art Law­ley, CEO of ICM Reg­istry, a Florida firm that won the rights to the .porn and .adult domain names

Jesse Grant Getty Images for Neon Car­ni­val

PARIS HIL­TON at this month’s Neon Car­ni­val in Ther­mal, Calif. Her lawyer de­scribed the pur­chase of ParisHil­ton.porn as a de­fen­sive mea­sure.

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