Contract Talks Over .XXX Have FSC Concerned

Michael Hayes
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Just when it looked like ICANN had buckled under U.S. Commerce Department pressure to shelve the proposed .XXX top-level domain, leaving ICM Registry in the cold, the Free Speech Coalition is concerned that .XXX may once again be alive and well. At issue are a series of correspondences between ICANN’s General Advisory Committee, Commerce and ICM regarding contract provisions that, if adopted, would be binding on all .XXX domains.

While .XXX appeared to have stalled of late, a recent bill introduced by Sens. Max Baucus and Mark Pryor combined with the current contract talks raises old concerns anew.

A March 20 letter from Commerce to GAC stated “that the key commitments offered by ICM Registry to the GAC are not reflected in the provisions of the proposed .XXX Registry Agreement.”

That letter drew criticism from ICM President Stuart Lawley, who stated in a March 25 letter to GAC that Commerce was incorrect in its assessment. In that letter, Lawley asserted ICM’s commitment to best practices to obligate registrants to prohibit illegal content.

That assertion raised alarms at the FSC. Chief among the trade-group’s concerns were that no specifics regarding how material would be deemed “illegal” were given, nor was there any mention of who would make that determination, according to Tom Hymes, communications director for the FSC.

According to the FSC, the following provisions also are being recommended for inclusion in the ICANN/ICM agreement:

  • Proof of age will be required of actors portrayed in .XXX domains.
  • A WHOIS compliance policy with “additional verification processes” must be established for all .XXX domains.
  • ICM Registry will maintain accurate details of registrants and assist law enforcement agencies to identify and contact the owners of particular websites.
  • ICM Registry will ensure the protection of intellectual property and trademark rights, personal names, country names, names of historical, cultural and religious significance and names of geographic identifiers drawing on best practices in the development of registration and eligibility rules.
  • “The Free Speech Coalition has long opposed the establishment of a .XXX top-level domain name because of its potential to serve as an easy censorship tool,” Hymes said. “ICM Registry’s hope to establish and operate a voluntary .XXX TLD free from government interference appears to be a dangerous pipe dream, now more than ever before.”