New York Seeks to Regulate Domain Names

Steve Javors
ALBANY, N.Y. — According to a New York State proposal if you’re a fan thinking of buying a domain named after your favorite adult star, think again. A new bill seeks to outlaw the domain name registration of a living person by another person, with the intent to sell the site back to its namesake or someone else.

The bill, named the Domain Names Cyber Piracy Protections Act, enjoyed unanimous support in the New York State Senate, passing 59-0. Sen. Betty Little of the 45th Congressional District representing upstate New York proposed the new legislation. The bill will now be voted on by the state Assembly.

The bill reads, “No person shall register a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that person’s consent, with specific intent to profit from such name by selling the domain name for financial gain to that person or any third party.”

In the adult industry, where a pornstar’s name is their livelihood, this issue takes on significant importance.

Many adult stars have faced problems over domain squatting. Defiance Films contract director Taylor Rain had her name stolen and held ransom by a webmaster who offered to sell it back for $10,000. Rain refused.

Tera Patrick also faced a cybersquatter who registered her name and offered to sell it to her for a large profit.

While many legal professionals and adult webmasters agree this is a growing problem, the bill will face staunch opposition and roadblocks. Experts say this initial step is to test the waters and generate buzz for similar legislation nationwide.

Legal experts point to particular wording in one of the proposed law’s provisions they believe would make it impossible to be enacted because it would put the onus on the registrar and subject them to fines for “improperly” registered domain names, as defined in the bill.

“The court may fine the registrar, domain name registry, or other domain name registration authority, one thousand dollars for each day the violation occurs,” the bill says. “The court may also order the transfer of the domain name as part of the relief awarded.”

Webmasters in the adult industry see this measure as a good step for their clients, but are unsure as to how the bill would be implemented.

“We have this problem with half of the girls we do sites for,” Christian Amico of Porn Star Dollars told XBIZ. Amico’s company designs and manages official pornstar sites. “We can get the sites back from ICANN, but it costs $2,500. To these girls, their name means everything. It’s how they are known and make money in this industry.”

Sen. Little did not respond to requests for comment at press time.