Maryland Legislator Proposes .Sex TLD

Maryland Legislator Proposes .Sex TLD
Jeff Berg
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland state legislator Michael Smigiel Sr. is proposing a bill that would require all adult websites that transmit data within the state to have a “.sex” top-level domain.

The bill, which will probably be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly early next week, will mandate a TLD on par with the .xxx designation currently being considered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

According to Smigiel, a staunch civil libertarian, the new bill should answer the question of how to protect minors without inhibiting any constitutional rights.

“I want people to be able to conduct their business with as little government interference as possible,” Smigiel told XBiz.

The idea came to Smigiel while having a conversation with a technology expert one day, he said, and has grown from there.

“It was an epiphany,” Smigiel said. “I asked, ‘Why can’t we just stop the pornography from reaching people who don’t want it without interfering with anyone’s First Amendment rights?’”

Smigiel’s bill, which became highly publicized on Friday after reporters overheard the legislator collecting signatures for the bill, would not require any censorship of the .sex domain names, but would charge a $1000 fine for sites that contained adult content and operated without a .sex domain suffix.

Smigiel said that, by having a .sex domain suffix, it would make it very easy for software filters to block unwanted access to adult sites, and the idea would fund itself because .sex would become a highly sought after domain in the adult arena.

“The only downside that I see here is that it prevents people from getting content that they either explicitly didn’t want access to or didn’t want to accidentally run into,” Smigiel said.

The new bill bares a resemblance to the controversial .xxx sponsored TLD currently under consideration by ICANN.

Applied for in early 2004, .xxx was one of the eight sTLDs that ICANN hoped would be the first stage in expanding the domain name system.

Proposed by ICM Registry founder Jason Hendeles, the idea met with controversy in late 2003 when the Free Speech Coalition declined to throw its support behind .xxx.

According to FSC’s executive director at the time, the idea of concentrating all adult businesses under one TLD opened up the possibility of wide-spread government censorship.

“There is too much danger of ghetto-ization,” former Executive Director Bill Lyon told XBiz at the time. “There would be more opportunities for the government to exert control over a TLD that was solely content-oriented toward adult entertainment than it would be for a TLD like .com.”

The .xxx domain has not yet been approved by ICANN.

Smigiel said that his new bill would not apply to sites that did not transmit content inside of the state of Maryland, though, and ICANN’s approval of the TLD was not necessary.

Though Smigiel said that Maryland would probably apply to the international regulatory agency if the bill were passed, they would find a way to legislate around it.

“If we cannot give you a .sex, we’ll settle for a .sex.com,” Smigiel said. “It just has to have .sex in there somewhere to make it easy to filter out.”

Gary Kremen, owner of Sex.com, finds fault with Smigiel’s plan, though, and suggested that the act of corralling websites based on content may violate First Amendment rights. Kremen also said that any requirements for all adult sites that transmit data to Maryland to have a .sex.com suffix would be met with a trademark infringement lawsuit.