ICM Registry's Stuart Lawley Profiled in Businessweek

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley, the mastermind behind the adoption of the .XXX TLD is profiled in an in-depth article in Bloomberg’s Businessweek.

The article, titled “The New Republic of Porn,” tracks Lawley’s business career from his beginnings as a Sharp fax machine salesman to eventually forming Eurofax and then Internet company Oneview, both of which he sold for millions of dollars.

Lawley’s path from a 30 percent purchase of Canadian startup company ICM Registry in 2003 to its successful campaign to have .XXX adopted last year is chronicled along with comments from some of adult’s top executives including Hustler’s Larry Flynt and Michael Klein, Evil Angel’s Christian Mann, Pink Visual’s Allison Vivas, the Free Speech Coalition’s Diane Duke and former Hustler President Jim Kohls.

The piece talks about how the ICM chief got the idea for .XXX after doing his homework when he by chance discovered that ICANN — the nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, California, that regulates TLDs — failed to approve an earlier bid to register the TLD.

“There was an obvious, no-brainer path to profits,” Lawley said. “This stuff has a legitimate right to exist. People want to buy it. If you clearly identify this material, it will get to willing consumers and won’t bother people who don’t want to see it.”

 “When I got into the research in 2003, I was stunned by the money to be made in the adult space. Billions were being spent, probably more than ticket sales for all [U.S.] movies and sporting events combined. This had gone way beyond porn-spam e-mail and pop-up ads for penis enlargement,” he told Businessweek.

Lawley said he wanted to “clean up” the online adult industry ”dominated by short-term thinking and sleazy tactics.”  ”You had mousetrapping sites that wouldn’t let consumers escape, and autodialing software that would just keep slamming your credit card month after month, even if you tried to cancel. Malware programs infected customers’ computers, stealing personal information and paralyzing hard drives.”

Seeing its potential, Lawley felt .XXX would provide a voluntary warning label that people would recognize and would be easy to filter out.  He subsequently launched a renewed campaign for the approval of .XXX, despite another rejection by ICANN in March 2007 over concern of whether ICM really represented the interests of its own constituency and the Internet as a whole.

Businessweek also delves into the controversy that surrounds .XXX from the porn industry itself that believes the TLD could “ghettoize” the business and give the government new censorship tools, along with legal challenges like Manwin’s antitrust suit.

The story also lays out concerns about Lawley’s attempt to create a massive moneymaking monopoly for himself and accusations of “defensive registrations” of .XXX TLDs that amount to “running a protection racket: bullying businesses, adult and otherwise, to shield their intellectual property by defensively purchasing .XXX.”

Flak from anti-porn groups worried about a general increase in porn consumption, along with global concern over the proliferation of porn into unwitting countries is also covered.

The subsequent adoption of .XXX, with some porn companies dishing out large sums of cash ($500,000 from Corbin Fisher for gay.xxx), and ICM's recent bids for TLDs like .porn, .adult., and .sex are also noted in the story.

And Lawley has even more on the drawing board, according to the article, including a micropayment system he says he will introduce in early 2013 that he plans to finance with an unidentified major name-brand bank.

“Online porn is suffering the way the music business suffered with Napster and file-sharing,” Lawley said. “If there were a totally reliable way to buy small bits of high-quality adult content, the way you can download a single song from iTunes, people would go back to paying for it, the way they went back to paying for music.”

He also talked about porn via mobile technology. “As Apple’s app store bans adult,” he said, there is a huge market for adult apps to be developed independently for .XXX sites.

Businessweek reported that some producers who fought against ICM are now acknowledging that he has gotten further than they anticipated.

Although Pink Visual ‘s Vivas believes .com is still the best source for most porn buyers, she said Lawley has made some good money on .XXX.  "I can't blame him as a businessman," she told Businessweek.