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Lawrence Graham LLp
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The internet's .xxx "red light district" is open for business

After much debate and consultation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved the use of the ".xxx" domain name at a meeting on Friday 18 March. 

It has created the new sponsored top level domain name (sTLD) amid much controversy.  ICM Registry first applied to sponsor .xxx domain in 2003 and it has taken 8 years to obtain approval as the application was initially blocked by ICANN. 

ICANN has published a draft report detailing the rationale for approving the .xxx domain name.  It is interesting and perhaps unsurprising that ICANN states that this issue has generated more community reponse than almost any other that it faces.  Arguments against the approval came from both the sex industry, who fear that its websites will be ostracised, and religious groups who claim that .xxx legitimises the existence of websites with adult content.

ICANN's report outlines the consultation process and the advice provided by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), whose key role is to provide advice to ICANN on public policy issues.  There are claims that ICANN has ignored some of GAC's advice and that there is uncertainty over the status of the advice provided.  In its report, ICANN maintains that its decision is consistent with GAC's advice and explains clearly the reasons for any difference from the GAC advice.

One of GAC's key concerns was that approving the .xxx domain name would make ICANN responsible for administering content.  ICANN explained in an interview broadcast on its website that many of its existing contracts require the same level of monitoring and supervision and the fact that the case in hand involves the adult industry does not alter the type of involvement that ICANN will have.

ICANN is keen to encourage the community to continue to steer the domain name and system and it is hailing this decision as a clear example that its application process and dispute resolution system function well and foster a strong self regulatory model. 

Mass popularity for the .xxx domain name has been displayed amid reports that the ICM Registry has received almost 300,000 .xxx domain name reservations.  ICANN expect that the .xxx domain names will be officially launched on 20 June this year but it should be noted that it has not yet formally approved the contract with ICM for the introduction of the .xxx domain.

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