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Fate of porn domain left in government hands

One last hurdle for .XXX

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The porn-only .xxx internet domain is set to come under review by international governments, after ICANN deferred voting on the proposal until December.

This week, the organisation decided to refer the controversial domain to its Governmental Advisory Committee, which may prove to be the last hurdle it has to jump before being approved.

The GAC has historically been less than keen on the idea of a domain just for porn, so ICANN's move could be seen as a setback for ICM Registry, the company behind the proposal.

The GAC is an advisory body, but ICANN is bound by its bylaws to take its opinions seriously. If the GAC arrived as a consensus against .xxx, it could hurt the domain's chances of being approved.

But Stuart Lawley, ICM's president, said he believes the GAC consultation, which is expected to be completed before ICANN's public meeting in Colombia this December, is just a formality.

"We understand that ICANN wants to cross all of its t's and dot its i's by reaching out to the GAC," he said. "We welcome the board's resolve to move forward expeditiously, and continue to look forward to a first quarter launch."

The resolution passed by ICANN's board of directors on Thursday refers to previous advice given by the GAC, which primarily relates to the issue of whether ICM has sufficient support from its "sponsored community".

The .xxx proposal is opposed by many in the porn business, notably the Free Speech Coalition, a US-based trade association for the "adult entertainment" industry.

“Stuart Lawley can stand on the rooftops and shout that this is a done deal all he wants but this is an insurmountable obstacle for ICM to overcome,” FSC director Diane Duke said in a statement. “FSC pointed that fact out to the Board in our letter requesting that they seek consultation with GAC and apparently, they agreed.”

ICM and ICANN now seem to believe that the registry contract they have worked out goes far enough to address the GAC's previous concerns.

But the latest ICANN resolution also refers to an August letter from the GAC chair, Heather Dryden of Canada, which strongly questions whether any "controversial" domains should be added to the internet.

In that letter, the GAC states its concern that domains such as .xxx, which may end up being blocked by some censorious regimes, could eventually lead to alternate domain name systems being set up, fragmenting the internet. ®

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