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Businesses in the adult entertainment industry – and outside of it – from today have the opportunity to register or block .xxx domain names that match their trademarks.

ICM Registry, which has operated .xxx since it signed a contract with ICANN earlier this year, has launched a three-pronged "sunrise period" that will run for the next 52 days.

The pre-launch phase is designed to allow trademark owners to either snag a .xxx domain if they're in the porn business, or to pay to have their brands blocked forever if they're not.

While the sunrise has been characterised by many critics as a "shakedown", ICM is doing things a little differently to domain registries that have launched in the past.

As we have previously reported, a big chunk of the 15,000 names ICM has reserved match the names of celebrities – actors, politicians, sportsmen, singers – to prevent embarrassment.

It did not extend the same courtesy to big corporate brands.

However, uniquely to .xxx, any non-porn company wishing to take their .xxx name out of circulation permanently needs only pay a one-time fee, rather than paying up-front and renewing annually.

These domains will not resolve, and the name of the company requesting the block will not be disclosed in the Whois database.

Unfortunately for brand owners, the price of this service, which ranges from $200 to $300 at most registrars, is about the same as registering a .com domain for ten years. Any savings will only realistically be seen over the long term.

ICM's cut is about $160, but the company says it has priced the service on a cost-recovery basis assuming 10,000 defensive applications. Any fewer, and it will lose money.

For comparison, when Colombia's re-purposed .co extension launched last year, the registry saw 11,000 sunrise period registrations from companies worried about the potential for .com typos.

ICM is also giving porn webmasters the opportunity to get a .xxx to match their existing domains in other extensions. If you own a .com or .co.uk porn site, you may be able to get the equivalent .xxx.

When two or more applications are made for resolving .xxx domains, the applicants will have to fight it out at auction.

However, if a non-porn company wants to block its trademark and a porn webmaster applies because he owns the same string in another extension, the pornographer automatically wins the domain and the non-porn firm will have to seek redress elsewhere.

All .xxx domains will be subject to ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, which is designed to allow trademark owners to reclaim their brands from cybersquatters. This usually takes several weeks and costs $1,000 and up in arbitration fees.

ICM has also created a faster, more Draconian system called Rapid Evaluation Service, which will be administered by the National Arbitration Forum in the US.

Brand owners will be able to use RES, for a cost of $1,300, to have an obviously infringing domain taken down in just a few days. If they win the complaint, the domain will be set to a non-resolving status forever. That's in contrast to UDRP, which transfers domains and their renewal fees to successful complainants.

Some commentators, such as Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire expect that the high price of .xxx domains – around $80 to $100 – will deter many cybersquatters.

The sunrise period will be followed by a shorter "land rush" phase, during which anybody can pay a premium to apply for the domain they want before the .xxx extension opens up to general registration in December. ®

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