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Porno cyber-squatter landed in Branson pickle

Richardbranson.xxx is Virgin on ridiculous, complains Sir

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Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has filed a cybersquatting complaint over the domain name richardbranson.xxx.

Branson is one of the first people to use ICANN's snappily titled Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to try to reclaim a potentially embarrassing address in the new porn-friendly .xxx space.

To win control of the domain, Branson's lawyers will have to prove to a US National Arbitration Forum panel that he has legal rights to the name, that the squatter does not, and that the name was registered in bad faith.

He's not guaranteed a win. Celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga are among those to have previously lost UDRP cases for domain names exactly matching their famous monikers.

The Branson domain was registered on 10 December by an Australian called Sean Truman, according to Whois records.

It currently resolves to a registrar placeholder page, so beard-porn fetishists are out of luck – the best you're going to get if you visit the site today is a photo of a Go Daddy Girl in a flimsy top.

Five UDRP complaints have been filed over .xxx domain names in the last three weeks. The other allegedly cyber-squatted domains so far are valero.xxx, heb.xxx, markafoni.xxx and foxstudios.xxx.

The adults-only .xxx top-level domain was launch by a Florida company, ICM Registry, last December after a 10-year battle with ICANN and the US government.

While the company reports about 200,000 registrations to date, tens of thousands of domains were registered defensively by trademark owners outside the porn business and tens of thousands more do not currently resolve, according to online records.

ICM also created a second dispute system called the Rapid Evaluation Service, which is designed to let trademark owners and celebrities quickly take down allegedly infringing .xxx domains. It's not clear why Branson chose to use the slower and more expensive UDRP route instead.

Curiously, while virgin.xxx is an arguably generic name, well-suited to the porn industry, which might have fetched a high price at auction, ICM instead permanently reserved it from registration during its trademark protection launch phase last autumn. ®

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