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May 24, 2006

Registrar Sues Commerce Dept. for Docs Over Failed .xxx Domain

ICM Registry is suing the Department of Commerce to gain access to the documents and emails concerning the creation of the .xxx domain.  ICANN defeated the domain creation recently on a 9-5 vote.  The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is meant to show how the United States government interfered with ICANN, an independent body, on behalf of the religious right for political reasons.

That may be, but post-defeat analysis shows that several other governments had issues with the creation of the domain and that the porn industry was also generally opposed to the idea.  Most porn entrepreneurs have established URLs where they conduct business and were not looking forward to the disruption moving to another domain would cause.  The domain also represented another level of regulation the industry felt it didn't need.  From their perspective, having a .com address put them on par with other "legitimate" businesses. 

Some religious leaders have claimed the opposite, that a .xxx domain would legitimize the porn industry.  If creating the domain would have this effect, it would largely be a formality at this point.  A quick look at Google trends shows that the historical trends for searching the word "porn" has increased over time (2004-2006).  The top 10 cities identified by Google where the searches originated are:

1. Birmingham  United Kingdom   
2. Manchester  United Kingdom   
3. Brisbane  Australia   
4. Perth  Australia   
5. Melbourne  Australia   
6. Sydney  Australia   
7. Brentford  United Kingdom   
8. San Diego, CA  USA   
9. Chicago, IL  USA   
10. Los Angeles, CA  USA

At last look, all of these locations are in democratic countries with elected governments where freedom of religion is respected.  (Checking the results for the word "pornography" rather than "porn" brings up a different list with Salt Lake City coming in at 3 and Seattle coming in at 10.)

On a regional basis, the results showed these countries in the top 10:

1. South Africa   
2. New Zealand   
3. Ireland   
4. Australia   
5. United Kingdom   
6. Norway   
7. Canada   
8. India   
9. United States   
10. Finland 

Google Trends uses a number of qualifiers to create these lists and the company does not promote the Trends service as scientific.  The point here is that porn is popular as an Internet search.  That creates a kind of legitimacy irrespective of any one view on the topic or how it's organized on the web.  The value of this suit is not to promote or denigrate pornography, but to show the influence and motivation  of the United States government in ICANN's decisions.  That should create some interesting political fodder.

Stories and commentary are in Ars Technica, Business Week, the BBC, and Network World.

May 24, 2006 | Permalink

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