HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) organized a panel Saturday morning at The AVN Show that featured several members of the adult industry speaking to a room full of attendees about their concerns regarding the planned dot-XXX sTLD. The hour-long session also kicked off with the debut of a short film that satirized the ICM Registry application.
The panel, which was moderated by Wasteland founder Colin Rowntree, included Hustler President Michael Klein, Burning Angel founder Joanna Angel, MiKandi Chief Software Architect Christopher Lewicki and FSC Executive Director Diane Duke, who had organized the session.
The 8-minute film, .XXX - The Movie!, was written by industry veteran Theresa “Darklady” Reed and directed by Rowntree, and features cameos by several industry leaders. It was screened for the first time to the public and was well-received by the audience, who laughed at the many funny parts and gave it a round of applause when it was over.
Following the screening, Rowntree took to the podium to begin the discussion. He first asked the panelists if they thought there would be a financial gain for the industry from a dot-XXX TLD.
“There will be a cost to the industry,” said Lewicki, “in that much of our software will not be consistent with dot-XXX. Unfortunately, it won’t become apparent until it starts choking the system.”
Angel said that her immediate concern was the price of domains, but that she was also worried about having to fight to acquire her own dot-com trademarked sites and the costs that would incur. Klein agreed, adding that Hustler owns thousands of sites.
“People are already grabbing up domains,” he said. “It will cost about $1,400 each to get back these trademarked domains.”
Duke said that ICM has stated that it could earn upwards of $200 million per year from dot-XXX. “That money comes right out of our industry,” she added.
Rowntree then raised the issue of responsibility—something that ICM says will be required of dot-XXX domain owners.
“We already are responsible,” insisted Klein. “Don’t you think we can already work together? Who needs someone else to come tell us how to run our businesses?”
“I’m really irresponsible,’ said Angel, tongue firmly in cheek. “Actually, I use a good portion of my money to make sure everything we do is up to code.”
Lewicki jumped at the mention of “code.”
“If it was that easy to write some code that would make a website responsible, it would have been done a long time ago, but it isn’t,” he said. Dot-XXX policies, he added, will of necessity have to be enforced by humans on a case-by-case basis, and will “likely be parsed out unevenly. It’s a straw man from a technological perspective.”
Angel added that she feels as if people who are already responsible will actually suffer from a new sponsored dot-XXX and its underlying policy-making organization, the International Federation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR).
Rowntree then asked the panelists what they felt were the biggest downsides to the rollout of a sponsored dot-XXX.
Klein mentioned the big expense to registering many domains, the possible ghettoizing of the industry, confusion among consumers, and harm to current search engine optimization efforts. Klein said he believed the sponsored TLD was not needed in the first place and would mainly benefit those who have snapped up .XXX domains.
Angel said she was concerned that dot-XXX domains will lead to an invasion of privacy for consumers, and a slippery slope that could lead to more segregation of erotic content.
“Where will it end,” she asked, rhetorically. “Will I need it on my Twitter and Facebook pages, too? Once, I couldn’t update my blog at the airport [because it had been blocked.] That could be extended to entire cities if it goes through. It’s disrespectful.”
“I’ve worked hard to make my site a pop culture site,” volunteered Angel, “and I would be offended to be branded as just XXX. A lot of the people who come to my site come for the first time for other than sexual reasons. This is insulting to so many of us who have built legitimate businesses.”
Duke added, “If there is a dot-XXX, it can be used as a tool by governments or corporate entities. It’s just an easier tool to use against the industry.”
Rowntree then asked Chris to briefly explain the difference between a general top-level domain (gTLD) and a sponsored top-level domain (sTLD).
“G is equality and freedom; anyone can register one,” he said. “S is the country club and specifically lets the registry decide who gets in and who gets to play."
Klein added, “And let’s not forget the $250 it will cost just to park a domain.”
Rowntree then asked Diane Duke to explain the current state of the dot-XXX application. She said that a newly renegotiated application will be posted to the ICANN website shortly, after which there will be another comment period and a final vote by the ICANN board of directors whether to approve the TLD. The Government Advisory Council also is supposed to be queried as to any issues it has with the application, according to ICANN’s bylaws.
“ICM is saying this is a done deal,” Duke told the crowd, “but it is not a done deal. We [FSC] have a strategy to block the application. I have spoken with people from ICANN, and they agreed that this is not a done deal.”
The session was then thrown open to questions, of which there were a few. Evil Angel owner John Stagliano, fresh off acquittal in his obscenity case and one of the cameos in the XXX movie, asked whether there would be a legal challenge if people were forced to give up their domains and relocate into dot-XXX.
“Yes,” said Duke, “but it would cost millions of dollars. There are other avenues to block this.”
YNOT’s Jay Kopita asked where the industry support is for the ICM application. “The list of supporters should be made public,” he said, wondering aloud why they don’t reveal themselves if this is such a positive venture.
“We want to know, too,” said Duke.
Industry attorney and Stagliano legal team member Allan Gelbard than commented that all the stress and thrashing about was unnecessary, since there was a likelihood that anti-trust and trademark legal challenges would be brought immediately following the final approval by the ICANN board.
The final comment was from a gentleman in the back of the room, who questioned some of the arguments against the sponsored TLD in light of the fact that ICANN is about to roll out a myriad number of general TLDs, including, presumably, a number of adult ones. Many of the problems people see occurring with the current proposed dot-XXX, he said, would be equally in play with, say, dot-porn or any other adult-related TLDs.
Diane Duke provided AVN with the following comment about the session.
"It was a great crowd and I hope we were able to use a balance of humor from the video with input from our panelists to explain this complicated but serious issue,” she said. “The impression I got was that a vast majority of the audience was in agreement that .XXX sTLD is bad for the industry. But that's nothing new for us, since we have never been able to identify one company in the industry that supports it."
AVN also has reported on the launch of DotXXXOpposition.com, a website created by Darklady that contains .XXX - The Movie!.