Brands fight porn domain squatting

2012-03-06 08:30
Geneva - Within three months of the launch of the internet "pornography" domain ".xxx", 10 cases have been launched against web pirates registering sites on it using the names of reputable companies and people, insiders said on Monday.

Sources at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) reported that among complainants to its dispute resolution system over .xxx - usually called dot-triple x - were banks, a jewellery business and an online shopping operation.

One individual complaint, against a site called femjoy.xxx, was brought by someone named George Streit, according to Wipo's dispute website. But the sources could not say if this was George Strait, the US country music singer. Wipo officials could also not confirm whether the slightly different spelling was a typographical error.

Wipo, whose Director General Francis Gurry reported on Monday that cases of web piracy, commonly called cyber squatting, rose 2.5% in 2011 involving a record 4 781 sites with nearly 90% resolved in favour of complainants.

Many world-famous personalities, such as Tom Cruise and soccer player Wayne Rooney, and major corporations and brand names like Barclays Bank and Nestlé, have in the past won cyber squatting cases in Wipo.

Special domain


But these have all been brought against owners of sites registered under well-known and long-established domains such as .com, .int and .org, or the national suffixes identifying countries, including France's .fr.

Cyber squatters often register at a nominal fee using commonly known names or brands with the aim of selling them at a profit to the real name owners. But they also use misleading sites to attract web surfers to their own products or services.

The .xxx domain came into operation on December 6 2011, after years of debate within the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), on how to control the spread of pornography on the web and make it manageable.

Supporters of the idea of a special domain argued that it would enable parents and employers to control more easily the sites to which their children and employees had access by cutting off a single domain rather than separate sites.

Critics said most pornographic site providers might register under .xxx - named after the X used in the past to rate films with sexual content - but would keep their sites also under .com or whatever domain they had used before.

The first case over a site on .xxx was brought less than three weeks after it opened with the Turkish online shopping company Markafoni, owned by giant South African multimedia company Naspers, complaining to Wipo over the site markatoni.xxx.

Settlement system

The others have followed this year, with several of them involving more Turkish companies, a major Swedish real estate portal HemNet Sverige over a site called hemnet.xxx and Polish bank BGZ.SA over bgz.xxx.

Wipo officials, who have been running their dispute settlement system for more than a decade, say they expect an additional surge of cases when a range of new domain names approved by Icann come into use in the coming months and years.

They declined to give details of the cases, apart from the names of the registered complainants, until the expert judges - usually one per case - have made their rulings, generally within three months after the case has been filed.
Read more on:    wipo  |  naspers  |  icann  |  internet
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