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Dot-sucks really sucks for brands and celebrities

Marketers and celebrities are scrambling to protect their brands from the new dot-sucks and dot-porn domain names before they go live in June 2015.

Taylor Swift has already grabbed taylorswift.porn on ICM Registry, according to a CNN interview of ICM CEO Stuart Lawley. Swift has long been proactive in protecting her brand on the Internet. Her organization had already snapped up unflattering variations of the conventional dot-com domain such as taylorswiftsucks.com, which was registered to her name in August 2011.

Vox Populi Registry Ltd, the administrator of dot-sucks, promotes the domain as a means to “foster debate” and “share opinions”. Dot-sucks, it says on its website, “is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism.” The domain administrator also says that “each dot-sucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization’s customer relationship management program.”

Association of National Advertisers (ANA) attorney Clark W. Lackert of Reed Smith LLP isn’t convinced. In an association blog, he cites former Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) criticism of dot-sucks as “little more than a predatory shakedown scheme.”

Whether it’s a customer service opportunity or a shakedown, any company that wishes to protect its brand has a lot to juggle. From November 2013 until the end 2015, more than 617 new top level domains, from dot-plumbing to dot-sucks, are being deployed by ICANN, the nonprofit organization that coordinates the unique identifiers on the Internet.

“Before you spend anything [with the domain registrars] to protect your brand, just keeping track of your trademarks [on the internet] is expensive,” says Dan Jaffe, EVP, Government Relations for the ANA.

Vox Populi has set a suggested price for “mybrand.sucks” type domains at $2,499, effective in the two months before the new web suffix goes live on June 1. These advance domain registrations will only be opened to those that have a trademark registered with the Trademark Clearing House (TMCH) which was set up by ICANN. For $150 a year per domain, brands can register their exact names on the TMCH, but only their exact names, in order to prevent squatters and fraudsters from expropriating their brand identity on the Internet.

For national advertisers with a deep stable of brands to protect, the prospect of shelling out fees for each and every brand to keep it away from dot-sucks is less than appealing. Industry insiders report that even the big advertisers are engaged in a grim sort of marketing triage, focusing their efforts on trademarks that would be the most vulnerable to a rogue dot-sucks website.

A less incendiary domain, dot-gripe, has been around since July 2014. Donuts, the administrator for that domain and the similar dot-wtf, has a service that allows trademark holders block their brand names from being registered at the second level (e.g., secondlevel.sucks) across the hundreds of domains administered by the Oregon-based registrar. Comcast.gripe, for example, has already been locked down by this Donuts service. Vox Populi allows marketers to block domains on an individual basis.