Shock and Awww – PETA Registers .XXX Domain Name

As we have blogged before, many companies are currently taking advantage of Sunrise Period B (which expires on October 28, 2011) to block .xxx domains containing their registered trademarks. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken a dramatically different tactic that is worth noting to spread the word about their message.

Taking advantage of Sunrise A Period for companies who wish to register, not merely block, .xxx domains, PETA has registered the PETA.XXX domain name. In doing so, PETA, known for its “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” anti-fur advertising campaigns featuring tastefully covered nude celebrities, stated its intent to launch a nudity and erotic-based website in the name of animal rights. PETA reportedly intends to launch its own .xxx website in order to appeal to a new audience it normally does not reach and shock them with graphic images of animal cruelty – images these individuals did not expect to see when accessing a .xxx website. In addition to pornographic content, PETA adds that the site will be interspersed with undercover photos and footage of animals being mistreated, as well as vegetarian and vegan recipes. The foregoing strategy may not be an entirely surprising move for PETA. The organization has never been shy about using images or methods with shock value to create publicity –both positive and negative — to emphasize their message in favor of humane animal treatment.

The tactic is novel and worth noting as an example of how companies may use the domain name reservation process for marketing and publicity purposes. That said, it is also interesting to note that Sunrise Period A was uniquely designed for adult-industry trademark owners, not mainstream entities. As a result of PETA’s potential misuse of the process, issues will likely arise regarding reserving domain names. For example, as the .xxx domain name process is currently set up, a legitimate adult-industry trademark owner will have priority over a Sunrise Period B should the two companies register for an identical domain, regardless of who filed first. In addition, if a conflict arises between two trademark owners who have reserved the same domain during Sunrise Period A, the domain name will be auctioned among all qualified Sunrise A applicants. Accordingly, if other mainstream companies follow PETA’s example, it will be interesting to see how the Registry, as well as legitimate adult-industry trademark owners, will handle those demands and potential conflicts.
Practice Tip: Needless to say, PETA’s registration of an .xxx domain name may not necessarily be appropriate for other organizations. Many companies may not welcome the additional expense (about $300-400 per domain) or the perceived negative attention of not merely blocking but actually registering an .xxx domain. One might be concerned that PETA’s move will lead other companies and nonprofits to consider registering .xxx domains when the more appropriate action would be to simply block the domains. It is judicious to counsel clients about all the options available and their respective pros and cons with respect to the .xxx domain registration process, removed from the hype surrounding PETA’s move.

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