UI won't go triple-X in domain names

Other schools are registering special new domain names to protect brands from adult-oriented enterprises

Unless you like receiving cease-and-desist letters from the University of Illinois' legal team, don't even think about launching a website like universityofillinois.xxx to sell or promote, ahem, adult entertainment or anything else.

Same goes for FightingIllini.xxx, or other similar UI-related sites.

It's been open season on .xxx domain names since ICM Registry of Florida started making the domains available for registration this month. Earlier this fall, companies and institutions wanting to protect their trademarks were given the opportunity to register their names before the rest of the public was allowed to do so.

Some colleges and universities, such as Illinois State University and Parkland College, have responded by registering .xxx names to protect their brands from the adult entertainment industry. But not all of them have taken the approach of buying up .xxx domain names.

"We decided that was not an effective strategy," said Mike Corn, the UI's chief information security officer. "If someone is misrepresenting themselves ... we can still approach them on trademark violations," he said.

Corn said university staff started discussing options about a year ago. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which manages domains such as .com, .org, .edu, approved the new .xxx earlier this year. The proposal had been in the works for several years.

The thinking at the UI was people could register Illinigirls.xxx, HotIllinicoeds.xxx or any number of UI or Illini sites.

"Ultimately we decided not to register any. Primarily because there's no way to anticipate what people are going to register. ... Are we really going to think of 50 of them and register them?" he said.

Corn called such activity a "fool's errand."

Plus, if you consider paying annual registrations for 50 or 100 domains, the cost can add up, he said.

Over at Parkland College, staff are in the process of registering one site: parkland.xxx.

Patty Lehn, the college's director of marketing and public relations, estimated the cost at $80 and worth it.

"We certainly want to protect our brand," she said.

In September, Illinois State University registered several names with the .xxx suffix and then followed-up with registering a few additional names earlier this month. The site names include, for example, goredbirds.xxx, isu.xxx (Idaho State was the first to get the .edu domain), wglt.xxx (the name of the college radio station) and several others.

"It keeps someone from using our brand," said Mark Walbert, ISU's chief technology officer.

The amount ISU spent on domain registrations this year was up from previous year, totaling about $3,000, Walbert estimated, but he said he felt it was a preemptive move to avoid dealing with legal issues (and legal costs) later.

The UI registers a fair number of domains, such as the current illinois.edu and its predecessor, uiuc.edu. There are a slew of others it manages, for the alumni association and for academic journals based on campus. Corn estimated the number at over 200.

"We do have people who have cybersquatted or pretended to be us," Corn said. If the university contacts the firm directly or through its lawyers, "they'll stop it."

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DEB wrote on December 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

It's gotta be a lot harder to protect a name like "Illinois" than to protect "U of I" or "illini." If someone registered IllinoisSports.com (or org or xxx), it has got to be hard to prove that hurts UIUC and not the State of Illinois. This is probably a good move by the UI. Unlike ISU where they only need to worry about ISU and Redbird domains, UIUC would have so many variants on UIUC, UI, Illinois, Illini, UofI, etc. that we'd soon be complaining about them misspending their (our) money on domain names.