Industry News

Manwin & ICM in Talks


Manwin, ICM in Settlement Talks?
by Sue Denim
Published on February 15th, 2012 03:02 PM
YNOT – Manwin, ICM Registry and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers have filed a joint stipulation with the court that may signal talks are in progress to settle the antitrust lawsuit Manwin filed against the other two in November.

Filed Tuesday in the Manwin v ICM Registry lawsuit, the document requests a hearing, originally scheduled for April 2, be removed from the court’s calendar. The stipulation also indicates Manwin intends to file an amended complaint by Friday, and the defendants will have until April 17 to respond.

“…[I]n recent days, Plaintiffs and ICM have engaged in discussions aimed at resolving the disputes that are the subject of this litigation,” the stipulation notes. “The parties believe that additional time would potentially allow the parties to resolve all or some portion of their disputes.”

The lawsuit, filed by Manwin and Digital Playground in November at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges “monopolistic conduct, price gouging, and anti-competitive and unfair practices [that] broadly [harm] competition, businesses and consumers.” Manwin, which acquired Digital Playground in January, seeks a permanent injunction against dot-xxx, forced rebidding of the contract to manage dot-xxx, or the imposition of “reasonable price constraints and service requirements” on registrations, in addition to court costs and attorney fees.

On Jan. 20, ICANN and ICM Registry filed separate motions to dismiss, saying they are not subject to the provisions of federal and California antitrust statutes the lawsuit claims they violated. In addition, ICM’s motion argued Manwin’s lawsuit lacks basis in fact.

“…[T]he Complaint here is nothing more than a transparent and ironic attempt to use the antitrust laws to eliminate a new internet platform for adult content — .XXX — that plaintiff Manwin perceives as posing unwelcome competition to its dominant .com adult-entertainment empire,” ICM’s motion stated. “[P]resumably because they cannot show any damages from the challenged conduct, Manwin and Digital Playground instead seek sweeping and unsupportable injunctive relief enjoining the .XXX [Top Level Domain] altogether, voiding the ICM-ICANN contract and/or imposing price and other restrictions on the offering of registry services.”

As part of its response, ICM filed personal declarations from both ICM Chief Executive Officer Stuart Lawley and Marketing Director Greg Dumas. According to Lawley and Dumas, Manwin — which claims to be the largest operator of adult websites in the world — embarked upon its legal challenge to dot-xxx after an attempt to wring special concessions from ICM failed.

Lawley and Dumas stated in their declarations that Manwin desired concessions including:
Allocation of several thousand dot-xxx domain names to Manwin free of charge.

ICM’s commitment to circumvent its policy development body, the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, particularly with regard to the operation of tube sites within dot-xxx.

Across-the-board discounts on dot-xxx domain registrations.

Allocation of so-called “premium” domains, including, to be operated by Manwin under a revenue-sharing agreement with ICM.

ICM’s assistance in putting “a positive spin” on Manwin’s participation in the dot-xxx domain space, since Manwin has been an outspoken opponent of the domain space.

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