Texas colleges buying .xxx sites to head off porn

(AP photo)

December 11, 2011 7:46:04 PM PST
Texas A&M University has bought up 15 .xxx website names to keep the pornography industry from associating itself with various Aggie trademarks. The University of Texas at Austin also blocked about a dozen names, including "hookemhorns.xxx."

The purchases are part of a trend in which companies and universities are paying to avoid inadvertently becoming linked with pornographic websites.

ICM Registry of Palm Beach, Fla., is the exclusive manager of the .xxx names and sells them through a dozen middleman companies such as GoDaddy.com for an average of $100 a year. ICM sold .xxx names for the past two months exclusively to companies and others that wanted to protect their brands from the porn industry, registering nearly 80,000 names during the sale.

Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook said administrators chose to protect the university's federally protected trademarks, including mascot "Reveille," at a cost of $3,000 to $5,000.

"Our trademarks are extremely valuable to Texas A&M," Cook told The Eagle of Bryan-College Station. "The last thing we want is for these valuable trademarks to be associated with the porn industry."

"The way we view this is as an insurance policy," Gary Suswein, spokesman at the University of Texas at Austin, told the newspaper. "It costs us something up front but we avoid the problem of having our reputation ... tarnished by websites we can't control or don't support."

Shane Hinckley, A&M's assistant vice president for business development and past president of the International Collegiate Licensing Association, said he warned his and other universities of the looming potential problem early this year.

"When it comes down to it, the way you have affinity with something is through its brand, and we take that responsibility seriously," he told The Eagle.

Jonathan Coopersmith, an A&M associate history professor who has written about pornography as it relates to technology, said the universities' move to block certain names is "sad to say, a reasonable defensive precaution." However, he said he worries that such strategies amount to a "protection racket."

ICM Chairman and CEO Stuart Lawley has told The Associated Press the company will take steps to protect existing trademarks even if companies or schools fail to lock down certain website names.

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