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Colleges buying up .xxx domain names
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Colleges buying up .xxx domain names

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Nebraska colleges and universities are buying up dozens of Internet domain names that otherwise might have been purchased by enterprising owners of pornography websites.

By reserving domain names such as Huskers.xxx and GoBigRed.xxx, the University of Nebraska hopes to prevent pornography website owners, aspiring entrepreneurs and others from exploiting the university's reputation for a profit.

"The concern was about somebody possibly going to the wrong site by mistake," said Mark Askren, chief information officer for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "It's kind of the next round or chapter in what's been going on for 15 years."

The .xxx suffix is meant to distinguish porn sites from sites that use the .com suffix and is meant to help parents block porn sites. The .xxx suffix became available for public purchase last week.

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, including colleges and universities.

During the so-called sunrise sale, ICM registered nearly 80,000 names, Chairman and CEO Stuart Lawley said. The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, which the U.S. government established in 1998 to run the Internet's address system, authorized the creation of .xxx earlier this year.

The strongest opposition to it has come from the adult entertainment industry. The Free Speech Coalition complained among other things about registration fees and fears of cyber squatters registering domain names associated with its members.

In Nebraska, all four campuses of the University of Nebraska have bought .xxx domain names, including about eight purchased by UNL, said Turan Odabasi, NU associate general counsel. The university tried to register domain names associated with its campuses' names, mascots and catch-phrases, such as Go Big Red, Odabasi said.

While many of the university's logos are trademarked, other phrases associated with NU academics and athletics are not, he said. In 2009, UNL sparred with a website that incorporated the university's logos. The university managed to get HotHuskers.com to remove logos, pictures and video that UNL argued violated its trademark rights.

The university didn't attempt to shut down the website, however.

Probably the most famous example of a porn site that registered the name of a notable institution was WhiteHouse.com, a variation of the White House's official domain name, WhiteHouse.gov. The porn site has since been shut down.

Odabasi said NU will monitor sites that register .xxx domain names in the coming months and years to ensure none uses trademarked university logos, he said.

"If we come across a use on a website that we think violates our trademark rights, like we did with HotHuskers, we'll try to address that through our trademark rights as well," he said.

Walter Weir, NU chief information officer, said the university's four campuses have registered about 20 domain names, including Nebraska.xxx, Lopers.xxx (the University of Nebraska at Kearney's mascot) and NULincoln.xxx for about $3,000.

Private colleges in Nebraska also have begun registering .xxx domain names, including Creighton University in Omaha.

"Like many other schools in the country, we took that step to go ahead and secure Creighton's name and some others," said Brian Young, vice president for information technology.

Creighton registered Creighton.xxx before the .xxx domain names went on sale publicly at a cost of $200 for 10 years, he said. Some colleges also are considering blocking students from accessing .xxx domain names using college servers.

In Lincoln, neither Nebraska Wesleyan University nor Union College has registered .xxx domain names, although Wesleyan is likely to, said Clark Chandler, vice president for finance and administration.

"I think we will," he said. "It becomes kind of a never-ending battle of names people can come up with."

Union College spokesman Ryan Teller said the college doesn't plan to buy any .xxx domain names.

"We don't think that people will believe that a site using .xxx domain would be associated with Union College," he said.

​Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

This story used information from the Associated Press.

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