Stuart Lawley's dot-xxx domain fight

Last week, the new .xxx domain went live, drawing in more than 100,000 adult sites. The man behind the new digital home of porn is a British millionaire living in South Florida who had to outlast the Bush administration to found his online Red Light District in an office park just north of Miami.

Stuart Lawley says the new addresses will help porn fiends and worried parents alike. "I thought, What would be more popular than .xxx?" Lawley says. "But with a 2-year-old son, I also thought a more visible label on adult sites might have a real benefit."

To get rights to sell the .xxx suffix — technically called a "top-level domain name" akin to .com, .org, and .biz — Lawley has had to trudge a long legal road.

He first made a fortune in his native England, where he ran oneview.net, which sold for $200 million in 2000. "I effectively retired to the Bahamas at 37 years old," he says. "It was good for a few years, but there's only so much boating, golfing, and fishing I could do."

So Lawley moved in 2003 to Jupiter, where he founded ICM Registry to begin applying for the right to host .xxx. ICANN, the California-based group that regulates the web, initially accepted, Lawley says, but then quickly buckled under pressure from President George W. Bush's cronies.

"Christian conservatives railed against it, Bush was in power, and so ICANN flip-flopped," Lawley says.

Lawley mounted legal challenges to the ruling and last year finally won the right to host .xxx domains. The sites went live this past December 6.

That doesn't mean Lawley's fight is over. Religious leaders still denounce the idea. "The establishment of a .xxx domain would... cause even more harm to children, families, and communities," Patrick Trueman, CEO of Morality in Media, complained to CNN last week.

Lawley also faces a legal challenge from the porn industry. Manwin Licensing International — owner of the popular YouPorn — filed an antitrust suit in California last month.

The .xxx magnate says both arguments are wrong. "The religious right essentially believes porn should all be illegal and shouldn't exist," Lawley says. "It does exist, and the major part is legal and protected under the First Amendment."

 
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