The case of vb.ly

VB decent avatar

Violet Blue has lost its vb.ly domain for the reason. Actually for few of them. Although they now cry about the domain name taken from them, they missed it couple of times.

First of all, Violet Blue is an adult site. It is clear to every .ly player that .ly registry does not allow any adult or pornographic material. As presented in the official letter from Mr. Alaa ElSharif:

While letters ‘vb’ are quite generic and bear no offensive meaning in themselves, it has being used as a domain name for an openly admitted ‘adult friendly URL shortener’. Now, had Violet Blue domain merely been a URL shortener for general uses similar to bit.ly (as Violet Blue claimed) there would have been no problem with it. It is when Violet Blue promoted their site being solely for adult uses, or even stated that Violet Blue was ‘adult friendly’ to promote it that we as a Libyan Registry have an issue.

Secondly, being warned, Violet Blue, still ignored the issue and thought that they will just go away with it.

According to Libyan Spider they tried contacting Violet Blue numerous times with no avail, leaving Violet Blue a voice message on Violet Blue answering machine in the end. Not receiving their warnings doesn’t by any means relieve Violet Blue of the consequences of not heeding to them.

Child pornography is prohibited under the US law. Try to open a site on childpornography.com that violates the law and it will be closed. .ly prohibits certain things and running an adult site is one of them. NIC.LY's stand was pretty clear from the very begining: no adult content on .ly. It is like no child pornography on .com.

To conculde the day, no porno on .ly. Try to register gay.ly - impossible. Back in 2008 a person who filed for this domain got his money promtly back and put it into a more successful .ly site used by millions these days.

All references [1 - 2]


Short link: http://name.ly/~tNYN$8Z

28 Responses

  1. I believe it is a clear case of misinformation, miscommunication, and bad PR.

    There are so many good .ly names around. One bad one will not spoil the herd.

  2. (I was the co-owner of vb.ly)

    “First of all, Violet Blue is an adult site”

    What is “Violet Blue”, do you mean vb.ly? It is not an adult site, it’s a url shortener. There was no content on the site.

    “Secondly, being warned, Violet Blue, still ignored the issue and thought that they will just go away with it.”

    No, we didn’t receive any notifications from them – why would we ignore them, that wouldn’t help the situation. To say we ‘thought we’d get away with it’ is simply wrong. plus it’s projection and conjecture on your part – we’ve clearly said that isn’t the case but you’re choosing to state otherwise.

    “Child pornography is prohibited under the US law. Try to open a site on childpornography.com that violates the law and it will be closed”

    Actually that isn’t true. Child peadophilia (it isn’t ‘pornography’ it is paedophilia) is removed based on jurisdiction of where the server is – there is nothing in the .com rules that go into regulating content. Maybe the site will be closed but that has nothing to do with the domain.

    But then you referring to a domain being closed clearly indicates you can’t tell the difference between a ‘website’ and a ‘domain’.

    You’re entitled to disagree with our position but to publish stuff that actually isn’t true ultimately looks poor on you.

  3. There must be people using bit.ly to share pornographic links. How come it hasn’t been shut down?

  4. @ Piers,

    I believe, bit.ly had a different purpose from the very beginning. .LY registry made it clear, it is not a single link that they have an issue with or the service as such in general, but the idea of adult content hosting on .ly domain names.

    VB.ly was an adult positioned site. It is shame the miscomunication happen and that the registry had to act strictly.

    This requirement was always in the registry rules since its inception in 1988.

    VB would be much better by using a more adult-neutral ccTDL, for instance lick.me or Dutch version of it lik.me.

    WordPress service, that hosts this blog for instance, in its T&C http://name.ly/terms/ explicitly states that:

    3. Content Policy.

    Users may not publish the following:

    * Pornography and Obscenity: any content that contains nudity, sexually graphic material or material that is otherwise deemed explicit by Name.ly.

    * SITEs based on .LY domain names may not contain obscene and indecent names and/or phrases, including words of a sexual nature; furthermore these SITEs may not contain words and/or phrases or abbreviations insulting religion or politics, or be related to gambling and lottery industry or be contrary to Libyan law or Islamic morality. In principle, you are free to choose the SITE’s name. However, you cannot choose names that are in use by other organizations, or names that for various reasons are prohibited or reserved for technical, ethical or national considerations. You also have a duty to ensure that your registration of a SITE’s name does not infringe another party’s right to the same name. Remember that the responsibility always rests with you. If you are not sure whether you can use the name, ask Name.ly’s personnel. You may also consult nic.ly policy.

    I bet, if someone opens an adult blog on Name.ly and the registry will ask the site owners to shut it down, shut down it will.

    With bit.ly currently hosting billions of links, hunting after few thousands is just economically unreasonable. Everybody is happy with that.

  5. A good review of the case can be found here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/blog-post/2010/10/bitly_shutting_down_oh_really.html

    Looks like angry vb.ly guys got some bad publicity our of their pockets.

    In any case, bit.ly will stay in the business for a while, it is a strong brand and as the registry stated, it has no plans to shut it.

  6. Sincere Republican

    Well, what a great American propaganda with a bit of politics. Democrats wanted to kick Mitt for using mitt.ly so they created this case.

    VB.ly was shut down because it was an adult site. End of the story. If you ask me, all porn and adult content should be cornered to make the life of parents easier.

  7. I still think the really important takeaway is that if you own a domain registered in another country, link shortening or no, you should still be careful to observe the relevant laws. I could certainly see Lybia auditing outside registrations to ensure that websites all measure up to their legal codes.

  8. Below goes official statement from the registry. If vb.ly has anything to add, they should certainly challenge it, in a civilised way, in the court and also seek a second opinion from ICAAN, although, they are unlikely to win anything from this situation.

    Shame, they decided to make such a fuss out of this situation and damaged the reputation and good will of other global .ly projects.

    Reading terms of conditions would safe them from this scandal.

    Source: http://nic.ly/anvp.php

    NIC.LY statement regarding the decision to block vb.ly:

    NIC.ly rules and regulations [ http://nic.ly/regulations.php ] were set by the local Libyan internet community (in accordance with best practices for ccTLDs) to reflect it’s identity and content. It’s a bottom up module in which the Community’s feedback, opinions and remarks are taken into decision-making consideration, and it is our duty to uphold these rules and regulations to serve the better interests of the community we represent.

    In reference to the vb.ly incident: the domain’s purpose (proclaimed by its registrants themselves) was to serve as a ‘sex friendly URL shortener’, mainly for adult uses. This means that vb.ly had a policy different than the other URL shorteners, not using filters and encouraging the use of this service for creating links to adult sites and other “NSFW” links, thus placing vb.ly by definition in the porn/adult site category.

    This use was deemed as unacceptable by our local internet community, regardless of whether or not the site hosts adult material or redirects traffic to 3rd party sites

    Contrary to vb.ly’s claims, they were contacted on numerous occasions to investigate these concerns, and over the course of these contacts vb.ly has ignored our efforts and even changed their contact numbers.

    When our repeated warnings were ignored, and after over 3 weeks of failed attempts to contact the owners of vb.ly, NIC.ly had no alternative but to apply its regulations that clearly state that it reserves the right to suspend or remove a .ly domain name in violation of rules and regulations. The domain has also been excluded from future registrations so that no other entity (local or abroad) can re-register it.

    As to the decision to keep the registration of domain names shorter than 4 symbols long under .ly only for entities with a local Libyan presence, this comes in accordance with NIC.ly’s concern that the rise in popularity of URL shorteners from abroad taking up all these names has deprived locals of their right to register the important 3 letter abbreviations of their various businesses and interests. We as a Registry would prefer seeing art.ly used for a website about Libyan art for instance, or lda.ly used by the Libyan De-mining Association, rather than adding more URL shorteners under our National TLD.
    For over 5 years, we as a Libyan Registry recognized by ICANN have been open for domain name registrations from all around the Globe, and we pride ourselves on being the online destination of thousands of domain names from all over the World. Over this span of time never once have we abused the trust invested in us by the Global internet community, nor have we ever taken advantage of having an attractive extension like ‘.ly’. Only when our Community’s rules and regulations were compromised was when we had to act.

    …………………………………………………..

    NIC.LY © 2010

  9. To me, it looks like the scandal it was the guys behind vb.ly were looking for.

  10. And fair point, art.ly, name.ly etc, all continue serving the purpose as established by their legitimate and initial owners.

  11. Sincere Republican

    The girl has just confessed that she likes teasing the world. So I guess she should learn a bit on respect as well.

    Here goes her post on Facebook:

    violet blue ® I admit that I am pleased to get the phrase “sex positive” in places it may not have been seen before. Maybe I should put up a post on what it means now that everyone’s looking…

  12. A good summery from a industry expert: http://www.circleid.com/posts/20101009_a_tempest_in_a_libyan_teapot/

    Verdict: vb.ly was poised to lose this domain from he very beginning.

  13. On 2nd Sep. I emailed the client on the email address that we have on record (m***@**.ly) and also (m*******@**ail.com) as it was the registrant’s email address on the whois, and asked them to remove the text and image as requested by LTT

    On 5th Sep. LTT emailed us asking for an update.

    On 6th Sep. I emailed LTT asking them to give the client another chance until 7th Sep. as they have not responded yet.

    On 6th Sep. I emailed the client again.

    On 6th Sep. I received a “Mail Delivery Failure” message, due to a problem with the client’s email (m***@**.ly), the other email was fine, as I only received 1 delivery error message.

    On 6th Sep. I called the client on the phone number we have on record (0014xxxxxxxx2) and an answer machine picked up, so I left them a message explaining the situation and asking their urgent action. (I have skype history to confirm this!)

    On 20th Sep. LTT contacted us asking for an update.

    On 23rd Sep. I emailed LTT and told them to go ahead with the procedure as the client has not responded.

    On 23rd Sep. The client started emailing us, asking for an explanation as to why their domain is no longer resolving.

    On 24th Sep. I responded to the client explaining the situation and also sent them the previous emails that we already sent, I also told them that we called on (I stated the phone number on record).

    On 24th Sep. The client changed the phone number on their account! It seems they did not know that our system records and notifies us about any changes. (I’ll forward you the notification email separately.

  14. @NIC.ly

    I’m just curious – you mentioned that ‘you emailed the client’… but it was Libyan Spider that said that it tried to contact us. And you are leaving a comment as NIC.ly. So, does this mean that Libyan Spider is part of NIC.ly? That would be interesting to know as you portray the two as separate entities.

    We didn’t receive either of your emails, and you seem to acknowledge that with the fact that that you say you got a Mail Delivery Failure. I’m not sure why you received a Mail Delivery Failure, our email system is operated by Google Apps… perhaps your SMTP relay is blacklisted?

    The reason we changed the phone number is because the number you said you had called wasn’t a number that belonged to us, and we wanted you to be able to call us, so as soon as we discovered you had the wrong number on file we corrected it. I’m not sure why that is a problem? That actually is the actions of people wanting to get this resolved and correctly any problems or issues.

    What we still don’t understand is if NIC.ly/Libyan Spider wanted to resolve this amicably, why, when we were able to get in contact with you, were you no longer prepared to resolve this? Either there is/was a desire to resolve this in which case why did our requests fall on deaf ears, or there never was and thus your original emails were lip-service.

    Finally, I’m not sure why you are offering to forward email correspondence regarding this matter to a 3rd party that is otherwise unconnected with this – that seems very unprofessional (and illegal in many countries, but granted maybe not in Libya).

    None of this really addresses the outstanding and more important issues that this case has raised that you have acknowledged or indeed answered. Perhaps you could consider responding to some of the more pressing and important issues that have been raised by us and the media rather than focusing on protocol of emails, which is really neither here nor there.

  15. Ben,
    That was part from a chronological report of what happened, provided by Libyan spider.
    It clearly shows that you have been contacted by them and that they did not block you with out any efforts or process as you claim. this was explained to you and should have been mentioned in your reporting of the incident.

  16. Another good article summarising the issue and its resolution: http://saint-rebel.com/2010/10/06/feigned-outrage-ly-domains-are-fine-just-respect-the-tos/

    Feigned outrage – .ly domains are fine, just respect the TOS

    The only reason I am writing this post is because I disagree with the sensationalist nature of the reporting going on and I own a few .ly domains. Perhaps you read Engadget or Techcrunch’s scarebait reporting of Ben Metcalfe’s post getting his .ly domain yanked.

    My 2 cents:

    When you register a .ly domain the rules in the TOS explicitly make some things off limits:

    Any .LY domain name may be registered, except domains containing obscene and indecent names/phrases, including words of a sexual nature; furthermore domain names may not contain words/phrases or abbreviations insulting religion or politics, or be related to gambling and lottery industry or be contrary to Libyan law or Islamic morality, the same applies to the site content.

    I read this before I registered the domain and agreed to it, as did everyone else that owns .ly domain must agree to it. It was reported that Ben’s vb.ly url shortener was openly promoting itself as “adult friendly” url shortener (the marketing on the site bragged about being ‘sex-positive’) or something similar. If that is true it seems like a clear TOS violation to me. Case closed.

    Whether you disagree (and I do) with their interpretations of what may be decent and women’s status in society is irrelevant if you agree to their TOS when purchasing from them. Their sandbox, their toys, their rules.

    My experiance with .ly

    The first .ly I bought was pix.ly which I used as a personal project for a site I created that allowed users to vote on 2 flickr photos side by side. (twitter avatars battle at twit.pix.ly). The flickr photos were brought in with a search API, this being the internet it took exactly 5 minutes for someone to start searching for “porn, nude, breasts, etc”. A couple weeks later I got a very polite email from the .ly folks that:

    1. Complimenting me on the site and how they thought it was a novel idea and a great showcase of thier .ly domains
    2. They were sorry to have to remind me that adult subject matter is in violation of the TOS
    3. They requested I alter the app to prohibit the adult content
    4. If I cant alter it, they requested I use the domain for another purpose (within TOS)
    5. They would revoke the registration if I failed to comply

    That is far from a case of big ol’ scary mideast government agencies stealing domains back from us yankees.

    I elected to ditch the flickr idea and just do twitter avatars with the app at twit.pix.ly and I have not heard anything since.

    I also of course own page.ly and sal.ly which I bought for my wife. In regards to sal.ly the domain registrar libyanspider.com was also very helpful in settling a disagreement with a 3rd party that thought they had rights to the domain when they did not. My experience with libyanspider has always been great and their customer service has even exceeded that which I have gotten at some other registrars.

    As far as page.ly.

    1. Of course we own pagely.com
    2. Of course we considered the possible repercussions of building an app on a domain we have less control over, so therefore have fully abstracted our service onto other .com domains we do control. .ly could be gone tomorrow and our service wouldn’t blink.
    3. Nothing we are doing is in violation of their TOS, so we are not overly concerned about it.

    Finally it would be financial suicide for the .ly folks to overly enforce their TOS (like some of the Sharia law stuff). When $$ is involved on a international stage.. people tend to be more flexible on what is permissible. But when a site like vb.ly open flaunts it’s violation.. what do you expect them to do?

    The reporting around this smacks of the”Keep em Scared” tone that sadly seems prevalent when it involves anything with Islam or the Mideast.

  17. Looks like the issue is concluded. It was an intense discussion. Now back to the development of other .ly sites.

  18. Sharia Law propaganda and nothing more.

  19. If NIC.ly wants to rehabilitate its image in the west it should return the domain to its rightful owner. You are in your rights to take down/suspend VB.ly but you are certainly not right to seize and resell the domain. That only makes your organization look corrupt. If you want to clear up this issue, you should return to the domain to its original owners and remind them to respect the TOS. If you don’t then I question the validity of your organization, and why your country was granted the .LY extension in the first place.

  20. @Adam Smith: the registry made it clear, vb.ly is suspended and will not be reselled.

    After the owners of vb.ly made such a fuss, the registry should bring them to the court and demand compensation for the bad faith, bad reputation etc.

    VB.ly not only broke the TOS but then used the falsified facts and spread it all over the globe. Instead of having further dialogue with the registry they decided to spread the wrong news throughout all possible channels.

    Violet Blue should forget it, acknowledge their mistake, and choose more adult friendly TLD (top-level domain) in the future.

  21. @Marko,

    We haven’t falsified any facts about the matter, and so rather than talking about Libya bringing us to court (which court would that be, Libya?) you should be more concerned closer to home about the consequences of you continuing to make incorrect and factually incorrect assertions about us to forward your own agenda.

    As for ‘spreading wrong news throughout all posible channels’ – we posted the matter to our personal blogs (and Violet cross-posted to her tech-blog TechYum so that her post was not on an NSFW site). That was about it, we didn’t have anyone write about this based on us asking them to.

    The news spread out from there organically, not because we pushed it around but because people were concerned about the precedent and saw it as a genuine news story. You might want to consider that, given you’ve tried to portray on your post and in subsequent comments that this is a no-story we’ve been shopping around. Why would the Economist and even the BBC pick this up if there wasn’t some newsworthiness to it? And it wasn’t because we sent it to them, because we didn’t.

    Clearly you are conflicted because you are so bullish on .ly domains, given you write a blog about them so I don’t expect objectivity from you.

    However, you might want to take a step back and consider whether you are going to continue to peddle your own assumptions, addressed as incorrect by ourselves, as ‘fact’ to your readership.

  22. @Ben Metcalfe

    I suggested of course you meet in the U.S. court and present all the evidences. I trust the court will come with a fair ruling.

    If you are so certain about the case, why don’t you file one and let NIC.ly defend themselves then?

    I sincere.ly suggest NIC.ly to chase you for creating this fuss without the merit. This is my personal opinion and has nothing to do with the .ly domain names in general.

  23. Oh, we real.ly have a hot potato here. On which side will it land I wonder, if the case gets to court?

  24. Here goes the response to The Economist’s article, as it was sent to the editor:

    Sir,

    Your article tough.ly/treated (16th of October 2010) overlooked several points.

    First of all, vb.ly clear.ly did not comply with terms & conditions of the service. Any registry in such a case reserves the right to shut down the domain. E.g., child pornography is prohibited in many countries and Internet sites of such matter are shut down regular.ly and instant.ly.

    The case was discussed by the registry, vb.ly founders and many other industry experts here: http://dot-ly.of-cour.se/the-case-of-vb-ly/ [ name.ly/!Bd$8Z ] – please read details in comments there.

    None of the parties was a winner in the end of the day. After such a scandal the registry was left with no other choice but to close down the domain.

    Ideal.ly, vb.ly would rather go for more adult-friend.ly site without any complication. Why did they choose .ly in the first place and why didn’t they bother to read the T&C is certain.ly their miss.

    Errata: the registry limits local registrations to three-letters domain names, not four as you had presented it in the article. The international practice shows that such short names are near.ly impossible to buy on the primary market in other extensions (.com, etc) hence the will to protect the local businesses.

    While three-letter domains cover only 18,252 combinations (47,952 if the numbers are taken into account), four-letter total to 492,804 (1,774,224) combinations respectively. Obvious.ly the difference is enormous.

    Sincerely yours,

    Marko

  25. I find it sad that prudish, bigotted and misogynistic attitudes are governing this discussion. There is nothing wrong with human sexuality or a wish to be enthusiastic about it.

    I came via this having read Ben Metcalfe’s blog, Violet Blue’s blog, TechYum and the Economist. The whole affair appears to be because there has been a tightening up of the registrar by the authorities in Libya. Partly because they think they’re on to a good thing and partly due to religious fundamentalism.

    Personally I don’t respect anyone who believes in a magical sky fairy and respect them even less when they use it as justification to oppress 50% of the population. There is nothing wrong with the photo of Violet Blue. I assume they would prefer her dressed head to toe in a sack walking 10 paces behind.

    Neither bit.ly nor vb.ly are hosting sites. They hold *no content*. Why you can argue one as valid and the other as not I don’t understand. I’m sure bit.ly doesn’t have links to just PG rated material. The difference is that bit.ly isn’t obviously run by a woman and doesn’t have a fun picture on its site.

    The moral here is keep your head down, pander to their sensibilities, and don’t be a woman, and may be you’ll keep you .ly domain.

  26. @Ben,

    Although The Economist decided to cover the story along with other articles in the same issue on Sharia laws, the readers failed to see the point, see yourself in the comments: http://www.economist.com/node/17249654/comments#comments

    Schultzter wrote:

    The ease of doing business on the internet, from consumer to business, has made people overlook some basic issues – like which laws actually apply to the transaction and making sure they understand them. Sorry vb.ly, I can’t really feel sorry for you.

    Ashkas wrote:

    So what’s The Economist’s own view of its use of URL shortening services for posting on Social Media?

  27. Circle ID, one of the most respectful industry sites wrote:

    It was rather naive to expect that a socially conservative country such as Libya would not have an issue with a website that portrays itself in these terms, and it was therefore unsurprising that NIC.LY last month revoked the vb.ly domain name, citing concerns that the service was not in keeping with Sharia Law. They have also revised the registration policy for .ly to restrict registrations of less than four characters to locally-registered entities, thereby effectively preventing any new URL shortening services from using the .ly ccTLD.

    It is of course NIC.LY’s right to manage their ccTLD in a way that suits the specific legal and cultural realities of contemporary Libyan society, as it is for all other ccTLD Managers. Those that wish to take advantage of the combination of short domain names at relatively low cost for use with URL shorteners should therefore consider carefully which ccTLD they choose to utilise for this purpose.

    Source: http://www.circleid.com/posts/20101015_url_shorteners_domain_hacks_quasi_gtlds_what_are_cctlds_about/

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