Back in 2016, .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), the governing body for .au domain names, approved the introduction of second level .au domain name registrations, also known as "direct registrations" (for example: mydomain.au). Initially planned for launch in Q4 2019, auDA announced recently that the launch of direct registrations would be delayed, and is now likely to take place in the first half of 2020. It also stated that further time was required to promote awareness amongst new audiences, share more widely auDA's plans to simplify the licence rules and to consider and avoid any potential implementation issues. auDA will also use the extra time to "partner with industry to further test software changes, improve complaint processes and work with registrars to efficiently check the eligibility of applicants".1
One of the key issues whenever new domain names are allocated is the process for determining who is entitled to a particular domain name when there are competing claims by multiple parties. In the case of the new second level .au registrations, there will be a priority registration process that will apply to registrants of existing third level .au domain names (such as mydomain.com.au or mydomain.org.au) to assist in resolving competing claims to the corresponding second level registration (mydomain.au). The draft rules for the priority registration process (.au Domain Administration Rules) provide that priority categories will be determined based on the date of registration of existing third level domain names. Eligible domain names will be categorised as follows:
- Priority Status (Category 1) – existing third level .au domain names registered on or before 4 February 2018;
- Priority Status (Category 2) – existing third level .au domain names registered after 4 February 2018; and
- General Availability – where no domain name exists immediately prior to the commencement date (as defined under the Rules) and the name is not a reserved name.
- where eligible licences for the same domain name fall in both Category 1 (eg, mydomain.com.au filed on or before 4 February 2018) and Category 2 (eg, mydomain.org.au filed after 4 February 2018) the domain name (mydomain) will be allocated exclusively to Category 1;
- where no applications for a domain name are received in Category 1, the domain name will default to Category 2 where there is an eligible licence with the same domain name; and
- where there is no eligible licence for a domain name in Category 2, the domain name will then be available to the general public on a first come, first served basis.
It is likely that multiple applications for the same domain name will be received claiming priority status within the same category. Where this occurs, the Rules provide:
- Category 1: The domain name registrants will be required to negotiate as to which registrant will be allowed to obtain the corresponding second level domain name. If agreement cannot be reached, none of the parties will be able to secure registration of the second level domain name. If that occurs, the relevant parties will be required to pay an annual application renewal fee for the direct registration. If a party fails to pay the annual application renewal fee, no longer satisfies the eligibility and allocation criteria for the direct registration, or is no longer eligible for a licence in the .au namespace, its application for direct registration will automatically lapse. If that occurs, the remaining eligible party to the direct registration with priority status under Category 1 will then be able to secure the domain name.
- Category 2: The domain name registrant that holds an eligible licence with the earliest creation date will be entitled to apply to register the corresponding second level domain name.
Further information in relation to the launch of direct registration in Australia can be viewed on auDA's website at https://www.auda.org.au/. Spruson & Ferguson can advise brand owners in relation to the eligibility requirements for domain names in the .au space, and can assist in registering domain names and resolving domain name disputes.
1 " Update on the Introduction of Second Level Registrations and the new .au Licensing Rules", Suzanne Ewart, Chair, .au Domain Administration Ltd, 21 August 2019
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.