Currently the allocation rules for com.au and net.au names are that to be eligible you need to be a commercial entity and also have a connection with the domain name. This rule aims to protect consumers and ensure fair trading. However, it is a tricky policy to enforce because establishing a connection can be as easy as arguing you are establishing a new business or product.
This policy works when overseas criminals (and local criminals) use .com.au domain names for illegal activity. auDA regularly gets requests from law enforcement agencies to suspend or cancel .com.au domain names that are used in criminal activities.
auDA’s allocation process and brand protection process are in the spotlight at the moment, with the proposed launch of the new .au domain name.
To this end, auDA is reviewing their policies through a public consultation process and we decided to take a look at the success of the .UK and .NZ domain name launches that were released over 5 years ago.
.UK Allocation Rules – Right of Registration
At the time of the launch, the UK Registry Nominet gave registrants (‘owners’) of existing .co.uk, .org.uk, and .me.uk domains (registered before 28 October 2013) five years to register the corresponding .uk domain name. This was referred to as the registrant having the ‘right of registration’ (RoR) to the matching .uk domain name. Therefore, if you owned example.co.uk, your equivalent .uk domain, example.uk, will have been reserved for you.
The Right of Registration gave brand owners assurance that their brands were protected from 3rd party registrations. This protection period expired (June 2019) and now any party can register a domain name on a first come first served basis.
.UK Brand Owners Rush to Protect themselves
Looking at .uk registration trends there was two distinct surges: 1) at the beginning of the programme and 2) in June 2019 before the RoR expired. In May 2019 there were just under 25,000 new .UK registration while in June 2019 this spike to a record 1,176,309 new registrations. This points to brand owners rushing to ensure that their brands were not picked up by third parties before open season begun.
Upward Trending .UK Renewal Rates
From January to September 2019 .uk renewal rates increased from 2,260,473 renewed .uk domain names to 3,687,816 domain names. This jump can be attributed to brand owners renewing their 5 year registrations of their corresponding .uk domain names, but also indicates continuing support of the domain name space.
Dispute Mechanisms for UK brand owners
To protect .co.uk brand owners, Nominet runs a dispute resolution service (DRS) to give recourse to victims of cybersquatting, where they can have their complaint quickly reviewed and it is much cheaper than a tradition DRP procedure. Nominet claims that around £7m was saved in legal costs through this service in 2017 – the most recent available stats.
The DRS oversaw 712 complaints in 2017 relating to 783 domains, of which 55% resulted in a domain transfer. Among the complainants were American lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, auto-manufacturer Jaguar Rover, and financial services firm Clydesdale Bank.
.NZ Standard Sunrise Process
In October 2013, InternetNZ allowed domain names to be registered in the .nz domain name space that had previously been dominated by .co.nz.
The new .nz domain name launched with a sunrise period from 30 September 2014 to 30 March 2015 that allowed brand owners with corresponding .co.nz domain names to register their brand in the .nz space. From 30 March 2015 .nz domain names were released for general consumption.
OK take up compared to co.nz
It is clear that the co.nz is the leading commercial domain name in New Zealand. As of May 2019, the most recent NZ domain name statistics there were 509,257 .co.nz domain names compared to 138,779 .nz domain names. Most .nz domain name registrations are defensive however, renewals have increased by 0ver 2,000 since June 2018 suggesting people still see value in the domain name space.
In both UK and New Zealand neither .uk or .nz respectively had the commercial or social impact that their Registries had hoped for. Most websites use a .co.uk or a .co.nz and the .uk and .nz domain names are seen as novel or as a second choice domain name spaces. Most registrations seem to be defensive or used as parked or redirected domain names.
It is likely that an .au domain launch would achieve similar results; it would stimulate economic activity but at the cost of brand owners with little in way of upside (traffic etc). Where we see the value is in offering business an alternative space with new opportunities to register the brands they want, as oppossed to settling for ‘what they can find or afford’ in an over crowded .com.au domain name space. We have seen domain names sold on the aftermarket for upwards of $100,000+ and opening up a new space would reduce the demand on .com.au domain names and in theory reduce the aftermarket prices down.
There will be cybersquatters who horde domain names and e-criminals who try to take advantage of the new space, so it will be important that auDA implement processes that provide brand owners with mechanisms for recourse if their brand is abused in the .au domain name space. The UK’s DRP is a good model of upholding intellectual property rights in a cost effective way.
AuDA is running a consultation with the public and inviting comment for interested parties. brandsec supports this public comment process and recommends that any business with an interest in domain names or who have an opinion submit to this open consultation.
Brandsec is a corporate domain name management and brand protection company that look after many of Australia, New Zealand and Asia’s top publicly listed brands. We provide monitoring and enforcement services, DNS, SSL Management, domain name brokerage and dispute management and brand security consultation services.