New rules for .au domain names to launch on 12 April 2021

The .au Domain Administration (auDA) has announced new auDA Rules that will change the eligibility, allocation and terms for .au domain registration and renewal. These will come into effect on 12 April 2021 and can be accessed here.

The auDA administers and develops the rules for domain names in the .au country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

The new auDA Rules are similar to the presently published policies, broadly the changes affect:

  • the eligibility and allocation for .au domain names
  • the terms and conditions for .au domain names
  • the complaints process, and
  • auDA management and compliance of the auDA Rules.

The main updates include:

‘Australian’ presence criteria
A registrant of a domain name under the .au ccTLD presently has to satisfy the eligibility criteria defined in Schedules A and C (com.au) and Schedule E (net.au) of the Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules for the Open 2LDs. Foreign entities using an Australian Trade Mark will presently satisfy the eligibility criteria on the basis that the ‘Australian’ presence could be ‘closely and substantially connected’ to the Trade Mark.

From 12 April 2021 domain names that are registered or renewed will be subject to the updated eligibility criteria, including the criteria to have an ‘Australian’ presence. The ‘Australian’ presence criteria limits foreign entities to rely solely on an Australian Trade Mark application or registration to satisfy this criteria. If you have an existing com.au or net.au domain which is based on an Australian Trade Mark in order to meet the ‘Australian’ presence criteria your domain name ‘must be an exact match‘ of the Trade Mark. The domain name must include all of the words in the order in which they appear in the Trade Mark application or registration, excluding DNS identifiers, punctuation marks, articles and ampersands.

To apply or renew a domain name that is not an exact match of the Australian Trade Mark, you will need to select another basis on which the domain name meets the ‘Australian’ presence criteria. For example, the domain name may be transferred to a legal entity that meets the presence criteria. Any transfer should be made before 12 April 2021, as a transfer of a domain name can only occur between two entities that are eligible to hold it.

State and Territory namespace
The expansion of eligible applicants will allow State and Territory bodies to register com.au and net.au domain names.

Org.au namespace
The new auDA Rules for org.au domain names have been altered to only include not-for-profit entities. Unincorporated associations will not be eligible for an org.au domain name. However, unincorporated associations which are registered with an Australian Charity and Not for Profit Commission remain eligible.

Selling, renting or leasing of .au domain names
Selling, renting or leasing of com.au, net.au, asn.au and sub-domains to third parties are prohibited under the new auDA Rules. However, the exception is when the domain name is registered for use by a related body corporate.

Related body corporate exception
Companies can apply and hold com.au and net.au domain names on behalf of a related body corporate, where the related body corporate has an ‘Australian’ presence. The related body corporate exception does not apply to a Registrar or edu.au domain name.

Complaints process
The new auDA Rules introduced a four-tiered complaints process:

  • initial complaint
  • review of a registrar decision
  • internal review of auDA’s decision, and
  • external review.

Recommendations
For .au domain names expiring after 12 April 2021, the auDA Rules in place at the time of registration (or last renewal) will apply until the current domain expiry date, to which the new auDA Rules will apply upon renewal. It is recommended that entities review their domain portfolios and ensure compliance with the new auDA Rules by 12 April 2021.

By Chris Round and Laura Skazlic

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