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The New .AU Domain Licensing Rules and Their Impact

The Australian domain registry, auDA, has now confirmed their new licensing rules will go into effect on April 12, 2021. The registry has been working on this change for quite some time in preparation for the anticipated launch of their top-level domain (TLD), .AU. These rules will apply to new registrations and around three million existing domain names in the COM.AU, NET.AU, ORG.AU, and other .AU namespaces.

As previously indicated, the new rules are not likely to impact the majority of existing registrants. While the commencement date for the new rules is still a while away, there are some things to do now in preparation for the changes.

What’s changing?

If you have used an Australian business number (ABN) or company number (ACN) as your eligibility, you will not be impacted as long as the ABN or ACN is valid.

Until now, to register a domain under the .AU top-level domain extension, an Australian trademark application, or registration could be used to satisfy the required Australian presence. The domain name did not need to match the trademark.

Under the new rules, a domain name registration based on an Australian trademark must exactlymatch the trademark. That means the domain name must be identical to and in the same order as the words that appear on the Australian trademark application or registration, excluding domain name system (DNS) identifiers such as COM.AU, punctuation marks, articles such as “a,” “the,” “and,” “of,” and “&.”

Trademark exampleExample of an exact match domain name
Tweedledee & Tweedledumtweedledeetweedledum.com.au
The Frog Prince!frogprince.org.au

What’s the impact?

Non-compliant domain names must have their errors corrected before they come up for renewal any time after the new rules are implemented.? Failing to comply could mean that auDA or the managing registrar could suspend or cancel the non-compliant domain. Once a domain name is cancelled, it may not be transferred or renewed. It will be purged from the registry records and made available for registration by the general public.

Cleaning up your .AU domain portfolio not only makes you compliant with the new rules, but enables you to be eligible to participate in the launch of the top-level .AU domain that is widely expected to take place in the second half of 2021.

What to look out for

As a rule of thumb for the domains you want to maintain, all domain registrants are obligated to keep their domain information complete, true, and accurate throughout the lifetime of their domain names. Similarly, all .AU domain registrants are continually required to have a valid Australian presence and satisfy any eligibility and allocation criteria for the namespace being applied for.

Registrant contacts and entity information can change over time and may not have been applied to domain portfolios. The licensing rules change presents a great opportunity for domain registrants to ensure their domain information is up-to-date.

CSC will run an audit of all .AU domain names and then work with domain holders to update the ownership of non-compliant .AU domain names to the correct trademark details or local entity details.

The following domain information should be reviewed thoroughly:

  1. Trademark information used, including foreign companies holding a COM.AU or NET.AU domain where a trademark right has been used for eligibility AND the domain name is NOT an exact match of the words subject to the Australian trademark application or registration. Pending trademarks will also be accepted as a basis of eligibility.
  2. The business registration number (ABN or ACN for example) where applicable.
  3. Registrant contact information.
  4. Technical and administrator contact information.
  5. All other WHOIS details and data in registry records.

What are my options if I don’t have a local entity or TM?

If a domain does not meet the current eligibility requirements, you will not be able to renew it at the time of expiration. If you do not have a local Australian entity or an Australian trademark matching the domain, you have a few options.

  1. Apply for a new trademark to match the domain.
  2. Register a local business; more information can be found here.
  3. Lapse the domain.

Before deciding that it might be okay to purge a few domains, be cautious that lapsed or abandoned domain names carry a footprint of digital activity that can be leveraged as an attack vector or cause disruption to a virtual private network (VPN), voice-over IP (VoIP), website, services, servers, network or email, and a host of other dependencies.

What is CSC doing?

In preparation for the changes, CSC has initiated an audit and will notify our clients about any domains that require an update.

If you have domains with other registrars that you would like assistance with, or would like to register names under the upcoming .AU top-level domain launch, please reach out to your CSC client service partner or contact us

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