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Domain Licensing Rules: What Impact Will New Rules Have On .AU Domains?

On April 12th, 2021, the Australian Domain Registry released a new set of licensing rules for .au domains. The change had been in the works for some time, but there’s still some confusion about how the changes impact the over 3 million domain names that end in .au. People have questions about what exactly changed, so let’s go over the new rules in detail.

First of all, those who have a .au domain who also possess an Australian business or company number aren’t impacted as long as the number is kept valid. Previously, companies or individuals could register a .au website name if they had a trademark application from Australia whether or not the site name matched the trademark. 

With these changes in place, that will no longer be allowed. Now, the name on the registration must be an exact match to the name on the trademark. The only exception to this rule is that connecting words such as “the” “a” or “and” can be excluded. So, for example, if a business’s name is Moon & Sun its exact match name could be moonsun.com.au. 

So what exactly is the impact of this change? Any business with a name that isn’t in compliance with the new rules will have until its next renewal date to update the information. Failure to do so could result in the auDA suspending the offending website. 

If this happens, the business won’t be able to transfer or renew the name. The record of the name will be deleted and the name will be up for grabs. One mistake could lead to another individual or business having the website name for someone else’s business, so it’s important that those who may be affected take action in advance to prevent being suspended. 

All businesses or individuals who have an Australian website are obligated to ensure their site information remains accurate and complete while the site is in operation. This includes maintaining a notable presence in Australia and continuing to satisfy all eligibility requirements that they agreed to when applying for their namespace. Any company found to not be complying will be contacted and advised to update their trademark or local business details.

Domain holders wishing to remain up-to-date under the new rules should review their trademark information, business registration number, the contact information on their registrant application, administrator and technical contact information, and all other registry details and data. If this information is kept updated site holders should be in good standing under the new rules. 

If a site is found to not meet the new criteria at the time that the domain is set to expire, the owner won’t be able to renew it. If a domain owner knows that they aren’t currently in compliance because they aren’t an Australian entity or don’t have a trademark that matches the domain, there are some options available. 

Those options include applying for an updated trademark that matches the site name, registering themselves as a local business if they haven’t already, or letting old or unneeded site names lapse. Before considering that last option, remember that discarded websites may contain a record of digital data and activity. Ensure that all sensitive data is purged from the site before giving it up so that no sensitive information can fall into the wrong hands. 

Making these changes will help guarantee that your site is in compliance with the new rules. That will allow you to continue using the site and also qualify you to participate in the new top-level program that is expected to be launched for .AU sites in March of 2022. This program will allow compliant users to have access to desirable website names that would be unavailable to those that don’t qualify for the program.

Under the new licensing rules, the way that complaints are handled by the auDA has also changed. Complaints can be launched regarding whether or not an entity is eligible to hold a site name or issues regarding a site name. 

Problems that aren’t covered in the complaints process include website content issues, customer issues, web hosting issues, issues with email options and services, spam or malware issues, and phishing attempts. Complaints about these problems should be directed to other agencies. You also can’t make a complaint regarding a decision that auDa has made regarding public interest issues.

The new complaints process has four different sections, the initial complaint, the review of a decision made by a registrar, the internal review of an auDA decision, and a review that’s done externally. The initial complaint is the first step in all cases, whether it’s about a registrant, a registrar, or a site name. This complaint is made with the registrar of record.

If someone is unhappy with a ruling made by a registrar, they can ask for a review of the decision. The auDA will then review the case and the decision that has been made. This could take up to 28 days.

You can also apply for an internal review of an auDa decision. This review will be handled by someone who wasn’t part of the original decision-making process. When you receive the decision, you’ll have the chance to apply for an external review if you’re still not happy with the ruling. 

The last option is the external review. These reviews are handled by the Licence Panel. These people can’t be a director, consultant, or employee of auDA or of a registrar. The complaining party must pay a fee for external review. The review panel has 10 days to reach a decision.

The changes that have been made to the licensing rules are impacting all Australian website holders, so it’s important to check your site’s status under the new rules. Consider each of these rules carefully, and plan to make any necessary changes before it’s time to renew your registration. Taking the time to review your information now can save you from hassle, and potentially losing your site, later. A complete list of rules can be found online for your convenience. 

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