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Businesses lining up to net disallowed web addresses

AUSTRALIAN businesses have just two weeks to apply to participate in a nationwide auction of generic website addresses.

From January 18, au Domain Administration, the official registrar of Australian domain names, will open applications for 3,006 .com.au internet addresses that had been disallowed since 1995.

Bids will close at 5pm (AEST) on January 31.

The ban on generic .com.au domain names was instituted because such names were considered to offer an unfair competitive advantage to the registrant. The restrictions have not applied to other domain suffixes, such as .net.au or .org.au, which are considered to be less commercially significant than .com.au.

But a registered domain name no longer needs to match the registrant’s trading name or its Australian Registered Trade Mark. It is not be an abbreviation or acronym of these, or be otherwise substantially and closely connected to one of these criteria.

Instead, under the new .com.au policy, a “substantial and close connection” refers to a connection between the domain name and the applicant or the applicant’s business activity, and not necessarily between the domain name and the applicant’s company or other name.

There are no changes to rules that require a registrant to be a commercial entity registered and trading in Australia.

According to Internet Business Corporation Ltd managing director Richard Keeves, while the release of the generic domain names brings Australia into line with international standards and offers great opportunities to Internet-savvy businesses, there is a potential for disputes over how a “substantial and close connection” is to be determined.

“In whose opinion is a substantial and close connection going to be determined? And if it’s going to be determined by any particular human … my understanding at the moment is it’s going to be fairly subjective, whereas previously there was a fairly clear cut-and-dried policy that the business name was the basis for whether you could get a domain name,” Mr Keeves said.

He said some domain names were expected to sell for thousands of dollars, although if the policy changes and auctions had been held at the height of the technology boom two years ago, some domain names could have attracted bids in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Mr Keeves also expressed concern that there was insufficient awareness among the business community of the application and auction process.

Fortunately, unlike the registration process in the United States, where an individual or organisation can register any domain name they wish to without having to prove it has any relevance to their activities, applicants to the upcoming auctions must have been eligible to bid under the new .com.au policy on or before August 13 last year (when the policy was decided upon).

By setting this date, auDA intends that all applicants can participate fairly in the application process, and that applicants are prevented from establishing a business entity specifically to be eligible for a generic name. AuDA says it will check all applications to ensure this is the case.

AuDA is also lifting its “one name, one entity” restriction, which means applicants with an existing .com.au name can apply for a new generic name, and applicants can apply for more than one generic name, subject to meeting the other eligibility criteria.

Once applications for the generic names have closed, eligible applicants will be notified of the time and date that the online auction for their desired name(s) will occur.

The starting bid will be the minimum Reservation Fee of $110 (including GST). The applicant who has submitted the highest bid at the close of the auction will be the successful bidder.

More information on the policy changes and application process can be found at http://www.stuff.com.au/auda_intro.asp?uid=guest&sch=stuff1

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