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Owners not always masters of domain

DOMAIN name owners should be aware their precious asset could be up for grabs if re-registration notifications are ignored.

Many owners are not aware of when their registration expires, with whom they actually have it registered and what the policy procedures are for re-registration.

According to Vianet managing director Tony Broughton, many .com.au domain name registration services exist but all are ultimately registered through one company: Internet Names Australia, a division of Melbourne IT.

Mr Broughton said, while many companies like his offered domain name registration – some for free – INA was the current official conduit for .com.au domain name registration in Australia.

Vianet director Angelique Broughton said INA “go to great lengths” to warn domain name owners of impending expiration.

“There is also a dormant period when the domain name is de-registered but not available to other buyers,” Mrs Broughton said.

Industry sources said this four to six week ‘cooling down’ period gave domain name owners a chance to re-register if they had ignored previous invitations to do so.

Mrs Broughton said it would be almost impossible to miss INA’s follow-up procedures.

“For .com.au domain names, INA remind owners to renew their

registration through emails, letters, telephone calls and any other means of communication available,” Mrs Broughton said.

“With all this warning, any domain name owner failing to re-register would have to employ a level of negligence or not want the site after all.”

INA’s Carolyn Shoger said the company was well aware of the cost in marketing and branding that went into building a domain name and the disastrous consequences of having that effort benefit a rival.

In a recent move, adult products e-tailer AdultShop.com Limited snaffled a domain name from under the nose of a rival company.

AdultShop.com Limited directors tried unsuccessfully in June 1999 to enter into an agreement to use the domain name with the previous owners of the .com.au address, who had no connection with AdultShop.com Limited.

The previous owners then offered to sell the .com.au name to AdultShop.com Limited for more than $1 million – an offer which the directors did not accept.

Fortunately for AdultShop.com Limited, the previous owners of the domain name allowed it to expire in February.

The name was de-registered and AdultShop.com.au quickly secured the address for a mere $285.

ViaNet customer relations officer Brian Watts said the acquisition was “somewhat crafty” but totally legal.

AdultShop.com Limited head of marketing Natalie Croker said, as the previous owners of the domain name had failed to take advantage of the cooling down period, they had forfeited the right to legally retain it.

“They put in an appeal which was thrown out of court,” Ms Croker said.

Mr Broughton said prefixes other than .com.au were not registered through INA.

For example, the .edu.au prefix is administered by a single individual, Geoff Huston, and the .gov.au prefix is administered through the Office of Government Online.

The individual internal policies of such bodies varies greatly and some give more warning of expiry than others.

The only advice Mr Broughton could give domain name owners was to be vigilant and aware of their applicable expiry and re-registration policies.

“Businesses just need to be protective of having such an obvious asset taken by rivals during ,” Mr Broughton said.

“Currently, there is no legislation in place for this and there won’t be until more precedents occur.

“INA certainly give more than enough due warning for .com.au domain name owners to re-register.

“Companies are now able to register their domain name for 10 years so it that should remove some pressure.”

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