The rules determining who can register what .au domain names follow some key principles which help ensure the .au namespace is accessible, equitable and trustworthy.
These principles and how they govern what domain names you can register underpin .au's Eligibility and Allocation Policy, and are important to understand when it comes to registering domain names for your business, including as a brand protection measure.
A while back we looked at how there are no proprietary rights in the DNS, but there are also a couple of other key principles to consider when it comes to registering a .au domain name licence.
First Come, First-served
In .au, and most other top level domains (TLDs), domain name licences are allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
If you’re the first person to apply to register a domain name you’ll be able to register it subject to your eligibility. (You also need to remain eligible for the domain name licence for the entire duration of the licence period – but that’s another topic).
If you’re starting a new business, we recommend registering any corresponding or relevant domain name(s) when you register the business with ASIC. This doesn’t mean you have to have a website ready to go or even use the domain name but it's a measure which can potentially save some hassle in the future.
The first come, first served principle is also complemented by another important principle.
No Hierarchy of Rights in the DNS
There is no hierarchy of rights in the DNS, which means a person has no better entitlement to a name in a namespace than any other person.
In practice, this long-standing principle means that ownership of a particular business name, trademark or brand doesn’t give you greater right to a particular domain name than anyone else who might be eligible for it .
Similarly, your ownership of other domain name licences - whether .au or not - doesn’t grant you any more rights to use a particular domain name.
For any given domain name there may be multiple people who, in different ways, meet the eligibility requirements to use it, and no particular use of a domain name licence is considered more valuable than another.
While this might seem to be a green light for people to register whatever they want - for instance a competitor’s brand name or trademark – there are a few other factors which discourage this.
The first is the .au mandatory terms and conditions which apply to all .au domain names. All .au domain name registrants warrant that they understand their “entitlement to register the domain name may be challenged by others who claim to have an entitlement to the domain name”.
The other factor is the Dispute Resolution Policy which gives brand owners and trademark holders an avenue to protect their brands, services and trademarks from impersonation or misuse by third parties.
These allocation principles, along with the rest of .au policy, are important in ensuring equal access to the DNS to the entire Australian internet community while helping maintain the security and trustworthiness of .au both in Australia and internationally.