Australia tops list of domain name complaints

Last updated 15:28 22/11/2012

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Australia's government is lodging more warnings than any other government in the world against top level domain name applications, reinforcing its reputation as an over-regulator of the internet.

Out of 243 "early warnings" against domain applications, the Australian government lodged 129 - more than half.

The period of evaluation for applications for top-level domains began after Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) launched the new generic category in June.

Most of the objections are against generic terms, such as .food, .tennis or .books, where giving one company exclusive use of the domain would "exclude potential competitors" and allow that company to dominate the market.

It is also concerned that an application for .ooo is "visually similar" to Australia's triple-zero and could confuse people in an emergency.

However, the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) also objected to domains ending in fail, gripe, sucks and wtf (short for what the f--k?) because they are "overtly negative or critical connotation'. The government is concerned these domains could be used to damage individuals or organisations, for example www.labor.sucks or www.liberal.sucks, and force organisations into buying the website to avoid embarrassment.

DBCDE has lodged dozens of early warnings against domains such as .dental, .engineering and .finance out of concern someone could provide professional services through this domain without regulation or consumer protection.

The 127 applicants who receive a warning from Australia must now contact DBCDE to discuss the concerns. Otherwise, Australia could end up making a formal recommendation against the application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

"Australia has certainly been very active, by far the most active of all governments in the advisory committee," vice president of domain strategy with Melbourne IT, Lena Carlsson, said.

Australia has a history of strict internet naming regulations, according Ms Carlsson. It is one of the only countries will only allow someone to purchase a .com.au domain if the name relates to their trading name, for example. In recent years Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy has been criticised for his proposal to introduce an internet filter.

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"I presume the Australian government has filed the objections for a reason - there is an issue and they wish to discuss it with the applicants," Ms Carlsson said. "Receiving an early warning is an invitation to a conversation, from an applicant's perspective ... to explain your position and the reasons behind your application," 

The early warnings should be taken seriously, but are not a final decision, she added.

Fairfax Media is seeking comment from DBCDE.

Australia has filed warnings against Amazon, Tennis Australia, global cosmetic maker L'Oreal, Symantec Corporation, Open Universities Australia and CPA Australia.

Other governments have filed warnings against domains relating to their geography. For example, Italy is objecting to .roma, while Brazil and Peru do not like the idea of Amazon.com getting .amazon.

China is objecting to Shangrila Hotels getting .shangrila (in English and in Chinese characters) because "Shangrila is a county which [is] located in the north-west of Yunnan province of the People's Republic of China. Shangrila County is a geographic entity, which really exists."

Both the US and Australia have issued warnings against .army, .navy and .airforce, arguing these domains should be reserved for governments.

India does not want to see .bible going to the American Bible Society out of concerns it will ignore or misrepresent the 27 million Christians who live in India. They also object to Reliance Industries, India's largest company, getting hold of .indians.

And the UK government wants to see .rugby reserved for the International Rugby Board, and has filed warnings against two other applicants.

- Fairfax Media

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