auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, has decided to clamp down on a seemingly innocuous practice, that is of the occasional domain name registrant registering domain names with strings that are included on a Reserve List defined under Australian law.
The Reserve List is not just restricted to specific words or abbreviations, but also phrases, acronyms and abbreviations that are restricted for use under Australian law and has recently had a minor update. And it’s not the specific strings. If the string appears anywhere in the domain name, the registrant faces the prospect of losing their domain name. Affected domain names are unable to be renewed or transferred until consent is gained. Currently domain name applications are checked against the Reserved List and domain names that exactly match a name on the Reserved List are blocked from registration.
The list has been in existence for many years and previously only loosely enforced. Direct registrations of terms or acronyms, especially if there was a complaint, were acted upon. But there are many domain names that have been registered by significant organisations that have been allowed to go unchallenged by the organisation on the Reserved List.
One domain name in question now is afc.com.au, the domain name for the Adelaide Football Club. But “AFC” is an acronym for the “Australian Flying Corp”, part of the Australian Defence Force and who obviously were never bothered to either complain or previously to register the domain name themselves. They don’t even appear to have their own domain name of any sort registered.
But the Australian country code top level domain (ccTLD) manager has with no consultation (it’s not even clear if the Board was consulted on, at least, the approach auDA has taken) gone and made an issue of it. Some of the terms make perfect sense. Major Australian public bodies and events as well as bodies like the Red Cross and Olympics all have terms registered under the legislation.
So what it means is that those bodies that have registered domain names in years gone past that were both not aware of the legislation and a policy that was pragmatically enforced under previous auDA management now face the prospect of losing their domain names unless they gain consent from the body listed under the appropriate legislation.
So any domain name that contains the strings “adl”, “anl”, “banc”, “ran” or “ara” is at risk.
For registrants with an offending domain name, auDA advises to get legal advice and they have “placed a lock on domain names that contain words, phrases or acronyms which appear on the list” meaning they can’t be transferred until the appropriate consent can’t be gained, nor be renewed.
It is unclear if registrants of domain names affected by this auDA announcement are being contacted or for many they will just find out when they go to renew or transfer the domain name.
An FAQ on the Reserved List is available here.