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Australian government tops list of internet domain name complaints

Date

Lucy Battersby

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Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy.

Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy. Photo: Luis Ascui

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. Melbourne IT is working as ''a broker on behalf of applications for hundreds of domain names". 

Australia has a history of strict internet naming regulations, according Ms Carlsson. It is one of the few countries that 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.

"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.

A spokesman for DBCDE said it received advice from other government agencies, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"Without proper protections in place, the company given control of the domain .book would be able to unfairly exclude people and businesses from registering websites ending with .book," he said. "This is clearly unfair, as well as raising competition and consumer protection concerns."

But out of nine applications for .book, Australia has only raised a warning against Amazon.com's application.

He added that other governments or regulators may also have concerns with the generic terms, but may not use the early warning system. Instead, they could raise concerns directly or make objections directly to ICANN's Government Advisory Committee.

"We encourage all applicants to engage constructively in the ICANN consultation process to strengthen and improve their applications. The Department will remain engaged in this process to ensure that the best outcome is achieved for all internet users,'' the spokesman said.

Australia has filed warnings against Amazon.com, 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 also 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.

143 comments

  • The State of Victoria needs to oust Stephen Conroy. Attacks on our liberty should not be tolerated.

    Commenter
    Matt
    Date and time
    November 22, 2012, 11:48AM
    • Completely agree, Matt. Vote below the line and put Conroy dead last.

      Commenter
      Jono
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 12:11PM
    • Matt: So you'd be in favour of your ex girlfriend buying .matt<yourlastname>? This is what the objections are largely about, to stop people, businesses and organisations being disadvantaged and to prevent monopolies forming. Or did you just read the headline and skip straight to the comment section?

      Commenter
      Jason
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 12:29PM
    • our you could just vote liberal above the line... just saying...

      Commenter
      Seriously...
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 12:38PM
    • Seriously who votes this guy back in. He is the biggest whinger known to man. If you want to live like a Communist then move to Russia. At least they don't have an filter the internet there.

      Commenter
      Conroy
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 12:50PM
    • Conroy and Roxon have done more to destroy our basic freedoms than 10 John Howards. The power they have has turned them into crusaders for control, everything they do is typical of control freaks. They want to impose their 'standards' on all of us but it will backfire on them at election time. I am switching from labor to the greens, I just can't stomach Labor's petty childish demonising of everything and everyone anymore.

      Commenter
      John Bull
      Location
      Bulli
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 12:55PM
    • I'm no apologist for Conroy, by all means vote him out, I would if I could, but have to say a lot of these objections have merit. .fail, .gripe, .sucks and .wtf I don't have a problem with and the objection to .ooo is a bit of a stretch.

      Commenter
      Harvey K-Tel
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 1:07PM
    • but I do want to have .matt<yourlastname>:p

      Commenter
      Boringpie
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 1:19PM
    • I don't like Conroy or Roxon at all but I don't see what the big fuss is - they are not trying to parent us, they are trying to parent bloodsucking corporations who would monopolise and control us at a whim.

      I disagree with Big all-controlling government but I also disagree with Big all-controlling corporation.

      Commenter
      Nobhead
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 1:27PM
    • Harvey K-Tel -

      Why shouldn't someone buy .gripe and have make a website based on complaining and critiisicm? Are we not allowed to publish things on the web and have a grumble about them? Sucks, fail, wtf are perfectly fine English words/colloquialisms.

      There is also an issue with words with two meanings, can a vacuum company not use .sucks yo promote their product? Why not? The Government should not ban things because there is a possibility for defamation!

      Commenter
      Matt
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 1:34PM

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