A while back, there were a few changes made to how .au domain names work and who can have one. If you haven’t heard, auDA updated the rules surrounding Australian website domains. The changes kicked in back in April 2021 but it’s one of those things that’ll have a knock-on effect for a while.
Haven’t heard of it? No worries mate, that’s what we’re here for. We’ll cover what the changes mean for anyone with domains like .com.au, .org.au, .net.au etc, so you know where you’re at. Find out about the key changes and how they’ve affected the way Aussie websites work.
Who is auDA?
auDA stands for .au (dot Australia) Domain Administration. They’re the group responsible for the rules behind the use of the domain extension .au. Yep, the internet has a lot of rules that not everyone knows about. It’d be the wild west out here without organisations like auDA.
They take care of all the Australian domains that end in .au
Typically, auDA doesn’t make changes very often. That’s why the new registration requirements were a bit of a surprise to Australian business owners. We’ll clear up what those changes meant and why they’re important for Australian business owners.
Why does auDA get to decide domain rules?
One thing people often don’t realise when they pay for their web address (domain) is that you don’t own it. Rather, it’s more of a rental situation. You essentially have a licence to use it for your business (or blog or whatever you may be using your website for).
It’s like the digital version of renting an office that gives you a physical address to operate your business from. Your domain creates a space for people to go to a designated Internet Protocol (IP) address destination.
Rather than having an IP address as your website destination or address, it gives you a more creative, identifiable, and easy to remember location. A bit like having to put in coordinates vs typing someone’s address into Google Maps.
What were the Australian domain name changes in 2021?
auDA introduced several changes which started coming into effect back on the 12th of April 2021.
If you’re a business owner, here are the main ones you’ll want to know about:
- They’re not prohibiting the renting or leasing of your domain name, except to a related body corporate.
- If there’s a minor domain policy breach that needs to be dealt with, you’ll now have 30 days (instead of the previous 12).
- If you transfer a domain, the domain passwords (EPP keys) will reset automatically after 48 hours.
- auDA also clarified that de-registered companies or deceased persons cannot hold a domain.
- If you cancel a domain but change your mind, you’ll have two days to restore it though there may be fees associated depending on the domain.
- There are new warranties provided by auDA. This also comes with updated complaint processes and new authorisation to collect your personal information.
- To help protect Australian businesses, there have been some changes to who can have a registered Australian domain name.
- Finally, some of the changes can impact non-incorporated organisations holding a .org.au domain as well as changes to .com.au and .net.au domain name rules.
One of the biggest changes you’ll want to know about relates to the Australian Presence Requirement for .com.au and .net.au domains. The change is being implemented to protect the ‘.com.au’ and ‘.net.au’ domains from being used by foreign companies.
If you are using the ‘Trade mark’ or ‘Trade mark owner’ eligibility criteria for your domain, then this rule will impact you.
How do I check which .com.au and .net.au domain eligibility I use?
Way back when you first set your website up, you most likely ticked the ‘Company’ or similar eligibility criteria box which asks for your ABN or ACN details.
If however, you selected the trade mark option, then you’ll need to make sure you comply with the new rules. If it’s been a while and you can’t remember which one you chose, no worries. You can look it up easily right now.
To check what your domain eligibility criteria is, follow these steps:
- Type in your domain name to the auDA Whois domain checker.
- Add the captcha text to verify you are not a bot.
- Press ‘Submit’.
- Then scroll down to find the section that says ‘Eligibility Type’ and see if it says trade mark or not.
If it says ‘Company’ or similar, then you’re all good, mate. You won’t need to be concerned with this change.
If however, it’s registered under ‘trade mark’ then you need to be aware of the new rules. Or, you can just advise your registrar and they can change your eligibility criteria for you.
For example, Google uses the ‘Trademark owner” method for its domain google.com.au
Note: You may find that your domain registrar has already contacted you about this change, or not at all. The process is quite manual in that there is no way at the moment for us to see with ease whether a client’s domain has been impacted. That’s why it’s your responsibility to check.
New rules for trade mark owners
If your eligibility type for your domain is a trademark, your trade mark needs to match your domain name exactly.
The exceptions are:
- Domain name server identifiers such as com.au;
- punctuation marks such as an exclamation point ! or an apostrophe;
- articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and ’or ‘of’; and
If your name is not an exact match of the words in the trade mark, you won’t be able to register or renew that domain name.
The new licensing rules that impact all domains (not just trade mark presence) allow companies to apply for and hold .au domains on behalf of another company in their corporate group (a ‘related body corporate’).
The only stipulation is that the related company has to meet the Australian presence requirement. This doesn’t apply to registrars who can’t apply or hold a .au on behalf of a related body corporate due to a conflict of interest.
Adding to that, the definition of ‘commercial entity’ has been expanded. It now includes Commonwealth entities, statutory bodies under commonwealth state or territory legislation, incorporated limited partnerships under State or Territory legislation, trading co-operatives, and the government.
Note: If you meet the other Australian Presence Requirement, then you should ask your domain registrar to change your eligibility type so you can keep your domain.
Changes to .org.au domain name rules
If you’re a non-incorporated association then you’ll no longer be able to hold a .org.au domain unless you are on the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission’s (ACNC) Register of Charities.
One way to work around this is if you register another domain such as in the asn.au space or change the legal structure of your organisation.
Organisations who are eligible for .org.au domains
The list of categories of people who can use org.au has been added and now includes several new bodies e.g. Indigenous groups. The main thing to note: you must be a not-for-profit organisation to hold a .org.au domain.
This definition now contains 11 categories of eligible organisations:
- an Incorporated Association under State or Territory legislation;
- a Company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001(Cth)
- a Non-distributing co-operative registered under State or Territory legislation;
- an Indigenous Corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006(Cth) and which appears on the Register of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations;
- a Registered Organisation that is:
(a) an association of employers;
(b) an association of employees (union); or
(c) an enterprise association;
- registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009(Cth) and which appears on the Register of Organisations;
- a Charitable trust endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient;
- a Non-trading cooperative under State or Territory legislation;
- a Public or Private Ancillary Fund endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient;
- an unincorporated association that appears on the Register of Charities established under the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission Act 2012(Cth);
- a Political Party registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918(Cth) or State or Territory Electoral Act and which appears on the Register of Political Parties or as otherwise named; or
- Government, being either the Crown or a Commonwealth, State or Territory statutory agency.
Changes to how you can define your .org.au domain name
Under the new licensing rules, an org.au name must be:
- (a) a match or synonym of the name of:
i. a service that the Person provides;
ii. a program that the Person administers;
iii. an event that the Person registers or sponsors;
iv. an activity that the Person facilitates, teaches or trains;
v. premises which the Person operates;
vi. an occupation that its members practise;
- b) and which that Person is providing at the time of the application; or
- c) a match of the Person’s legal name, business or statutory name or the name of the unincorporated association; or
- d) a acronym of the Person’s legal name, business name, or statutory name; or
- e) a match of the Person’s Australian Trade Mark; or
- f) a match to the name of a trust of which the Person is a trustee.
This rule replaces the ‘close and substantial connection’ rule.
Other domain name changes
Do the rules impact domains like .com, .net, .biz?
These changes from auDA only impact domains with the extension .au.
So if you hold a domain name that is for .com, .net, .org, .biz etc – those haven’t been impacted by these new rules without the ‘.au’ at the end.
The domain extensions for the domains mentioned above have a different body that oversees their usage and rules.
Who is my domain registrar?
Your domain registrar is essentially the landlord that owns your domain name and the organisation that you rent it from. Finding out exactly who they are can be tricky. How come? Your domain name may have been registered through a third-party.
For example, we register domain names through a verified domain reseller so for clients, they won’t see ‘True Green’ in the Who Is information. However, they’d contact us for this query.
You can check who your domain is registered from using whois.com (top right search bar). If it’s not through a third-party or you can’t source the original provider, then you can attempt to contact this company.
Look for the company name under ‘Registrar’ at the top section. Or, you might find a clue to who the provider is in the technical contact details listed further down below the result.
It’s worth being aware of the fact that some companies trade under a different name. In this scenario, it would help to do a Google search of that name to find what the business name may be called. If you get stuck or would prefer to transfer your domain to us (support a greener web), then please get in contact with our friendly team or make the move here.
What if I’m not impacted, is there anything I need to do?
Once you’ve done your research and you aren’t going to be impacted by the changes that were made, no worries. You can continue to hold your domain name as is.
auDA will regularly review how the Australian domain name space goes and may add new rules or updates to how the licence works.
Your domain registrar may even reach out and let you know of any changes.
If you’re unsure or you want to sort your .au domains out, you can always reach out to our team and we can help you take care of business.