Can I register for a .AU direct domain name?

Mar 16, 2022

New changes to Australian domain names bring exciting opportunities for businesses to protect their intellectual property and develop a stronger online presence.

Last year, we discussed the introduction of the new .au domain licensing rules and what this meant for foreign entities wishing to obtain .au domain namespaces such as .com.au or .org.au. These types of domains are referred to as a “.au domain”.

Soon, the next exciting development in the domain space will be upon us. As of 24 March 2022, your business will be able to apply to have a “.au direct domain” – which is a domain name that does not include the additional .com or .org descriptor, such as yourdomain.au. The new “.au direct domain” will allow your business to have a simple and shorter domain name, promoting easier access to your website.

Subject to meeting the eligibility requirements, the ability to register a particular “.au direct domain” will depend on whether you currently hold the exact match as a “.au domain”. If you do, this will give you priority allocation.  If you do not, and wish to register a “.au direct domain”, you can apply for it from 24 March 2022, subject to it not being on priority hold or somebody else applying to register it first.

Priority allocation process

.au direct domains” that have an existing and exact matching “.au domain” will be allocated by the .au Domain Administration Ltd (.auDA) (which is the .au domain administrator and policy body in Australia) in accordance with the priority allocation process.

All “.au direct domains” that correspond to an existing “.au domain” will be put on a 6-month “Priority Hold” from 24 March 2022 until 20 of September 2022, in order to allow the registrant of an existing “.au domain” to apply for “Priority Status” to register the exact matching “.au direct domain” (6-month Priority Allocation Period). This allows your business to apply to register its existing domain name as a “.au direct domain” before it becomes generally available to the public.

For example, as of 24 March 2022, your existing “.au domain”, such as yourdomain.com.au, will be placed on Priority Hold. You will then have 6 months to apply for Priority Status to register the exact matching “.au direct domain”, that is, yourdomain.au. You can apply for the exact matching “.au direct domain” via participating “.au direct” accredited registrars.

If your application is successful, you should be able to register and begin using the “.au direct domain” namespace shortly after the application is made. However, where someone else tries to register the exact matching “.au direct domain”, the name will be considered contested and will be allocated according to a priority allocation process. This can occur where two registrants, who are both eligible to register the “.au direct domain”, each hold the licence for that “.au domain” but in different namespaces.

For example, one person may hold the licence for “yourdomain.com.au” and another person for “yourdomain.net.au”. In these instances, the “.au direct domain” will be allocated according to the priority of when the “.au domain” was created:

  • Priority Category 1: the “.au domain” created on or before the cut-off date of 4 February 2018; and
  • Priority Category 2: the “.au domain” created after the cut-off date of 4 February 2018.

Priority Category 1 applicants will have priority over Priority Category 2 applicants in the allocation process for the exact matching “.au direct domain”.

However, there may also be instances where there are:

  • multiple Priority Category 1 applicants. In this instance, the applicants must agree amongst themselves as to who the “.au direct domain” will be allocated to, otherwise the domain name will remain unallocated; or
  • only Priority Category 2 applicants. In this case, the “.au direct domain” will be allocated to the applicant with the earliest “.au domain” creation date.

If you do not apply for your exact matching “.au direct domain” within the 6-month Priority Allocation Period, the domain will become available to the public on a first serve basis – even where you may have the exact matching “.au domain”. Therefore, it is critical that your business consider whether to apply to register a “.au direct domain” of its current exact matching “.au domain” within this 6-month period.

Eligibility

In addition to the above, in order to register for a “.au direct domain” namespace, you must meet the eligibility criteria under the auDA licensing rules.

Eligibility is based off an entity meeting the “Australian presence requirement”. This entails applicants establishing a clear ‘connection with Australia’, such as citizenship, permanent resident status or being a registered Australian organisation.

There are no allocation rules for a new “.au direct domain” namespace, meaning where there is no exact matching “.au domain” already registered. This means entities can choose any name to register provided it is available and not on the reserved list (such as words prohibited under Australian law or that pose a risk to operational security etc).

What’s next?

You can apply to register for either a new “.au direct domain” or one that is an exact match to your existing “.au domain” via the registrar or any other accredited registrar during this period. These license terms can range between 1-5 years, with extensions available if the eligibility requirements continue to be met.

The new changes bring exciting new opportunities for your business to protect its intellectual property and develop a stronger online presence. However, businesses wishing to protect their existing “.au domain” name and secure the exact matching “.au direct domain” will need to apply during the 6-month priority period commencing on 24 March 2022.

If you need assistance in registering your domain name or creating strategies to protect and strengthen your business’ intellectual property, the KKI Commercial Team is here to help.