New domain names regulations aim to bolster fight against cybersquatters

Argentina

Since August 2013, the Argentinean domain names registry, NIC Argentina, has been introducing many changes to the way in which ‘.ar’ domain names are registered, handled and renewed in Argentina. The main intended purposes are to:

  • optimise the operation of ‘.ar’ domain names; and
  • try and fight the cybersquatters who have been registering, during the past two decades, a high number of domain names that were never used, thus preventing other with legitimate interests from registering and using of them.

As of its publication in the Official Gazette on March 5 2014, NIC Argentina has approved a new “Guide on Registering Domains”. The most important changes introduced by the new guide are explained below.

For new registrations, renewals, assignments and disputes, NIC Argentina will charge an official fee of between $20 and $30 (at least for 2014). In contrast to many other countries in the world, and especially in South America, in Argentina the registration and renewal of domains names used to be free of charge. As of now, those who own registered domain names will have to pay a yearly official fee upon renewal.

In addition, NIC Argentina has decided that applications for the registration of new domain names will be published for two days in the Official Gazette. The applications will be published in order to allow third parties not only to be advised of which domain names are being registered, but also to be able to oppose their registration - the purpose of such publication is thus the same as the rationale behind the publication of trademark applications. As a consequence, domain name owners or their representatives in Argentina will be able to monitor new domain names registrations.

The third main change is the introduction of a ‘dispute procedure’ against new domain name applications. As from the publication of an application, any third party that considers that its rights are being harmed will be able to initiate a ‘dispute’ against the applicant. There will be a 15-working-day period to file an ‘opposition’ providing the grounds for the objection and any evidence in support of the opposition. NIC Argentina will notify the applicant of such objection and the latter will have the same period of time to file its response to the opposition.

Once these time limits have expired, the Legal and Technical Division of NIC Argentina will decide on the merits of the opposition and will either allow or refuse the registration of the domain name. Any of the parties involved may file an appeal against the decision before the director of NIC Argentina or the national courts.

It thus appears that NIC Argentina has made a complete turnaround, which started some months ago, in order to adopt newer and safer procedures for the registration of domain names that were already available in many other countries.

In this regard, in August 2013 the first important change to the procedures before NIC Argentina was introduced. As from August, all owners of registered domain names must carry out additional steps that consist of:

  • first, the creation of a user account on NIC Argentina’s website; and
  • second, the filing of evidence demonstrating the existence of the company (eg,  bylaws, articles of incorporation and certificates of existence) and associating the registered domain names with the new user account.

There are still many companies (especially foreign ones) that have not carried out these steps, but should do so to avoid losing their domain names.

Even though some procedures have become more complicated, it must be recognised that NIC Argentina has taken a flexible stance and has always been interested in receiving suggestions from domain name owners - or their attorneys - in order to ensure that the transition from the old registration system to the new one goes smoothly.  

Arguably, NIC Argentina should have included the possibility of registering and renewing domain names for longer periods (at least for five years) in order to avoid the inconvenience of having to apply and pay for renewal each year.

All these changes will provide a better and fairer way of handling domain names, and will force cybersquatters to decide whether they should risk incurring the costs associated with defending domain names registered in bad faith.

Pablo Armando, Noetinger & Armando, Buenos Aires

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