Norwegian domain name system expands to accept new characters

Norway

Norid - the organization in charge of administrating the Norwegian country-code top-level domain '.no' - has announced plans to expand the existing domain name system to accept Norwegian characters by implementing an international agreement on multilingual domains. However, there are concerns that this will cause a sharp increase in domain name disputes, particularly as there are currently no clear rules on cybersquatting in Norway.

The international agreement makes it possible to support an unlimited amount of alphabets in the domain name system. However, due to technical problems and economic issues, only Norwegian letters found in the official languages (ie, standard Norwegian, new Norwegian, northern Saami, southern Saami and Lule Saami) will be implemented, such as the characters 'æ', 'ø' and 'å'.

It is believed that implementation will take place with the cooperation of the Post and Telecommunications Authority (NPTA), which is formally authorized by the Telecommunications Act to deal with the administration of names and numbers in the telecommunications network, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Comments on the proposal may be made until April 22 2003 and implementation is expected by the end of the year.

Norid plans to implement the system through a lottery that will give all parties an equal chance to register a domain name using the new characters. After this, registration will take place on a first-come, first-served basis. Critics have argued that a better method would be to give holders of trademarks or company names that use the new characters a sunrise period in which to register their domain names. This would help to avoid some of the cybersquatting that will inevitably take place.

It is to be hoped that the NPTA will implement anti-cybersquatting rules before the new characters are introduced, as Norid's plan to resolve any disputes through the courts will be inefficient and expensive.

Peter Lenda, Simonsen Føyen Advokatfirma DA, Oslo

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