auDA seizes control of the '.au' domain space

Australia

By taking control of the technical and administrative responsibility for two second-level domains - '.org.au' and '.id.au' - Australia's domain industry self-regulatory body, auDA, has moved one step closer to the introduction of its new system of country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) management. This comes four months after auDA signed an agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to formalize the transfer of delegation for the '.au' ccTLD from Robert Elz to auDA.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the predecessor to ICANN, granted responsibility for the '.au' ccTLD to Elz in 1986, when the domain name system was first introduced into Australia. This delegation of authority recognized the role that Elz had played in persuading the University of Melbourne and other research bodies to become involved in the Internet in its pre-commercial form. In 1996 Elz signed a five-year licence with the University of Melbourne's commercial unit, Melbourne IT, to register second-level '.com.au' domains. (Since the delegation of the '.au' ccTLD to Elz, eleven second-level domains have been established: '.asn.au', '.com.au', '.conf.au', '.csiro.au', '.edu.au', '.gov.au', '.id.au', '.info.au', '.net.au', '.org.au' and '.oz.au'.)

In 1999 auDA was established and later endorsed by the government as the appropriate body to manage the '.au' ccTLD. Elz sub-delegated to auDA his management authority over the second-level '.com.au' domain space (which comprises approximately 85% of all domain names within the '.au' ccTLD), although the registration authority continued to be with Melbourne IT. In July 2000 auDA entered into a controversial agreement with Melbourne IT not to register '.com.au' domains until after Melbourne IT's rights to register domain names (pursuant to Elz's authority) expired in October 2001.

However, despite repeated requests from auDA and the government through the National Office of the Information Economy to Elz to re-delegate his management authority over the entire '.au' ccTLD to auDA (which in effect meant all 11 second-level domains not just the second-level '.com.au' domain), Elz failed to respond. Many believe that Elz did not see his delegation from IANA as granting him the right to re-delegate his authority. In May 2001 auDA approached ICANN asking that the management of the entire '.au' ccTLD be formally re-delegated to auDA. An agreement to this effect was signed in October 2001.

Despite this transfer of authority over the entire '.au' ccTLD, Elz continued to manage the registration and re-delegation services for the second-level non-profit '.org.au' and '.id.au' domain spaces. In November 2001 auDA gave Elz six weeks notice of its intention to assume technical and administrative responsibility for these second-level domains. On January 29 2002, after receiving no response from Elz, auDA assumed responsibility for '.org.au' and '.id.au'.

By taking control of these second-level domains, auDA has moved one step closer to the introduction of its new system of '.au' ccTLD management, which allows for competition in the provision of domain name services. Under the new system, AusRegistry Pty Ltd has been awarded the tender to provide registry services for '.com.au', '.net.au', '.asn.au', '.id.au' and '.org.au'. Six registrars, including Melbourne IT, will shortly participate in a test-bed with AusRegistry Pty Ltd in an attempt to make the transition to the new system as smooth as possible. It is anticipated that 10 registrars will be providing registration services when the new system goes live later this year.

At the same time as the new system goes live, auDA has also undertaken that a form of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy will be implemented for the '.au' ccTLD - a welcome development after years of inaction in this regard by Melbourne IT in relation to the '.com.au' domain space.

Peter Knight, Clayton Utz, Sydney

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