Launch of '.maori.nz' not without controversy

New Zealand

New Zealand's newest second-level domain - '.maori.nz' - has gone live and, inevitably, has become a target for potential cybersquatters.

'.Maori.nz' is believed to be the first domain name in the world to be named after an indigenous group. Although New Zealand already had 10 second-level domains, including the strictly regulated '.iwi.nz', none of these provides specifically for generic Maori web addresses. It was decided to make '.maori.nz' an unmoderated domain space in order to simplify the first-come, first-served registration process.

Nearly 60 '.maori.nz' names have been registered by Craig Beecroft, a former executive of Tainui (a regional tribal body), and his business partner Mark Scherer. The registered names include valuable generic names (eg, 'television.maori.nz' and 'sport.maori.nz'), as well as several tribal names, including Tainui. Beecroft denies that his actions are motivated by revenge - he was sacked by Tainui amid accusations of fraud - but this may become a cybersquatting issue to be decided by the courts.

New Zealand has no clear legislation governing cybersquatting. As the registrar Domainz is not accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, all disputes must be settled by the courts. Judicial precedent generally tends to favour the party with the stronger pre-existing connection to a name.

Stephen Revill, Bell Gully, Auckland

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