New domain name eligibility rules affecting the .au country code Top Level Domain came into effect on 12 April 2021. These rules will particularly affect unincorporated associations.
Whereas net.au and .com.au domain names may be registered by commercial entities such as companies and businesses, .org.au domain names are reserved for ‘not-for-profit’ entities.
The relevant licensing rules include a definition of not-for-profit entities which will change with the new eligibility rules.
Newly eligible entities will include:
- indigenous corporations (being corporations registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) and which appear under the Register of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Corporations).
- non-distributing cooperatives registered under State or Territory legislation;
- registered state and territory political parties;
- government entities (being either the Crown or a Commonwealth, State or Territory statutory agency;
The big loser in the new rules will be unincorporated associations, who will no longer be eligible to register .org.au domain names unless their name appears on the ACNC Register of Charities (or they meet some other category for eligibility).
For unincorporated associations now ineligible to register a .org.au domain name, a number of options remain available:
- changing legal structure – an unincorporated association may be able to keep its .org.au eligibility by for example shifting to an incorporated association – admittedly a major step for an unincorporated association;
- registering a .asn.au domain name – (subject to availability) unincorporated associations may be eligible to register .asn.au domain names as an alternative to .org.au.
The upcoming changes will also slightly alter the name allocation rules which determine whether an organisation can register for a particular domain name.
Under the new rules a .org.au name must be:
- a match or synonym of the name of any of the following (which :
- a service that the Person provides;
- a program that the Person administers;
- an event that the Person registers or sponsors;
- an activity that the Person facilitates, teaches or trains;
- premises which the Person operates;
- an occupation that its members practise;
b) and which that Person is providing at the time of the application; or
c) a match of the Person’s legal name, business or statutory name or the name of the unincorporated association; or
d) a acronym of the Person’s legal name, business name, or statutory name; or
e) a match of the Person’s Australian Trade Mark; or
f) a match to the name of a trust of which the Person is a trustee.
These new rules do not represent a significant difference to pre-existing arrangements but are a reminder that the ability to register for a .org.au domain name is not intended to be a ‘free for all’, registrations are instead intended to be provided where a legitimate link to the domain name is established.