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UK tells .eu registrants to lawyer up as no-deal Brexit looms

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2019, Domain Policy

British .eu registrants have been urged to consider another top-level domain or seek legal advice due to the risk of losing their names if a no-deal Brexit happens.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued guidance shortly before Christmas, encouraging UK individuals and businesses to talk to their registrars about their .eu eligibility after March 29, currently the date we’re scheduled to leave the EU.

“[Y]ou may wish to discuss transferring your registration to another top level domain,” the guidance states. “Examples of other top level domains include .com, .co.uk, .net or .org.”

I’m sure Nominet will be delighted to see the UK government apparently prefers .com to .uk.

The guidance points to the European Commission’s own notice of March 2018, which informs Brits that they won’t be eligible to register or renew .eu domains after Brexit, and that the registry will be able to turn off those names at will.

That’s assuming a no-deal Brexit, it seems. The new UK guidance suggests that a Brexit with a transition plan is likely to give registrants a bit more breathing space, and possible future rights to retain their names.

Even though .eu is not a TLD you’ll typically see on a billboard or TV commercial in the UK — I’m fairly confident I’ve never seen one in the wild here — it seems that Brits are responsible for a big chunk of the namespace.

There were 273,000 .eu domains registered in the UK at the end of the third quarter 2018, according to EURid (pdf), down 10% on the same period 2017, a decline squarely attributed to Brexit.

There were 3.75 million .eu domains in total, with the UK being the fourth-largest source of registrations.

If you haven’t been following the Brexit saga recently, lucky you! I’ll quickly explain what’s going on.

The British parliament is currently on the verge of deciding whether to leave the EU with a negotiated deal that nobody likes — the equivalent of sawing off a perfectly healthy testicle with a rusty blade for no reason — or to leave the EU with no deal — the equivalent of sawing off both perfectly healthy testicles with a rusty blade for no reason.

The option of keeping both testicles intact and attached is unlikely to be put to the British people because two years ago we were all assured that amateur backstreet castration was fricking awesome and we’re now being warned that the almost 52% of the population who believed the horseshit, and are almost certainly too stupid to have changed their minds in the meantime, will riot in the streets rather than recast their votes.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Come April 1, don’t be surprised if DI is being brought to you from a country with fewer idiots. I’m open to suggestions. Somewhere warm, preferably.

Brexit probably no big deal for UK domain owners

Kevin Murphy, June 29, 2016, Domain Policy

The UK may have suffered the most serious self-inflicted wound since the deep-fried Mars bar when it voted to leave the European Union last week, but it seems unlikely to have a huge effect on domain name registrants.

Most EU ccTLD registries do not require registrants to be based in the EU, and those that do have shown themselves flexible.

I surveyed the web sites of all 29 EU ccTLD registries, scouring FAQs and policy documents, to see if leaving the EU would cause conflicts for UK registrants.

All but one of these sites have comprehensive English versions available, which made the process very simple indeed.

It turns out the majority of the EU’s member states either have no geographic restrictions whatsoever or restrict registrations to only people and companies within their own nations.

I found five — six if you count .eu itself — that have policies that refer directly to a European Union presence in their rules and regulations.

  • .fr (France) is restricted to residents of the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • .it (Italy) allows registrations from anyone in the European Economic Area, the Vatican, San Marino or Switzerland.
  • .nl (Netherlands) allows regs from anywhere, but registry manager SIDN says may attach “additional conditions to legal and/or natural persons based outside the European Union”.
  • .hu (Hungary) requires EU residency for individuals and companies wishing to register directly at the second level. There are no such restrictions at the third level.
  • .bg (Bulgaria) requires a local Bulgarian presence for non-EU registrants.
  • .eu (European Union) requires presence in the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

As you can see, even those with EU presence requirements are pretty flexible when it comes to bolting on additional eligible countries.

So-called Brexit — British exit from the EU — is unlikely to happen for two years or more, if it happens at all.

The thinking right now is that if/when the UK does finally formally leave it is likely to either become a member of the European Economic Area or have otherwise have negotiated a relationship with the EU not unlike Norway’s.

This would presumably make it fairly easy for ccTLD registries to plug the UK into their existing policies.

Any registry with a substantial number of existing UK registrants would of course have financial exposure to a Brexit, a likely incentive to modify their rules accordingly.

So for regular domain owners, Brexit is probably no big deal.

Whether the move would an impact on trademark holders or registrars are rather more complex matters that I have not looked at yet.

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