And how should a .au Domain amnesty be implemented?

In 1 week the auDA rules are changing in terms of the basis on which a person (known as a Registrant) can:

  • register a .au domain name,
  • how they must control the domain name,
  • how entitlement is to be maintained and
  • how the complaints process is enforced.

Ned OMeara, in his article, suggests an amnesty period for domains.

How should it be done?

A free and defined period of time for the amnesty will aid those who receive a complaint within the amnesty period but not others. Registrants who are not aware of the eligibility and allocation policy change (which is a complaint of the rule rollout) but who get a complaint after the period will lose their domains. Also, those in the domain industry may wait until after the amnesty to complain to thwart Registrants taking advantage of the amnesty. auDA would likely argue that we are in that amnesty period now, whereby the Registrants have time to fix the issues before the rules are enforced. 

Would a 1 strike policy be workable? If it is per domain, then there would be no point to the rule change as people will always take advantage of it and avoid the policy altogether.  

Alternatively 1 strike per Registrant? If that is the case the first complaint can be overcome but the Registrant is then given a period of time say 1 month to put all other domains in order and then the rules are fully enforced.  I also think that when they are put on notice of the problems they are given a list of the domains they hold (under that Registrant name) and told to correct the issues if necessary. People may not even know what domains they hold as they are autorenewed and in old accounts. 

This overcomes the lack of publicity issue and seems like a fair approach. 

It is not unusual to have periodic amnesties in certain industries. Businesses recently contributed $588M of unpaid super under an amnesty. But remember here there is no detriment to fixing the issue immediately, so periodic amnesties are not necessary.

The complaints process is changing whereby Registrars (the reseller of the domain) will make the initial decision. What guidance is auDA giving those registrars to guide the decision making process? How is auDA going to ensure a unified approach? Are any audits going to be applied to decisions? If so, how are the audits conducted and what is the outcome? Would domains be transferred back and taken off the new Registrant? Are we going to see different decisions across different registrars?

auDA can conduct an internal review, upon request and for a price, but again what are the rules for the review? Is a fresh decision made? or is auDA going to assess whether the Registrar acted reasonably and came to a reasonable decision under the rules, regardless of whether auDA would make the same decision?

We should also explore a different enforcement to those who registered the domains without an entitlement against those who lost entitlement after registration. It seems illogical that the same outcome is applied to both circumstances. A person can register a domain (say as a sole trader), later incorporate and allow that corporation to exploit the domain but then lose the domain under the upcoming third party rule, due to what is an administrative oversight. Some people will lose their whole businesses due to the new rules with no ability to fix the issue. 

Also, why are the Registrars not sending messages to people to warn Registrants of the new rules? They gladly take renewal fees and should have some duty of care to warn about the rules they are about to enforce. 

My other concern is the spike in passing off and misleading and deceptive conduct we will see. The issue there is where a domain with lots of traffic drops, people will grab it to trade off that traffic. Some will be tempted to pass off the new website with the old etc…

I hope auDA realises the psychological impact on people when they lose their business and that will occur to some who lose their domain names due to a breach of auDA policy. There is no recourse, no way to fix it, no recovery. And all when at times the error will be because of administrative oversight or a Registrant not understanding the rules when they registered the .au domain initially.