From Sun Apr 3 10:00:40 2005
Date: Sat, 2 Apr 2005 15:14:57 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [NYTr] Europe's internet domain finally gets green light
Article: 208551
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Europe's internet domain finally gets green light

By Robin O'Brien Lynch, The Irish Times, Friday 1 April 2005

Six years after it was first proposed, a top-level internet domain, .eu, for all of Europe has finally got the green light.

It was not until 1999, years after the formation of the web, that the idea was even suggested—by the then commissioner for enterprise, Erkki Liikanen—and since then, the wheels of bureaucracy have moved at their customary slow pace.

At the time, the EU approached the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body responsible for introducing generic top-level domains—and which is also not renowned for its swiftness of action.

Combined with the legislative timespan of any EU decision, it is hardly surprising that we have had to wait this long.

ICANN has appointed a multinational consortium, EURid, to allocate the names. So, after several years of prolonged negotiations, discussions in the European Parliament and lengthy policy approvals, EURid expects to be ready to start issuing names in about four months.

Even then, however, there will be a further delay for entrepreneurs eager to bag the best addresses.

The EU has introduced a four-month sunrise period, in which registration will be strictly controlled and limited to public companies and trademark owners.

This is to combat the efforts of cybersquatters, companies or individuals who register web addresses and domains of famous brands or names that are not rightfully theirs.

As well as using other companies' trademarks for their own personal gain, cybersquatters can offer the domain back to the rightful owner at a vastly inflated price. The sunrise period is not merely a product of paranoia in Brussels.

Cybersquatting is an old habit, and cases are rife.

Last week Nominet, the .uk domain registry service, successfully forced UK firm CyberBritain to hand over the web address,

Apple, the owners of the Itunes name, had accused CyberBritain of cybersquatting and profiting from its trademark.

CyberBritain chief executive Benjamin Cohen accused Apple of bullying tactics and commented that the party with the most money and the most lawyers always wins.

Cohen also said that his motives were innocent and that he had registered the domain a month before the Itunes application was first published in 200.

Whether or not Cohen, a former dotcom teenage millionaire, is a wronged innocent, the decision in favour of Apple is typical.

Recent cases include and In both cases, Nominet ruled in favour of the multinationals.

Personal names are also under attack. Michael Crichton and the estate of JRR Tolkien both won cases with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to stop the writers' names being used for commercial sites.

Then there are typosquatters, those who prey upon our misspellings as we type in web addresses.

Nominet recently ordered the company that registered, and five other similar variants to hand the domains over to Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail newspaper.

Despite the high failure rate of cybersquatting, companies know that there will be a certain time period before they get caught, and then there will be another delay while the decisions are made.

A high-profile case will also gain coverage and free publicity.

The domain still links to CyberBritain's online store, while Cohen considers his options to appeal.

EURid has appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers to oversee the sunrise period, which will be divided into two consecutive stages of two months each.

During the first stage, only names that correspond with the name of a public body (or its acronym) or registered community or national trademarks may be applied for, and only by the public body concerned.

The second phase opens up the process to companies, trade names, owners of unregistered trademarks and distinctive titles of protected literary and artistic work.

Applications for the same name will be processed in turn as they are received, providing a potential legal minefield if several parties want the same name (eg Sun Microsystems, the Sun newspaper, Sun dishwasher tablets).

Some names will never be open for application, and others will be reserved for EU bodies and those of member states.

These include broadly recognised names with regard to geographical and/or geopolitical concepts, which affect their political or territorial organisations and will most likely cover names such as or

Inevitably, discussions on this matter are still ongoing, but EURid says that the list will be made available soon.

After this process, which should be finished around this time next year, application will be made available to all on a first-come, first-serve basis, providing that the applicant, whether individual, company or organisation, is based within the borders of the EU.

The benefits of having a .eu address, as opposed to .ie, .com or .org, are obvious for those covered by the sunrise period, particularly under the first phase.

As well as the vast network of EU bodies, there are pan-European organisations and businesses that will be attracted by the idea.

For the rest of us though, the immediate advantages are not always clear. EURid says that the establishment of the new domain is an important step in accelerating electronic commerce in Europe, the promotion of the European identity and creating higher visibility of the internal market.

Some firms and individuals will wish to identify themselves with the European project.

There are other possibilities. Sometimes, companies whose names are common words (ie swift, independent) need to find an alternative if the .com name is already taken. Some names aren't suitable for a .com address (eg

However, there are already alternatives, such as .net, .tv (bought from the Pacific island of Tuvalu, who used the money to join the UN) or individual country domains like .ie.

In fact, one of the main benefits of registering under the new domain is that someone else with dishonourable motives doesn't get hold of it.

This is particularly true for public figures. The Taoiseach knows this all too well, after a cheeky attempt a few years ago to set up a site carrying his name and adult images.

Already, spam e-mails have begun to circulate, offering fraudulent preregistrations, and the battle for the best addresses will be frantic and prolonged.

After so many years of inactivity and stalled progress, it is going to suddenly become very busy for those in charge of deciding who owns what.