It has been years in gestation, but it looks as though November 2004 might finally see the new top level ‘.eu’ domain name becoming generally available, with a September 2004 ‘sunrise’ registration window for owners of existing, qualifying brands.
Topic: Domain names
Who: "The Directorate-General, Information Society" of the European Commission
When: January 2004
It was finally announced that after many years of preparation and debate, general registrations of ".eu" domain names will start in November 2004.
The introduction of a .eu top level domain name (to rank alongside generic TLDs such as .com, .net, .info and country code TLDs such as .uk and .de) was first put firmly on track by the adoption in March 2002 of the EU Regulation on its implementation. The idea was that the new TLD should be useable by individuals, organisations and companies in the European Union. It was not intended to replace the existing national, country code TLDs in the EU, but rather to complement them and give users the additional option of having a pan-European internet identity for their websites and e-mail addresses.
Following the adoption of the Regulation, the Commission invited applications from interested parties to act as the .eu TLD registry. The idea was that only private sector, non-profit organisations need apply. The window for the acceptance of applications closed on 25 October 2002 and in May 2003 the Commission selected EURid (the European Registry for Internet Domains) for the task. EURid (as it likes to be typed) is a consortium of three existing TLD registries. These are DNS-BE (Belgium), IIT CNR (Italy) and NIC SE (Sweden).
In its initial proposal document to the Commission, EURid said its target for the registration fee would be €10 with a plan to reduce it to €5 after 12 months. One of the measures to control costs would be the introduction of fully automated registration, without manual intervention. A simple and accessible alternative dispute resolution procedure would also be introduced to deal with any differences that arose.
It was always critical to the introduction of the new domain name that ICANN (the not for profit organisation overseeing the whole domain name system) should accept .eu in the global Internet Domain Name System (DNS) and include it in the system's root servers. Following this and the conclusion of a contract between ICANN and EURid, the second phase would be the setting up of a network of registrars, who would actually receive and process applications to register .eu domain names.
So who can register a .eu domain name?
The following categories of companies, organisations and individuals will be able to register a .eu domain:-
1. undertakings having their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the European Community;
2. organisations established within the European Community without prejudice to the application of national law;
3. natural persons resident within the European Community.
What will it cost?
EURid has already indicated that the €10 registration fee was only ever going to meet the fee that EURid charged: once the individual, accredited registrars have added their slice to cover administration costs, the fee for the user will inevitably be higher than this
Before general registrations of .eu domain names start in November 2004, there will be a "sunrise period," by all accounts starting during September 2004. During this period, holders of qualifying existing brands (for example holders of registered trademarks) will have the opportunity to apply for the registration of the corresponding .eu domain name. These applications will be processed and evaluated prior to acceptance, and more detailed rules on the process will be published in due course by the European Commission.
Once .eu registrars are accredited, they will be allowed to accept pre-registrations. There is no word yet on when any accredited registrars are first likely to accept such pre-registrations.
Why this matters:
It has been a long wait and even now, there has to be some element of doubt as to whether the November 2004 target for general registration acceptances will be met, particularly as no public policy rules have yet been published by the European Commission setting out how the process will operate.
Until this occurs and until properly accredited .eu registries are established, brand owners looking to grab a .eu domain name should take great care. There are many unscrupulous operators out there offering fake ".eu" "pre-registration" services and soliciting credit card details for that purpose.
Once legitimate pre-registration is possible, however, all Europe-based brand owners will undoubtedly be having a serious look at staking their claim to the relevant .eu domain name, if only to stop others getting in there first!