New domain may see cybersquatting return


27 Jun 2005

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The launch later this year of the new European domain name, .eu, could herald the return of the cybersquatting phenomenon last seen during the height of the dotcom boom at the end of the Nineties, the chief executive of the .IE Domain Registry (IEDR) has claimed.

In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, David Curtin said there was likely to be intense competition for .eu names once they become available. “In a first-come-first-served scenario [cybersquatting is] always a risk,” he said.

Cybersquatting generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses. The practice was so rampant at the end of the Nineties the US Government passed a 1999 federal law known as the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act to deter would-be offenders.

Under EU regulations, public bodies and ‘holders of prior rights’ (eg trademark holders and so on) can apply to register their .eu domain name during a four-month sunrise period, which will start later this year. After this, probably in early 2006, .eu domains will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

“In general terms, it will be similar to the dotcom days — .eu will be a free-for-all and there will be lots of competition for the really popular names,” said Curtin.

However, even during the sunrise period there would be intense competition for names, he predicted. “For instance, I’m sure Hewlett-Packard, HP Sauce and others will be applying for www.hp.eu. I wouldn’t like to be the person deciding who should get it.”

This task will in fact fall to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which has been awarded the contract to process applications from these early applicants. However, since no criteria have been publicised yet, it is unclear on what basis domain names will be awarded.

In response to the impending arrival of the new domain name, the IEDR also issued a statement in which it broadly welcomed the development as bringing additional choice for consumers. However, the registry said it was confident that .ie internet addresses would remain the top choice, particularly for companies operating in the local national market and those that are encouraging new consumers onto the internet to buy their product or service.

“On a .ie website, their customers can be assured that the .ie domain holders are who they say they are. This contrasts with for example, .com registrations (and soon, .eu registrations) where there is no human intervention with new applications, and the domain applied for will be automatically granted without authentication,” the statement concluded.

Commenting on the current performance of the IEDR, Curtin said the total number of .ie domains registered was continuing to grow strongly. There were now 48,000 .ie domain names registered, which was up more than 10,000 on the same period last year, he said.

By Brian Skelly