MHC Tech Law: How regulation draws success from the dot-IE domain

11 Jul 2016

This week from MHC Tech Law, Mason Hayes & Curran presents the winning entry to its Student Writing Contest, written by Stephen Lynam, a student at Maynooth University.

Anyone who has attempted to register a dot-com web address for their organisation knows that the good ones are always taken. Those savvy enough to register ‘’ or ‘’ in the nineties will have sold them on by now for seven figures.

If you are going for something short and snappy then you’re out of luck as all the three and four-letter dot-com domains are registered, and any five or six-letter dot-com that is worth the €10 registration fee may also be sitting in cyberspace with a generic website ‘squatting’ on it.

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Top-level domains

Almost all other top-level domains (TLDs) such as ‘.eu’ or ‘’ suffered a similar fate. The valuable dictionary words are registered so fast it seems automatic. Anything of value is reserved for domain auctions where the asking prices go far beyond your start-up budget.

In an effort to raise funds, Tokelau – a self-governed territory of New Zealand – released most of its ‘.tk’ domains for free to the public, except those such as the trademarks of Fortune 500 companies and other valuables. The plan backfired when dot-TK became infamous for scam and phishing websites.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) also approved the ‘.eu’ TLD in 2005, although the EU is not a country (it is a sui generis intergovernmental and supranational organisation). A landrush on the dot-EU domains caused their reputation and value to plummet, and EU institutions such as the European Central Bank stray away from ‘.eu’ and use ‘’ instead.

Keeping dot-IE in check

Thankfully, there is a success story in Ireland’s dot-IE top-level domain.

Originally administered by University College Dublin, dot-IE has always been carefully monitored. The IE Domain Registry (IEDR) took on the responsibility of deciding who gets a ‘.ie’ web address in 2000. The Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 then saw Ireland’s communications regulator, ComReg, acquire powers to regulate and oversee the management of the domain. This is the same body responsible for ensuring telecoms companies such as Eir and Vodafone comply with their obligations.

A ‘.ie’ domain name can be registered for the following categories: personal name, corporate name, registered business name, trade mark name, publication name, unincorporated association name, state agency name, educational institution name, politician’s name, personal trading name, and discretionary name. Back-up documentation is required for registration, such as a passport for personal name or a company registration number for your registered business name. If a dot-IE application is rejected, there is a right to appeal under Part 4, Section 32 of the Act.

Regulation benefits reputation

This very simple, and extremely effective, management and regulation of the top-level domain has qualified dot-IE as a respected and trustworthy domain in the eyes of Google and other online visitors.

Google gives dot-IE addresses priority in the search results as there is understanding that behind the ‘.ie’ is a valid organisation. Shoppers trust dot-IE as genuinely Irish because the international market wasn’t flooded with ‘.ie’ domains. If the domain appears to have been sold, except as part of the sale of a business, or the domain is neglected, then IEDR may delete the domain within five working days’ notice.

Starting a business in Ireland comes with this little-known but significant benefit of being able to avail of a reputable online presence. Moves are also afoot to ensure that modern browsers such as Chrome and Firefox can display the fada in the address bar.

So, to register your ‘gnó.ie’ from the official registrar, go to

By Stephen Lynam

Stephen Lynam is a student at Maynooth University. His article is the winning entry in Mason Hayes & Curran’s inaugural Student Writing Contest. Click here for more details on the competition.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

Tech Law is a weekly series brought to you by Irish law firm Mason Hayes & Curran, whose legal tech team advises the world’s top social media organisations and emerging start-ups. Check out for more.

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