One of our first blog posts dealt with sub-domains created from gTLDs (generic Top Level Domain) and ccTLDs (country code Top Level Domain), which are marketed as alternative TLDs such as uk.com and co.nl. We have decided to re-visit this issue after we received an email from the general manager of the sub-domain co.nl explaining that there is no link between the operator of co.nl and nl. Extracts from the email are inserted below (contact us to receive the full email). See the SIDN (.nl Registry) press release.
“… we feel it is important for potential customers to clearly understand the differences between CO.NL and SIDN..
As an example, article 1 of the FAQ explains “the registration of a CO.NL subdomain (as offered by EuroDNS which is acting as Operator) should not be confused with the registration of a .nl domain name through SIDN, the official Registry of the .NL extension on the Internet. SIDN is not involved in any way with the registration or servicing of CO.NL subdomains by EuroDNS”.
Under the policy devised by EuroDNS and its Dutch partners, the CO.NL domain name has been registered for the benefit of the Internet community and subdomains will be usable as part of any Internet address (mail, web or otherwise such as firstname.lastname@example.org or http://mydutchcompany.co.nl) and have no location-related requirement. Users of .NL domain names will also have an easy way to complement their Internet presence with a CO.NL by taking advantage of the CO.NL « Grandfather period ». With that option to be launched by the end of the year, the holder of any given .NL can elect to be granted the corresponding CO.NL.
2. Is there a difference between CO.NL and other subdomains such as CO.UK or CO.JP ?Technically, yes. While CO.UK is a subdomain operated by Nominet Plc (the .UK Registry), CO.NL is a domain name with no other link with SIDN (the .NL Registry). However, EuroDNS registered the CO.NL domain name to allow any interested user to use it as a third level domain. Therefore, from a practical standpoint, there is virtually no difference: http://www.abc.co.nl could go to the same page as http://www.abc.co.uk and emails at email@example.com will reach you as easily as with firstname.lastname@example.org. CO.NL is built in such a way that any other server (FTP, Telnet…) can be used as well.
5. Can I register a CO.NL with any SIDN Registrar ?Because CO.NL has no link whatsoever with SIDN, SIDN’s partners do not automatically allow registration in CO.NL. However, the list of Registrars accredited by the CO.NL operators is growing rapidly and already include key Dutch registrars. An overview of the currently accredited CO.NL Registrars can be found at www.domain.co.nl.
Besides causing confusion with the .nl Registry, there are obvious risks associated with registering a domain that is part of a sub-domain such as the risk of the owner:
• not renewing the domain;
• being liquidated;
• discontinuing its service; and
• being cited as party to a domain name dispute.
If these serious risk to domain name/trade marks owners exist then why are these sub-domains popular or worth promoting? Well, it may be an alternative to establish some domain presence if the required domain is no longer available within a specific ccTLD namespace but it is also a convenient way around complying with local restrictions.
A good example is .ee (the ccTLD for Estonia). The regulations provide that only locally established corporations can register one domain name. With such restrictive regulations trade mark owners are driven to the sub-domain co.ee registered by a local company (similar to co.nl) and marketed as the regulation free Estonian TLD.
The next logical question is why does the Estonian Registry (EENet) not relax or remove the restrictions to promote Internet activity in their country. What would happen to the Estonian economy if a company or private individual was only allowed to register one trade mark? So why is it different on the Internet?
If these ccTLD operators do not relax certain restrictions it could stifle Internet investment resulting in the loss of a potentially lucrative revenue stream for those countries as well as potentially being ignored by the Internet community when the new gTLDs are released.
We believe the IP community needs to debate domain name issues more actively to encourage registries to change restrictive policies.