New rules for domain names to affect Not For Profits

A new set of .au Domain Administration (.auDA) Rules have been announced affecting the eligibility, allocation, and terms and conditions for .au domain registration and renewal.  The new .auDA Rules will come into effect on 12 April 2021, and will apply to all .au country code Top Level Domains (.au ccTLD) registered, renewed or transferred on or after that date. 

Within the new .auDA Rules, there are some significant changes that will affect .org.au domains.  This will be particularly important for Australian NFPs, whom we know largely operate .org.au domains.

One of the key changes here will be that some NFPs that may have previously been eligible to hold .org.au domains, will no longer be eligible to do so.

.auDA Rule changes for .org.au domains

Changes to the eligibility rules for .org.au domains

Under the new .auDA Rules, an unincorporated association will not be eligible to hold a .org.au domain name unless it appears on the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission’s (ACNC) Register of Charities.  The only exception to this is where an unincorporated association falls under the definition of not-for-profit organisation in another of the 11 categories within the .auDA definition, as set out below.

To satisfy .auDA’s definition of not-for-profit organisation, an organisation must be:

  1. an incorporated association under State or Territory legislation;

  2. a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth);

  3. a non-distributing co-operative registered under State or Territory legislation;

  4. an indigenous corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) and which appears on the Register of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations;

  5. a registered organisation that is:

    1. an association of employers;

    2. an association of employees (union); or

    3. an enterprise association registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth) and which appears on the Register of Organisations;

  6. a charitable trust endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as a deductible gift recipient (DGR);

  7. a non-trading cooperative under State or Territory legislation;

  8. a public or private ancillary fund endorsed by the ATO as a DGR;

  9. an unincorporated association that appears on the Register of Charities established under the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission Act 2012 (Cth);

  10. a political party registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) or State or Territory Electoral Act and which appears on the Register of Political Parties or as otherwise named; or

  11. government, being either the Crown or a Commonwealth, State or Territory statutory agency.

The impact of this change will primarily be felt by unincorporated associations such as sporting, social, recreational, and other clubs.

If an unincorporated association fails to meet .auDA’s new definition of not-for-profit organisation, they will need to consider either:

  • becoming an incorporated association;

  • becoming a company limited by guarantee; or

  • registering for a .asn.au domain name.

Changes for .org.au allocation rules

Under the new .auDA Rules, the allocation rules (i.e. what name you can register, and how it must relate to you as a registrant), will broaden from requiring a ‘close and substantial connection’ between the not-for-profit organisation and its .org.au domain name, to requiring that a .org.au domain name must be:

  1. a service that the organisation provides;

    • a program that the organisation administers;

    • an event that the organisation registers or sponsors;

    • an activity that the organisation facilitates, teaches or trains;

    • premises which the organisation operates;

    • an occupation that its members practise,

  1. and which that organisation is providing at the time of the application;

  2. a match of the organisation’s legal name, business or statutory name or the name of the unincorporated association;

  3. an acronym of the organisation’s legal name, business name, or statutory name;

  4. a match of the organisation’s Australian trade mark; or a match

Changes to the rules for State and Territory namespaces

There have also been exciting changes to the .auDA Rules regarding Australian State and Territory namespaces, e.g. qld.au, nsw.au, vic.au etc.  Previously, only community groups could register in these namespaces, however, under the new .auDA Rules, the eligibility criteria have been expanded to allow State and Territory peak bodies to register in these namespaces.

The .auDA Rules specify that peak State or Territory bodies means a not-for-profit entity that represents:

  1. not for profit societies, associations or clubs, established for community service (but not political or lobbying) purposes;

  2. not for profit societies, associations or clubs established for the encouragement of art, literature or music; or

  3. not for profit societies, associations or clubs established for the encouragement of animal racing or a game or a sport or recreational activity.

.auDA provides some examples of peak State or Territory bodies around Australia, including:

  • Football Federation Victoria – being a peak Victorian body for sport and recreation;

  • Carers NSW – being a peak New South Wales body for community service organisations; and

  • Propel Youth Arts WA – being a peak Western Australia body for the arts.

The effect of this change will be that peak State or Territory bodies will have an opportunity to attain enhanced recognition of their status.

Recommendations

These changes, together with a number of other changes to the .au ccTLD , will come into effect on 12 April 2021.  It would be prudent for NFPs to review their domain name portfolios to ensure compliance with the new .auDA Rules going forwards.

If you operate a not-for-profit entity, and are unsure as to whether you will continue to be eligible for your .org.au domain name after 12 April 2021, the team at NFP Lawyers would be more than happy to assist. 

If you otherwise have any questions about any of the above, your eligibility for a .org.au domain, registrability as a charity with the ACNC, or whether any alternative structures may be appropriate, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not and is not intended to be, legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.