On 12 April 2021 an updated set of rules for the .au country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) will come into effect, including for the .org.au domain name.

Who can register a .org.au domain name?

Only organisations that satisfy the definition of ‘not-for-profit’ are eligible to register a .org.au domain name.

What is a not-for-profit?

The definition of a not-for-profit organisation is changing. The new definition will contain 11 categories of eligible organisation, including some new categories.

From 12 April 2021, to satisfy the definition, an organisation will need to be:

  • an incorporated association under State or Territory legislation;
  • a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001(Cth)
  • a non-distributing co-operative registered under State or Territory legislation;
  • 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 (CATSI Corporations);
  • a registered organisation that is:
    • an association of employers;
    • an association of employees (union); or
    • an enterprise association; registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth) and which appears on the Register of Organisations;
  • a charitable trust endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as a deductible gift recipient (DGR);
  • a non-trading cooperative under State or Territory legislation;
  • a public or private ancillary fund endorsed by the ATO as a DGR;
  • an unincorporated association that is included on the Register of Charities established under the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission Act 2012 (Cth);
  • 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
  • Government, being either the Crown or a Commonwealth, State or Territory statutory agency.

This updated definition helpfully includes some new categories, including CATSI Corporations and cooperatives. However, it still contains several clear gaps, including in relation to charitable trusts that are not DGRs and other company types that operate as not-for-profits or are ACNC registered charities (e.g. a proprietary limited company that is a charity).

Importantly, under the new rules unincorporated associations will not be eligible to hold .org.au domain names unless they are charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (or otherwise satisfy one of the other eligibility criteria).

Not-for-profit organisations that do not satisfy the amended definition should consider whether they can register under a different .au domain name.

What domain names can I register?

The current rule requires ‘close and substantial connection’ between the not-for-profit organisation and the desired domain name. Under the new rules, the .org.au domain name that can be used is broader. That is, a .org.au domain name must be:

  • a match or synonym of the name of:
    • 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; and which that organisation is providing at the time of the application;
  • a match of the organisation’s legal name, business or statutory name or the name of the unincorporated association;
  • an acronym of the organisation’s legal name, business name, or statutory name;
  • a match of the organisation’s Australian trade mark; or
  • a match to the name of a trust of which the organisation is a trustee.

When will the new country code Top Level Domain rules apply?

The new rules will come into effect on 12 April 2021. Any .org.au domain names created, transferred or renewed on or after this date will be subject to the new licensing rules.

Is anything else changing?

These changes are part of broader changes to the .au ccTLD. More information regarding the changes is available via.au Domain Administration Limited (auDA). auDA develops and administers the rules for domain names in the .au ccTLD.

How can we help?

To find out more about how these changes may impact your organisation, get in touch with our Charities + Social Sector lawyers or our Intellectual Property experts.

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