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Register .au domain or face steep costs, lawyer warns


Businesses have until 9:59am AEST on 21 September to register their shortened URL or risk it going to someone else. 

By Josh Needs 11 minute read

Any business with an online presence should register its shortened .au domain name or face steep costs to correct the oversight, legal firm Cornwalls warns. 

Cornwalls IP partner Len Hickey said battling over the rights to domain names was already 20 per cent of his work and businesses should avoid it if they could. 

“Fighting over domain names is not fun,” he said. “It is time consuming and can be costly, so spending under $25 to register your .au is money well spent.” 

“Once a domain name is registered it is not easy to get back from a legal perspective.” 

Mr Hickey said once a firm had registered its .au URL it should consider a trademark application for any brand name that appeared in its existing domain name. 

“Trademark registrations put domain name owners in the strongest position to deal with third parties who illegitimately seek to register domain names that copy a trademark registration,” said Mr Hickey. 

“For legal issues relating to domain names, it’s inevitably the case that prevention will be better than the cure.” 

To avoid those legal disputes Australian businesses with an existing online presence can priority register for their shortened .au domain before 9:59am AEST on Wednesday 21 September.  

Concerned that small businesses remain unaware of the new suffix, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) have been calling for an extension to the six-month priority registration period.

However, the independent provider of the shortened URL, .au Domain Administrator (auDA) has rejected the requests. 

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, said the priority now was to make sure businesses, particularly small ones, were aware of the change. 

“The awareness campaign by the non-government regulator (auDA) has been underwhelming,” said Mr Billson. 

“They have rejected calls to extend this artificial deadline, so I am doing all I can to alert small businesses about this change so they can secure their shortened domain name before it’s open slather and anyone can buy it.” 

“Unfortunately, hardly any small businesses I’ve met are aware this big change is taking place.” 

COSBOA CEO Alexi Boyd agreed that awareness was the key problem with the rollout. 

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with the existence of .au direct – the problem is that not nearly enough people know about it, making it a risk for cyber crime,” she said. 

“In this digital age where having a website is basically a requirement to running a successful small business, domain names are valuable assets and important intellectual property.” 

If businesses fail to register their shortened .au URLs – for example instead of the deadline they will become available for general purchase at 8am AEDT on 4 October. 

Mr Billson said it would be detrimental for any business to lack its shortened domain name and it would open the door to opportunistic cyber criminals. 

“If you don’t get control of the .au version of your domain name, a cyber criminal masquerading as you could try to reach your customers to harvest personal information, even intercept invoices so that they can substitute different bank account details,” he said. 

“The consequences for a small or family business could be massive if impersonators, web-name ‘squatters’ or cyber criminals take up domain names just like theirs.” 

“With all the challenges small business owners and leaders are facing now, the last thing anyone needs is someone ripping off their domain name.” 

The domain administrator said there had been substantial uptake of shortened domain names with over 300,000 currently registered. 

The organisation also said it had implemented security and compliance measures to ensure domain abuse levels would be low. 

Those measures included:

  • A requirement that to register people must have an Australian presence which is validated upon registration.
  • Daily monitoring for fraudulent activity. 
  • Provisions to suspend or cancel domain name licences where the .au policy is breached.
  • Review of daily threat intelligence feeds from security organisations.
  • A resolution process for instances where Australian trademarks are breached. 

For more information on the registration of the shortened .au domain name visit: 

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Josh Needs

Josh Needs


Josh Needs is a journalist at Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, which are the leading sources of news, strategy, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Josh studied journalism at the University of NSW and previously wrote news, feature articles and video reviews for Unsealed 4x4, a specialist offroad motoring website. Since joining the Momentum Media Team in 2022, Josh has written for Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser.

You can email Josh on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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