.au Domain Names: Direct Registrations All You Need to Know

10 03 2022

Businesses will soon have access to a greater choice of domain names. As of 24 March 2022 at UTC 0:00, .au direct registration domain names—such as test.au and brilliant.au—will be made available. The move was recently announced by the Board of .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), following five years of work and planning. The .au Domain Administration Rules: .au Namespace Implementation (the Plan) set out the process for conflicted .au domain names based on a priority allocation process.


The decision to allow direct registrations came after the Names Policy Panel (formed by auDA) handed down its final report in 2016, which recommended:

• 1A: The Panel recommends in principle that .au should be opened up to direct registrations.
• 1B: The Panel recommends that the same policy rules which currently apply in the existing 2LDs should also apply to direct registrations.

Extensive public consultation and surveys were undertaken around .au prior to the recommendation being made. The public consultations allowed for public forums, and more focused consultations with business, industry and stakeholder groups was also undertaken.

The new licensing rules were adopted by auDA in February 2021 and introduced in April 2021 which incorporated a plan and draft set of rules for .au direction registration domain names.

Direct registration domain names (such as footy.au, footy.nz or footy.uk) drop the com, or the net from second level, making them shorter. The introduction of direct registration domain names will bring Australia into line with most other OECD countries including the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The new domain names are set to bring advantages such as shorter domains, which improve user experience particularly on mobile devices (such as tradie.au and footy.au), and flexibility for registrants that fall outside the eligibility rules for existing com.au and .net.au domains.

The Licensing Rules

Under the new Licensing Rules introduced, .au direct registrations domains were catered for in clause 2.4.3, which states:

There are no eligibility and domain name allocation criteria for the .au namespace other than an Australian presence.

The effect of the policy is that provided a registrant has an Australian Presence there are no other eligibility rules. Clause 2.4.3 accommodates individuals who wish to start a blog, but do not have an ABN or a business which have been required for .com.au and .net.au domain names and which have more stringent rules.

The Australian Presence requirement is made up of 17 different categories. In addition to the more well-known categories, such as ABN holders and trade mark owners, the most notable category is “Australian citizen or an Australian permanent resident visa holder”. This means that any Australian citizen or resident will be eligible to register a .au domain name.

The Plan

The Plan outlines three allocation categories[1]:

  • Priority Status (Category 1)
  • Priority Status (Category 2)
  • General Availability

The auDA Board determined that the Commencement Date for .au domains is 24 March 2022 at 00:00 UTC[2].

During the General Availability period, anyone who has an Australian Presence can apply to register a direct registration .au domain name on the following basis:

1.5.2    A Person may apply to register a licence in the .au namespace from commencement date, subject to the availability of the domain name and satisfying the Australian Presence requirement.

1.5.3    A domain name will be available for registration where:

(1) there is not an eligible licence with that domain name recorded in the Registry Data immediately prior to the commencement date; and

(2) the name is not a reserved name under paragraph 2.6 of the .auDA Licencing Rules.

The General Availability phase will apply to the majority of .au domain names which are not subject to conflict with existing domain name registrants. auDA has indicated that there are approximately 350,000 domain names that are conflicted meaning that there is more than one registrant who may be entitled to the direct registration domain name. For instance, example.com.au, example.net.au and example.org.au all have different registrants—all three of these registrants may be entitled to example.au.

Priority Status Category 1 and Category 2 are the mechanisms by which a entitlements and conflicts will be resolved. For these purposes a concept of a ‘cut-off date’ was created which means 4 February 2018 23:59:59 UTC.

Entitlements are based on whether a domain name was registered before or after the cut-off date as follows:

1.5.5    .au Domain Administration will reserve all domain names in the Registry Data, where a licence has a creation date:

(1)  before or on the cut-off date (Category 1); and

(2) after the cut-off date and immediately before commencement date (Category 2)[3].

Meaning if there are no domain names conflicting with the new .au domain name, then it will be available for anyone to register under the General Availability stage. If there is a conflict or an existing registrant has priority rights, then the date of registration will be a determining factor as to which category a domain name owner falls into and what process dictates the potential acquisition of the .au domain name.

Assume that accountants.com.au was registered on 2 January 2017, then it falls into Category 1. If accountants.net.au was registered on 5 April 2019, then it falls into Category 2. As such, accountants.au will be reserved by auDA so that it cannot be registered during the General Availability[4] period and will be subject to the conflict resolution process under policy where both parties apply for accountants.au.

If there is an existing single domain name registrant, then that person will be able to register the corresponding .au domain name. For example, if there is only one registrant of the word “example” (say example.com.au), then that person will be able to register example.au from 24 March 2021 for a period of 180 days (Application Period) before general release to the public.

In a case where there is more than one registrant the complexity arises. For instance, if there are three different registrants, for example.com.au, example.net.au and example.org.au who all fall into Category 1, the solution is not simple. Domain name registrars will be responsible for determining whether a domain name registrant qualifies to get priority status under clause 1.8.1 of the Plan.

[1] Clause 1.5.1 of the Implementation Plan

[2]  auDA Board Meeting of 17 August 2021

[3] See clause 1.5.5 of the Implementation Plan.

[4] Also note that if the Category 1 domain name registrant does not apply to register the corresponding .au domain name then it becomes available to the Category 2 domain name registrant, see clause 1.5.7 of the Implementation Plan.

The case of multiple registrants

If multiple registrants apply to register the corresponding .au domain name using their priority status, then they can either:

(1) negotiate amongst themselves as to who should be allowed to register the domain name . If agreement is reached, the nominated person has 30 days to register the .au domain name once the other registrants withdraw their applications for the domain name. If registration does not occur, the .au domain name will become available for anyone to register .

It is important to note that once a registrant has applied for a .au domain name it is not possible to assign the registration rights, but only to withdraw; or

(2) each registrant can pay the annual application renewal fee (usually the cost of registering a domain name, but this will be published by auDA later) or where relevant the Token Fee. While registrants continue to pay the annual fee, they remain eligible to register the .au domain name and continue to hold an eligible licence to their domain name (such as example.net.au). In this instance, the .au domain name will remain locked until one registrant remains.

The last remaining registrant will then have 30 days (from the time the last application is withdrawn or lapses) to register the .au domain name.

It is possible that some conflicting domain names will not become available to register for years.

Finally, where a domain name is classified as a Category 2, then a conflict will be determined on the basis of the first in time to register. For instance, if Jennifer registered lawyers.com.au on 1 September 2019 and James registered lawyers.net.au on 8 September 2019, then Jennifer can register lawyers.au at the end of the Application Period .

Domain names such as .gov.au fall outside of the process, which means they don’t have rights to compete against the owners of extensions such as .com.au and .net.au.


The concept of tokens becomes relevant where a domain name registrant wishes to register a domain name at a different registrar to which their primary domain name is registered. If for instance Party A has example.com.au registered with Melbourne IT but wishes to take advantage of the cheaper registration fees at Ventra IP they can obtain a token to allow that.

auDA has developed a new website which will go live at launch https://priority.auda.org.au which will enable domain name registrants to either:

  1. Decline to apply for a .au registration (this is likely resolve any conflicts early on); or
  2. To secure a .au Priority ID Token.

According to auDA –

  1. If a registrant wants to register their .au direct name with a different registrar to their current com.au, net.au, org.au, asn.au, id.au name, they will need to supply their new registrar with the authorization code.
  2. The authorisation code is a priority-token containing a username and password assigned by the Registry to each eligible Registrant for the purposes of applying for Priority Status.
  3. This will be available from https://priority.auda.org.au and will will operate in the same way as the current page at https://pw.auda.org.au/ for retrieving the authorization code for transfers between registrars.
  4. A test page is available at: https://priorityote.auda.org.au/, but it will not allow retrieval of data for any existing names in the .au registry.

If a registrant wants to choose a registrar (other than the one with which its existing .com.au, net.au, id.au, .asn.au or org.au is registered) to apply for a .au domain name then they will need to obtain a .au Priority Registration Token from this website.

Priority Registration Tokens will promote freedom or choice and competition amongst registrars who will have freedom to set the application fee for .au domains. auDA will be charging registrars a standard wholesale rate of $8.67 which will include one year of registration. Some registrars have already indicated that they intend to pass on the wholesale cost to consumers with no mark up to facilitate the registration of new .au domains.

Action Steps

Businesses should:

  1. Diarise the key dates—most notably 24 March 2022;
  2. Check eligibility of existing domain names prior to 24 March 2022 to ensure that they remain eligible to hold their existing domain names (as defects in registration may make a registrant ineligible to secure a place in the Priority allocation process).
  3. Remember to apply for their corresponding .au domain names and in the case of conflict try to resolve that conflict.

Erhan Karabardak is a Director of Cooper Mills Lawyers, and former Director and Chair of auDA. Erhan also operates the website www.getyourau.com.au which assists registrants to settle domain name disputes for conflicted domains during the launch of .au.

First published in the Internet Law Bulletin titled “Direct registrations — get your domain name before someone else does” and published in the February 2022 edition of the LexisNexis Internet Law Bulletin.

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