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Businesses with third level .co.uk website domains have less than three months left to secure the shorter second level .uk equivalent before sales are opened up to the general public, the UK’s domain name registrar Nominet has warned.
Following the release of the .uk domain name in June 2014, Nominet imposed a five-year right of registration to enable every owner of a .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .plc.uk and .ltd.uk domain registered prior to midnight on 28 October 2013 to secure the .uk equivalent in addition to, or instead of, their existing registration.
This automatic right expires at 5am on 25 June 2019, at which point .uk domains will become freely available on the open market. According to Nominet, out of the original 10 million domains who had their rights reserved in 2014, 3.2 million have yet to register the .uk equivalent.
This poses a significant risk to businesses because it means their preferred .uk domain could then be bought by anybody, for example, by a competitor to redirect to their website, by a disgruntled ex-employee, or by a pornographer.
“We have given registrants a long period of time to consider their options. As the deadline approaches, an advertising campaign will remind rightsholders that time is running out. For some companies, they will really want to secure the shorter domain, for their own use, now or in the future, or to guarantee nobody else can use it,” said Nominet COO Eleanor Bradley.
“They need to take action quickly to avoid missing out. Others are happy with the domain they have, and don’t want to register or use another. It’s important to stress to those people that the existing domain will continue as normal, and no action is required,” she said.
Nominet has already been in touch with registrants throughout the past five years, but will be ramping up awareness over the next three months, with a major advertising campaign planned for May. Domain owners can also check the registrar’s website to find out if they need to take action.
“In the vast majority of cases, very similar domains co-exist with no problems,” said Bradley. “But for the rare cases where someone is abusing their domain or using it for illegitimate purposes, we have safeguards in place so action can be taken swiftly.”
As part of its work overseeing the UK’s internet domains, Nominet runs a dispute service (DRS) to enable those that have fallen victim to domain name cyber-squatting, as it is often referred to, can have their complaints quickly resolved. The organisation claims that around £7m was saved in legal costs through this service in 2017 – the most recent year for which statistics are available.
The DRS oversaw 712 complaints in 2017 relating to 783 domains, of which 55% resulted in a domain transfer. Among the complainants were American lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, auto-manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, and financial services firm Clydesdale Bank.
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