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horak.
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Georgstr. 48
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Domain Law/ Domain Registration/ Domain Administration - horak Law Firm

Domain Law Basics

Domains can be addressed in different notations: numerically, as IP numbers (192.168.1.1) or in letters (bwlh.de). "Bwlh.de" represents the domain name, the IP number behind it is not relevant for legal considerations of the domain name, but it will probably be important for the technical understanding and the use of a domain name.

Domain names are used to uniquely identify a unit within a particular computer network. Generally, domain names are established to identify an Internet Server (just like a sort of trademark).

A domain name as it is, has nothing to do with the content of a web site and resulting copyright issues. In fact, the domain name replaces only an IP number that would be not so easy to remember instead.

Each domain name consists at least of a fixed Top-Level Domain and a selectable Second-Level Domain: if we consider bwlh.de, „bwlh" represents the Second-Level Domain, the ".de" is The Top-Level Domain. In addition, a domain owner can freely select further subdomains. In the domain "www.bwlh.de", the "www" represents A Third-Level Domain.

An action for cancellation of the domain "www.bwlh.de" is therefore a fail, as this would only delete the third-level domain, but bwlh.de could remain.

The domain name right is essentially related to The Second-Level Domain, but it can also interest other subdomains (for example, the issue of trademark infringement by using a trademark as A Third Level Domain).

Normally, the term domain law is used as abbreviation for domain name law.

The majority of judicial decisions in the area of domain law are actually concerning domain names ‘rights; as a matter of fact, the most common cases regard the actual owner entitled to a certain domain.

As far as concerned the actual use of a domain in business dealings, the domain owner can create his absolute exclusive rights.

Foreign Laws; What do you need to know about it?

If you are willing to register a domain name, please make sure to read the following list:

  • The domain name shall not contain any foreign brands (eg Coca-Cola, Bounty, Haribo, Swatch etc.), companies (Ford, Sartorius, Shell, Volkswagen etc.), business names, titles (of films, software etc.), names (of people, celebrities, artists, bands etc.) or other third parties’ rights.
  • The domain name can not be the name of a town, city or region; additional name of a particular are may be permissible but may require prior authorization from the local authorities.
  • Name of public authorities or public offices (or similar) shall be omitted.
  • Typo squatting domain (URL hijacking), cybersquatting and domain grabbing are not allowed. 
  • Similar domain names or common abbreviations of a foreign domain rights could be risky.

How does the domain allocation work?

Domain allocation or domain registration begins with the selection of an authorized domain name, the core aspect is the request of registration that is usually made by a registrar (domain service provider) online with a Web-Form. The Registrar in his role of contract partner or member of the issuing office will sent the abovementioned form to the Awarding Office. The latter will register the Second Level Domain claimed by the registrar, and will request additional data, such as nameservers that must be entered in higher databanks, so that the result under the destination address of the nameserver will be easily addressed to a website content in internet. The entire process shall be completed in a few seconds or minutes.

What kind of legal relations result from a domain allocation?

The domain owner is usually considered the direct contract partner with his registrar, which as a Domain Service Provider is, on the other hand, in contractual relationships with the respective Registry. The Registries themselves are contractually bonded to the next higher level of the Domain Name System, so that from the point of view of the domain owner the respective legal concessions and restrictions represents will be a bit more difficult.

Not every registrar is bounded to all registry with the same contract, but the registrars usually only have some individual contracts with some registry and therefore can not offer all kind of Top Level Domains. In addition to the domain owner, a further contractual partner will be necessary - as in Germany for .DE domains -. This partner must meet certain requirements and shall be consider liable, such as the domain owner.

Depending on the legal issue of the case, the respective contractual provisions must be individually taken into consideration. The registry and Top levels often use "issuance guidelines" or similar, in order to get a general valid regulation, always applicable.

However, since the Registries are predominantly organized privately (DENIC e.G: for example, as a cooperative), they can not create any sovereignly general regulation. In the .EU case, instead, the European Commission has adopted normative guidelines. The EuRID is a non-profit organization "asbl / vzw" that follows Belgian law. In Belgium, as well, there are private, contractual regulations, which can be arranged individually.

It is therefore always necessary to determine the respective contractual content, which may be subject to changes over time in the legal examination of any legal issue in connection with the domain assignment. These contractual terms may be superimposed by domain-specific legal provisions.

You can have the effective regulation from us.

Which are the Registry´s regulations?

You can find some of the provisions of DENIC e. G (for .DE Domains) or of EuRID (for .EU Domains) on the website http://www.dieDomainrechtler.de.

What should be considered in the selection of a domain name?

Domain names that has to be used in trade must not infringe third party rights. Domain grabbing, cybersquatting or typosquatting is absolutely not allowed.

It is to consider that regulation on the content of a domain name actually exist. These rules change from TLD to TLD. There are also some general prerequisites stipulated by the coordination offices, concerning the Registries.  In addition to them, there are some general contractual specifications of the registry and - from the point of view of the end user - the registrar. These specifications typically regard issues such as the required number of characters, or the special symbols allowed.

Since each domain can only be assigned once (to ensure a clear addressing), a WHOIS-query must be carried out before the registration of a domain in the respective registry; a Whois-service, such as http://www.betterwhois.com should be also considered.

Can anyone register a domain with any desired suffix?

No, because many of the registry requirements declare that the use of any endings in the form of Top Level Domains will be eliminated without special arrangements. For the registration of a .de, at least the admin-c or the domain owner must specify a German address. Some proprietary trademark or company rights are required for the registration. The exact prerequisites are, however, subject to constant adjustments; make sure to check with the direct Registry, that will be able to provide you the actual conditions.

Why are nameservers entries required?

With the only registration of a domain by the Registry, the domain will not be available in internet as address yet. The Domain needs to be registered in a so-called Data-Zone at, at least one Nameserver (or according to the specifications of the registry) and a reference of these Nameserver should be register in the superior domain. These NSs Resource Records are automatically entered by the registrar and partly by the NS. The final user can also utilize its own nameserver. However, an incorrect registration, leads to the inaccessibility of the domain. Even for unutilized domains, the nameservers have to be correctly registered, according to the registry´s regulations. The importance of nameservers arise additional legal requirements, as long as the final user does not use his own Nameserver and register himself.

How long does a Domain registration last?

It depends on the duration´s period that has been agreed in the contractual liberties regarding the legal-concessions aspect, with the respective hierarchical levels of the DNS. The Registry allows up to several years, for instance, if the terms of the contract have been extent to one or 2 years more.

How is the domain released?

In case of the non-payment of the registry fees, the domain, instead of being released is normally blocked for a defined period of time; in this time, the domain owner can decide to unblock the domain again. After the compliance of another release phase, the domain will be finally release.

Caution: There are spiders that automatically secure released domains for Domain grabbers, so it can be assumed that registered domains can also be matter of interest for a second user. A precise analysis is recommended.

What can we do for you?

Our services comprise the following:

  • Following, all the legal services we can offer you as attorneys at law:
  • Domain administration (legal provision and consultation in connection with the registration of domains, clarification of the prerequisites for the allocation of a Second Level Domain with any Top-Level Domain, transfer or release of domains);
  • Domain name right (legal protection of the domain name, including research and protection of the domain name, use of descriptive domains or eventual additions in domains, domain name infringements and other collision procedures, trademark and name-legal protection);
  • Domain Trade Law (legal arrangement of purchase and sale of domains, Domain Due Diligence, Domain Licensing, Domain Sharing, Content Design of the Domains with Media Law requirements as well as Obligatory Statements, GTC, Contractual Law);
  • Domain Law (Domain Warning, Domain Dispute Resolution, arbitration proceedings);
  • Domain management (portfolio management, process management of domain collisions, domain name monitoring);
  • Domain technology law (telecommunications law, technical media law);
  • Domain Registration and Domain Administration (domain portfolio management, domain portfolio optimization, certification management);

Other topics regarding Domain Law:

  • Domain name rights
  • Domain attorneys
  • Domain permissions
  • Domain rights
  • Domain registration
  • Domain registry
  • Regulations of domain names
  • Top Level Domains
  • Second Level Domains
  • Domain vs Trademark
  • Cancellation of the domain
  • Domain purchase
  • Domain trading
  • Qualified Attorneys
  • Patent Attorneys
  • Domain Disputes
  • UDRP
  • EU-ADR
  • WIPO Decisions
  • Domain transfer

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© German lawyer Michael Horak 2002-2017

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