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IP/03/729

Brussels, 22 May 2003

Commission selects Registry to run Dot EU Top Level Domain

The European Commission has decided to designate EURID - the European Registry for Internet Domains as the Registry for the dot EU (.eu) Top Level Domain (TLD).The .eu is intended to become the distinctive pan-European identification of websites and e-mail addresses, comparable to .org or .com. The three founder members of EURID are currently managing the country codes .be (Belgium), .it (Italy) and .se (Sweden). Two associated members are from acceding countries. EURID has committed to consult stakeholders from the European Internet Community and to ensure contacts with regional and international organisations involved in the Internet.

Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and Information Society, said: "The selection of the Registry that will manage the .eu TLD is an important step towards the availability of .eu. Once the Registry is fully operational businesses, organisations and citizens in the European Union will be able to register their domain names within the .eu TLD. I believe that the creation of the .eu Top Level Domain will give European citizens and businesses the possibility to acquire a European identity on the Internet".

The decision of the Commission follows a call for expressions of interest published last September and an evaluation by independent experts of the seven applications received.

The Commission will now conclude a contract with EURID and then appropriate steps will be taken with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the inclusion of .eu in the global Internet Domain Name System.

At the same time the Commission, in consultation with the Member States and the Registry, will establish public policy rules to deal with issues like speculative and abusive registrations of domain names, intellectual property and other rights, issues of language and geographical concepts and the extra-judicial settlement of conflicts.

Depending on the rate of progress on these issues, .eu is expected to be operational towards the end of the year.

Background

A domain name is a simple way for a computer or network to be identified on the Internet. Rather than having numerical addresses that are difficult to remember, Internet users prefer domain names. Domain names are used in the Domain Name System (DNS) and are structured hierarchically. At the top is the root zone file. This is currently administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) a non-profit private corporation with a structure enabling broad international participation, which has its seat in California.

Identical copies of the root zone file are to be found, in the 13 root name servers, located in the US, Europe and Japan. There are multiple root name servers for security and redundancy purposes. These root servers simply direct information requests towards the second level of the DNS, the Top Level Domains (TLDs).

There are two basic categories of TLDs: generic TLDs (gTLDs) and country code TLDs (ccTLDs). In the first category, which currently includes 14 gTLDs, the most famous example is .com. There are currently over 20 million .com domain names. The second category includes 243 ccTLDs of which the biggest are the German .de, with over 6 million names, and the British .uk, with over 4 million names. These country codes will of course continue to be available after the introduction of .eu.

The increasing importance of the Internet as a communications tool and as a tool for doing business has been reflected in the increase in the number of domain names world-wide and the emergence of a number of legal conflicts. Trademarks, company, country, personal and other names have been registered as domain names by unrelated third parties, with a purpose of then reselling them for a profit. This is known as 'cybersquatting' and has to some extent recently been reduced by establishing dispute resolution procedures, mostly for trademarks abuses.

EU Regulation No. 733/2002 provides the framework for the implementation of .eu Top Level Domain. Any individual who is resident within the European Community, any undertaking having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the Community and any organisation established within the Community will have the right to register .eu domain names. The extension of the Regulation to the EEA States is currently under consideration.

The .eu TLD will be managed by a Registry, a non-profit organisation having its registered office within the Community. The particular organisation now designated by the Commission, EURID, will be based in Brussels.

Some further steps have to be taken before .eu domain names may start being registered. The Commission will sign a contract with the Registry. Appropriate contacts will be taken with ICANN, so that the .eu TLD is included in the root zone file. The Registry will have to accredit Registrars, companies that undertake the registration of domain names for the benefit of end users under competitive market rules. The Commission, in consultation with the Member States and the Registry, will establish public policy rules with regard to speculative and abusive registrations, intellectual property and other rights, issues of language and geographical concepts. It is envisaged that registrations will take place in a phased manner to ensure appropriate registration opportunities for the holders of prior rights.

Further information can be found on the website:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/telecoms/internet/eu_domain/index_en.htm


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