When you search up a business or organisation, you’re often led straight to their official website. You’ll notice that this is identified by the text in your browser window. 

These are known as domain names, and are important for any business with an online presence. But if your business is thinking of using a domain name, you can’t just use it freely. You’d need to register for a Domain Name Licence

In this article, we’ll go through domain names and how to go about registering a domain name in Australia. 

What Is A Domain Name?

Like we mentioned, a domain name is the text in the URL box or in your browser that identifies your website. 

Your actual website is formerly identified with an IP address, however, the text section constitutes your domain name. So, our domain name is sprintlaw.com.au. 

How Do I Register A Domain Name?

Like we mentioned above, you can’t actually use your domain name as you wish. You’d need to register it with a licensed domain registrar, and in doing so, you’d be given a proper licence to use the domain name for your business. 

If you want to register your domain name, you’d need to visit a proper registrar such as GoDaddy

From here, you’ll be asked to agree to their Terms & Conditions. They’ll also ask you to prove you are an Australian business, so this would include the provision of your Australian Business Number (ABN) among other things. 

Then voila – you have your domain name licence. However, this doesn’t mean that you own it – we’ll go through this later in the article. Read on for more. 

What Is auDA?

There are a number of registrars you can contact to register your domain name in Australia. However, there is one official body that you should be familiar with. 

auDA is the official administrator for domains in Australia. They also set out a number of rules around how businesses can register and use their domain name licences. 

Does This Mean I Own My Domain Name?

Unfortunately, registering for a domain name licence doesn’t mean you own the name. If you want to own it officially, you’d need to Register It As A Trade Mark

But without a trade mark, you’re only using the domain name under a licence. 

How Does A Licence Work?

A licence means that you’re given permission to use property on certain terms and conditions. So, this works for forms of Intellectual Property, too. 

For example, you can have an IP Licence Agreement which allows one party to use someone’s IP (this could be copy or an artwork), as long as they’re abiding by the rules in that Agreement. 

When you register a domain name with a licence registrar, they’re granting you the right to use that domain name for your business on key terms, which should be set out in writing (the standard document would be a Domain Name Licence Agreement, which we’ll get to shortly). 

For example, your Agreement might stipulate that you can only use the domain name for a year. If these are the terms of your licence, then you are only allowed to use the name while you remain compliant with those terms. 

Can I Sub-Licence My Domain Name?

It is possible for businesses to sub-licence their domain names to third parties. In other words, you can register for a domain name licence, and then allow a third party to use your domain name under the same terms. 

This is sub-licensing

However, if you’ve registered a .au domain name in Australia, auDA provides that you cannot sub-licence your domain name to someone else. This is because they want to maintain online transparency around who is truly behind a website and it can be misleading if the person using the domain name is not the same one who registered for it. 

If you’re thinking of sub-licensing your domain name, it’s worth chatting to a legal professional who can advise you on your options and determine whether you would be breaching auDA’s licensing rules. 

Need A Domain Name Licence Agreement?

Licensing your domain name is a common step that businesses take, but it’s important that the terms of that licence are set out in writing. This is where you’d draw up a Domain Name Licence Agreement. 

This Agreement should include key terms of the licence, such as payment terms, the scope of the licence, termination rights and liability protections. 

At Sprintlaw, our lawyers offer a Domain Name Licence package which includes the following:

  • A Domain Name Licence in accordance with your business’ requirements
  • Phone consultations with a Sprintlaw lawyer who can advise you on the legal issues that apply to you 
  • 1 complimentary amendment to the final draft we provide you

Next Steps

If you need help with a Domain Name Licence, or you’re not sure if you can sub-licence your domain name, reach out to our legal team today. Our lawyers also offer advice on other Intellectual Property matters should you require any further help. 

If you would like a consultation on your options going forward, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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