New licensing regulations that will safeguard the interests of Internet users who register .za domain names have been released for public scrutiny by the .za Domain Name Authority (ZA DNA). Drafted in terms of the ECT Act of 2002, the first set of regulations regulate the licensing of .za registrars, while the other set is for the licensing of .za registries.
In Internet terminology, an Internet service provider (ISP) that registers and sells domain names is called a “registrar”, while the entity administering a database or register of names in a domain is known as a “registry”.
As part of the public consultation process, ZA DNA will hold a workshop of stakeholders and interested parties where it will present the regulations and answer questions. The workshop date will be published in the ZA DNA website (www.zadna.org.za). The closing date for written submissions is Friday, 18 December 2009. ZA DNA will thereafter consider the inputs received, and draft final regulations which will be submitted to the Minister of Communications for approval in terms of the ECT Act.
Since its inception in the early 1990s, the .za namespace has had various role-players registering .za names and administering .za name databases. These entities have to date never been formally recognised to play such roles. The licensing regulations seek to bridge this gap and give formal recognition through licenses to those entities that meet certain basic requirements.
The registrar regulations aim at ensuring that only those ISPs licensed by ZA DNA can register.za domain names. Such licenses should help build confidence in those interested in registering .za names because they will now be comforted in the knowledge that the ISPs/registrars they are choosing have licenses to register .za names, and account to ZA DNA.
“In the past, ZA DNA received complaints about certain ISPs that register clients’ names as their own. When the client later wants to change and have the name managed by another ISP, the original ISP then reveals that the client has no right to do so, as the name never belonged to the client in the first place,” says Vika Mpisane, General manager of .ZA DNA.
“While there may be cases where it is justifiable for a registrar to list itself as the holder of a name which belongs to its client, such practice is unfair and unethical if the domain name holder never consented to such an arrangement.”
Mpisane explained that once ISPs are licensed as “registrars”, ZA DNA will be able to take punitive measures where registrars are found to conduct unethical practices which violate license conditions. Such punitive measures may even result in a registrar losing its license and being barred from registering any .za names.
In addition, ZA DNA may be able to force a registrar to delete names belonging to cyber-squatters where the registrar is found to be hosting cyber-squatter names. This will help protect the .za namespace better from being used by Internet thugs to send spam and attack the Internet infrastructure worldwide.
Any ISP (local or international) interested in obtaining a .za registrar license will be granted a license as long it meets license requirements – there is no limit to the number of registrars which may be licensed.
The second set of regulations is for licensing .za registries. A registry is responsible for maintaining a register / database of names in a particular domain. For example, Uniforum is the registry for co.za, and when registrars register names, they interface with the co.za database in accordance with requirements which Uniforum sets.
Registry licensing is critically important in improving the .za namespace. Up to date, there are varying technical and service standards amongst .za domains, as no uniform registry standards were defined in the past.
Registry licensing will allow ZA DNA to ensure that .za registries adhere to uniform standards. For example, the regulations will require that each registry should provide an online name query facility, which will allow the public and registrars to check online if a name they are interested in already belongs to someone else.
In addition, registries will be required to substantially automate the registration processes, so that names can be registered online quicker and more easily. This is an important measure which will upgrade .za to operate at a level on par with the leading domains such as .com, .net, .de (Germany) and .uk (United Kingdom).
The number of .za registry licenses will be limited as most of the unrestricted .za domains will be managed by a central registry that ZA DNA will establish in 2010. Additional registry licenses may be granted, on an invitation to tender basis, to separate entities to manage restricted domains (i.e. domains limited to a certain group or community e.g. ac.za is limited to academic and research institutions), as some restricted domains are not expected to be part of the central registry.
.za licensing regulations – discussion