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Proposed US changes to Internet Domain Name regime.

The Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today said the Australian Government was concerned with aspects of an American proposal to change the way Internet Domain Names are registered and administered worldwide.

"The US Government proposal would, among other changes, see oversight of the central Internet governance issues transferred to a US-based corporation subject to US law, and a new system which would effectively ensure US jurisdiction over trademark issues and dispute resolution processes," Senator Alston said.

"The proposed US model appears not to recognise the desirability of developing an international approach to Internet-related issues, and as such is contrary to the Australian Government's belief that Australia deserves a major voice in determining how international domain name arrangements are structured.

"Not only are Australian businesses increasingly significant users of worldwide domain name services, also known as generic Top Level Domains, but we also have a number of Australian companies seeking to become involved in providing services in this area.

"The US proposals also appear to ignore existing international efforts to reform the Internet domain name registration system, such as the option put forward by the Internet Ad Hoc Committee of concerned Internet experts from a number of countries which has culminated in a Memorandum of Understanding which can be signed by firms, organisations and governments who wish to participate in the Ad Hoc Committee's reform process. This MOU now has 212 signatories."

Senator Alston said he had directed the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) to, as a matter of urgency, develop a formal Australian response to the US proposal after consultations with the Australian Internet industry, the business sector, and other key stake holders.

The US Government released its proposals on February 20, with a deadline for public comment of March 23.

"This timetable is, in Australia's view, unrealistic. We will aim, however, to have our submission ready for presentation within several weeks of the American-imposed deadline," Senator Alston said.

"We need to ensure that the views of Australian stakeholders, and the Australian Government are fully considered in decisions to reform the international system."

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) describe web sites such as (www.yahoo.com) where the name of the web site does not have a country specific suffix (such as .au) at the end to indicate the country location of the web site and its owner. In the past, gTLDs have been used predominantly by US firms, but increasingly they are being used by Australian and other non-US firms either to emphasise the global nature of their operations, or simply as a preferred alternative to equivalent country-based domains.

NOIE Chief Executive Officer, Dr Paul Twomey, said efficient, effective operation of the domain name system was critical for Australian businesses as they go online.

"We need to ensure that there are real opportunities for Australia to participate fully in the information economy. At a basic user level this includes Australian businesses which wish to project a global image having easy and equitable access to their preferred domain name. In addition it also covers Australian businesses who want to be participants in the management of generic Top Level Domains," Dr Twomey said.

Dr Twomey said Australia's submission would fully take into account all international policy developments.

"We also need to take into account how these international reforms will impact on our own reforms of the Australian domain system. The Australian Government has been strongly promoting self-governance in national domain name management," Dr Twomey said.

Media Contact:

Terry O'Connor, Minister's office, 02 6277 7480; 0419 636 879

Websites: www.richardalston.dca.gov.au

www.noie.gov.au