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.RADIO Domain Names Available Soon, But Many Unanswered Questions about Availability

After many years of preparation, the roll-out of .RADIO domain names will finally be underway shortly. The news has potential for broadcasters worldwide (for example, you could have as your URL.) Yet there are many unanswered questions about how .RADIO domain names will be allocated and what happens when multiple parties want the same name. This article provides an overview of the history of the .RADIO ownership disputes, new dates recently announced by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and questions that the EBU still needs to answer about the .RADIO domain name roll-out ahead.

Quick Background

In 2012, the EBU applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the rights to operate .RADIO (ICANN manages the Domain Name System and assigns Generic Top Level Domains, such as .RADIO, by contract). Three other applicants for .RADIO sought .RADIO: large top level domain name registries Afilias and Donuts, as well as George Bundy’s BRS Media (well known for its management of.FM and .AM). It took four years of fighting but, on May, 18, 2016, EBU won when its competitors withdrew their objections against the EBU’s .RADIO application.

The main reason that the EBU won (or “prevailed in the contention set,” per ICANN lingo) is because it was the only registry to apply for .RADIO as a “Community-based” Top Level Domain. This is a special category of applications created by ICANN to allow representatives of well-known, well-contained communities to offer domain names designed to closely serve those communities. In its application to ICANN, the EBU promised to make .RADIO into “a platform through which radio broadcasters and other radio industry stakeholders worldwide will collaborate to promote audio content distribution and community-wide services, promoting quality and competition in the public interest, for the benefit of listeners and Internet users.”

The EBU promised to serve not only its own European members, but the worldwide broadcasting community. In fact, the EBU submitted its application with the support of worldwide broadcasting organizations, including NABA (North American Broadcasters Association).

New Information

The EBU recently issued a new webpage laying out its plans for .RADIO domain name launch. There are three key issues of note to interested broadcasters (and others who might be eligible for .RADIO):

Registrants — Who will be allowed to register a domain name in .RADIO?

The EBU writes that it will accept certain categories of radio use for .RADIO domain name registration, specifically:

  • “Radio broadcasting stations”
  • “Unions of Broadcasters,” such as the EBU itself
  • “Internet radios”
  • “Radio Amateurs”
  • “Radio professionals (journalists, radio hosts, DJs, …)” and
  • “Radio-related companies selling radio goods and services.”

Thus, all U.S. broadcasters licensed by the FCC (and others involved in the radio industry, including individuals) will be eligible to submit their call signs to EBU for a .RADIO domain name. BUT NOTE: this does not mean U.S. broadcasters will receive these domain names (as per the discussion below)

When will the .RADIO domain names be available?

The .RADIO domain names will actually be made available in two stages: (1) a planned “pre-launch period” exclusively for radio stations and (2) a second stage for other eligible parties.

The EBU plans a special “Pre-Launch” period from May 3 to July 5, 2017, though ICANN approval for this proposal is still pending. During this pre-launch period, registration will be by a special process. Rather than use the tried and true “first-come, first-served” method we see in .COM and so many other generic top level domains,. the EBU will try to balance various interests around the world and allocate domain names to “Official Radio Operators”. As the EBU (vaguely) explains: “The .radio team will seek to optimize domain name allocation to solve contentious issues and prioritize existing radio services. The pre-launch is exclusively reserved for radio stations.”

This .RADIO Pre-Launch allocation process could raise serious problems for U.S. broadcasters. If the call sign allocation pattern of other countries is the same (or similar), multiple stations around the world may want the same domain name, e.g., WXYZ.RADIO. To whom will the EBU register the domain name? We asked EBU representatives whether other counties have similar call sign allocation patterns, and what will happen when two broadcasters in two different countries with two different licenses seek the same domain name? No answers have been forthcoming. We will continue to ask, investigate and provide insight and answers. Radio stations interested in participating in the pre-launch should be prepared for anything and should consider consulting an attorney with experience in ICANN matters.

The EBU is planning to have a second part of the pre-launch rollout from Augsut 20 to November 1, 2017. Domain name registrations will be open t unions of broadcasters, Internet radio, radio amateurs, professionals and companies and trademark owners (the latter being a specially protected group under ICANN rules.)

We will share additional details on both phases as the plans become approved and clarified.

How much will .RADIO domain names cost?

While domain names in the “new generic top level domains” of .MEDIA, .PHOTO, .CAR and .FLOWERS are generally higher than the original generic top level domains (.COM, .ORG and .NET), domain names in .RADIO will be higher still. EBU’s website states that “for companies, we expect typical prices between 200€ and 250€ per domain each year.” That’s $213 to $267 a year.

This story originally appeared on CommLaw Blog.