At this moment in time there is very little certainty surrounding Brexit and the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union. With a set date, the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. Although this date could be extended, the process cancelled or an array of other scenarios could come into play. However, there is a further problem for UK based companies/individuals who have acquired domain names with the country code TLD .eu. Have you guessed what this could be?
European Union threatens to cancel UK-based .eu domain names!
The European Union threatened to cancel literally hundreds of thousands of websites using the TLD .eu. These websites belong to companies/investors residing in the UK. This threat can only become a reality after the UK formally leaves the European Union. None-the-less it is still a real threat. Under the terms of the .eu domain extension the registrant must live within the European Union. This is obviously fair and just. It ensures that those living within the European Union get the greatest benefit from what is a highly visible TLD.
In reality the vast majority of country code TLDs have the same criteria. Though it is still unusual to see this particular course of action. For example, the tiny Polynesian island of Tuvalu got the country code TLD of .tv back in 1996. At the time this was an extremely valuable TLD. Bearing in mind the island is just 25.9 km² with a total population of 11,192 according to the world bank. So, there was very little likelihood that all of those registering .tv domain name would live there. Indeed in 2010 a staggering 10% of Tuvalu government revenues came from royalties directly related to the domain name extension. So, while the threat of action from the European Union is perfectly legal it is not a common occurrence.
Protecting your .eu domain after 29th of March 2019
It is estimated there are around 300,000 .eu domain names registered with UK addresses. While many of these will be private domain names there will be a number of business websites – some of which will be large e-commerce operations. We can only estimate the amount of money invested in building brand names/starting .eu businesses, which could all be for nothing. If the domain names are reclaimed by the EU it would not even be possible to forward traffic from the .eu domain extension to a valid UK counterpart. As a consequence, many people/companies stand to lose millions of pounds of investment. Or do they?
Have you considered a proxy service?
Here at hosting.co.uk we fully appreciate the challenges that many of our customers are facing ahead of 29 March 2019. We have therefore taken the decision to launch our own proxy service. This is a legally sound practice which offers the perfect solution to a challenging issue.
The entity ICANN registers all of .eu domain names. Therefore it is very simple for the European Union to check each domain name and see the country of registration. Those registered outside of the European Union are flagged, warnings issued and various actions taken once the appeals procedure has been exhausted. However, as part of a larger group we have a number of operations within the European Union which have a valid European Union address.
How to use our proxy service
The idea behind our proxy service is very simple, very effective and could potentially protect our clients from significant investment losses. The process is as follows:
- We reregister .eu domain names previously registered at a UK address
- The domain names are registered using our European Union proxy address thereby legitimising registration
- We then enter into an agreement with our customer to license use of the .eu domain name for their business activities
All bases are covered. The .eu domain name is registered at an active address within the European Union and then simply licensed to a third party. In theory we retain ownership of the domain name. Although effectively the customer owns the rights, which is directed to your hosting account.
Protecting your brand
The likelihood is that the UK authorities will at some stage come to a trading agreement with their European Union counterparts. At this moment in time the two-parties seem further away than ever. Yet from a historical point of view, this proves to be a popular negotiating tactic. Each party will eventually give way on their “red lines” and effective return to where they were prior to the latest spat. They can argue that little leeway has been given and they have “won” the negotiations. Although, effectively both parties have given way in a win-win situation.
The use of our proxy service offers a failsafe in the event that negotiations do fail (unlikely) or they are potentially long and arduous with a limited transitional period (more likely). It will be interesting to see whether the UK authorities utilise a similar strategy because there must be an array of European Union companies/individuals who own .co.uk websites. However, in a similar fashion to the ongoing negotiations regarding UK/EU expat rights and privileges, post Brexit, this is likely to become a nonstory. A tit-for-tat response from both parties would be pointless….
Adapting to market forces
In many ways the ongoing issues with Brexit, and the current inability to agree withdrawal terms never mind a trading deal, are a perfect example of how the Internet is fast-moving and proactive. Who would have guessed that the European Union would take such a stance when the UK voting public made their decision back in 2016?
The fact remains that the European Union has threatened to cancel all .eu domain names registered in the UK. This comes in effect after the UK leaves the European Union. surprised many observers. However, the licensing of domain names to 3rd parties is a strategy which has been in use for many years. Whether anybody expected this strategy to be used on the back of Brexit is debatable but it is proving to be the perfect solution.
We will be issuing further details of our proxy service in due course. However, if you have any questions in the meantime please feel free to contact us.