Introduction

The legislation concerning '.fi' country code top-level domain names will undergo significant amendments on September 5 2016, as the Domain Name Act is set to be repealed and new provisions concerning domain names in the Information Society Code will enter into force. The foremost changes of the reform include the abolishment of local presence requirements, meaning that foreign entities and individuals will be able to apply for a '.fi' domain name, and the adoption of the registry-registrar model, where all domain name-related services will be provided by registrars.

No local presence requirement

Foreign entities will no longer need to have a Finnish subsidiary or branch office in order to apply for a '.fi' domain name, as the new provisions impose no restrictions or requirements on the domicile of the applicant. Similarly, private individuals will no longer need to be Finnish residents and the age limit of 15 years will be abolished.

This will likely entail an increase in the number of applications for '.fi' domain names, as it can be expected to attract foreign companies with no local presence targeting a Finnish customer base. The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority has reportedly already received enquiries from large international domain name registrars. The new provisions will also allow for the warehousing of domain names for redelivery, which is currently prohibited.

Adoption of registry-registrar model

The new legislation will introduce the internationally established registry-registrar model, in which all services related to '.fi' domain names are obtained from domain name registrars. After the entry into force of the new operational model on September 5 2016, existing '.fi' domain names will continue to exist normally. However, from this date any applications, renewals, transfers, switching of registrars, terminations and updating of details will be possible only through a registrar.

Registrars may not necessarily continue to operate as registrars subsequent to the entry into force of the new operational model, although most registrars are expected to do so. A directory of registrars, including those which intend to continue as registrars after the reform, can be found on the authority's webpage at domain.fi.

Other effects of new operational model

Many of the restrictions on the form of domain names will also be abolished. For example, combinations of first and last names will become available for application without limitations.

Trademark and trade name protection will remain unchanged, and a domain name must still not infringe protected trademarks or trade names. Infringements related to '.fi' domain names will continue to be settled primarily by the authority, although in future only in Finnish and Swedish.

Further, the new provisions of the Information Society Code will introduce stricter data security requirements on domain name registrars. Among other things, a registrar shall maintain detailed instructions for dealing with data security threats and ensure that any incidents and issues are detected and reported, and that appropriate remedial action is taken.

The authority will supervise registrars' compliance with their obligations under the Information Society Code. It may impose penalties for non-compliance, including a notice accompanied by an order to remedy the breach and, in case of continued non-compliance, prohibit the registrar from carrying out operations as a registrar.

Comment

Overall, the reform of the Finnish domain name regime and the operational model represents a welcome change, which is first and foremost expected to streamline and facilitate the administration of '.fi' domain names by the adoption of the registry-registrar model.

On the other hand, the deregulation of the regime and abolishment of the local presence requirement may lead to an increased risk of cybersquatting and domain name parking, and rights holders would be wise to review their domain name portfolio and ensure that their trade names and trademarks, including their basic variations (eg, hyphenation, singular and plural variations and misspellings), are registered as '.fi' domain names before the reform enters into force.

For further information on this topic please contact Jasper Kuhlefelt by telephone (+358 9 681700) or email (jasper.kuhlefelt@Dittmar.fi). The Dittmar & Indrenius website can be accessed at www.dittmar.fi.

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