A bill was passed on its first reading on 13 January 2011 by the National Assembly and on 10 February 2011 by the Senate. The aim of Article 12 of the bill is to bring the French system for allocating and managing domain names into compliance with the Constitution.
This system is still governed by Article L. 45 of the Postal and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE), which was found to be unconstitutional in 2010. In accordance with this bill, the regulations concerning allocation and management of domain names in France have been delegated to the AFNIC (Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération or French Network Information Center). The principle applied is "first come, first served". Insofar as there is no need to demonstrate any prior right (brand name, corporate name, trade name, etc.) to the term within the domain name, this system has led to numerous cases of "cybersquatting".
The bill aims to revise Article L. 45 of the CPCE by clarifying the rules to be applied by the agencies which are in charge of the reservation of domain names. The new legislation would include the possibility of refusing to register a domain name liable to infringe prior intellectual property rights as well as a procedure to delete or transfer the domain names, the exact details of which will be defined by a decree from the Council of State (“Conseil d’Etat”).
The text would provide greater legal protection for holders of intellectual property rights, minimising the cases of cybersquatting.
It is now important to await the final version of this text, to fully understand the new arrangements for the reservation of domain names and any precautions that should be taken.