Serbian Domain Name System Reborn

Jul 19 2007 - 13:42

By Vesna Gakovic, and Kathryn Szymczyk, SD PETOSEVIC Balkan Regional Office-Belgrade,Serbia; Published in Managing Intellectual Property, February 2007
The disintegration of the union of Serbia and Montenegro on June 3 2006 has raised a number of important issues to be resolved, not only for the new country of Montenegro, but also for the Serbia. Recently, the International Standards Organization (ISO) issued new country codes for Serbia (RS and SRB) and Montenegro (ME and MNE). In accordance with ISO-3166-2, the two countries were also given their own country-code toplevel domains (ccTLDs) by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, operated by the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The .rs ccTLD will be used to designate Serbia and the .me ccTLD will designate Montenegro. In Serbia this has raised discussions not only regarding who will manage the new ccTLD but has also triggered a review of the whole system of ccTLD name registration in this country. As a result of numerous meetings between government officials, academics, representatives of the business communities and others, plans are under way regarding the who and how of ccTLD domain names in Serbia. We provide a summary of the situation regarding ccTLDs in Serbia and the expected changes.

Background

Yugoslavia established its connection with the global internet in 1989 when Belgrade University joined the European Academic Research Network (EARN). Three years later, in 1992, Yugoslavia disintegrated and the Union of Serbia and Montenegro became the legal successor. When the United Nations introduced sanctions against the country, the Union of Serbia and Montenegro was formally excluded from the interconnection of academic computer centers provided through EARN and thus from the global internet.

Between 1992 and 1994 certain individuals from the academic community in Serbia began to take steps to reestablish communication with the global internet, and to establish a registry of national internet domain names for the .yu ccTLD. After numerous appeals for help to the relevant international and European organizations existing at the time, the management of the .yu ccTLD was finally assigned to a group of enthusiasts from the University of Belgrade. The Registry called itself YU NIC (the Yugoslav Network Information Center) and began registering domain names in 1995.

Since there was virtually no support from government institutions, which paid little attention to issues related to the internet in the 1990s, the newly established YU NIC was limited in what it could accomplish. As a consequence, the conditions for registration of .yu domain names were restrictive. These
restrictions included the following:

  • Only legal entities (companies and organizations) located in
    Serbia were permitted to register domain names (individuals
    were not eligible to obtain a domain name).

  • Foreign companies and organizations without local representative
    offices were not eligible to apply for domain
    names.

  • Each registrant was permitted only one domain name.

  • Once registered, a domain name could not be transferred to
    a third party.

  • The .yu ccTLDs was divided into four domains:

1) .ac.yu -intended for academic institutions (universities);

2) .co.yu – intended for domestic legal entities and for foreign
legal entities having a representative office established
in Serbia;

3) .org.yu – for domestic NGOs;

4) .edu.yu – for educational institutions and organizations
in Serbia (other than universities).
Despite the restrictive criteria for registration, YU NIC
receives more than 100 new applications or modification
requests per day, and the ccTLD management is simply unable
to cope with the significant interest in domain name registrations
in Serbia.

Reform initiatives

Although the new country codes were issued and announced in September 2006, the new .rs ccTLD is still not in use on the internet. The .yu ccTLD continues to
operate and be managed by YU NIC. However, in preparation for the introduction of the new ccTLD, a new registry of national internet domains was founded in July 2006. The new organization, Serbian Registry of Internet Domains (RNIDS), is an expert, non-political, non-profit organization that is set to become the ccTLD manager for Serbia. The founders of RNIDS include 34 organizations related to
the local internet community (major ISPs, telecom operators, academic institutions, NGOs and state institutions) and it is supported by the Serbian Ministry of Science and Environment. The main purpose of RNIDS will be to manage the ccTLD in Serbia and to oversee the transition from .yu to .rs ccTLDs. The organization will fund itself through the registration fees for domain names on a cost recovery basis only.

According to the information, received from a member of the Management Board of the new registry, RNIDS will probably formalize its relationship with ICANN shortly and begin operating in February 2007. Until that time, YU NIC will continue to operate. Even when RNIDS is formalized as the ccTLD manager for Serbia, it is likely that .yu domain names will remain in use (perhaps for as much as five more years) but that new registrations will have the new .rs extension.

New system

According to information received from another member of the RNIDS Management Board and also an ICANN ccNSO council member, the new Registry plans to establish new regulations to govern the registration of ccTLD names in Serbia. These new regulations will include an easing of the strict criteria for registrants and also the establishment of a dispute resolution policy. Markovic noted that, in the course of public discussions, the following preliminary conclusions were reached regarding the contents of these regulations for the new registration system.

Second-level domains in the new .rs ccTLD

The .rs ccTLD will be divided into the following second-level domains:

  • .rs – intended for all interested parties;

  • .co.rs – intended only for legal persons;

  • .org.rs – for NGOs;

  • .ac.rs – for academic institutions (universities);

  • .edu.rs – for educational institutions and organizations;

  • .gov.rs – only for government institutions;

  • .in.rs – only for natural persons (individuals).

Transition period

The transition from .yu domains to .rs domains will be phased in gradually. When the registration of .rs domains begins, applications for the registration of .yu domains will no longer be accepted. At the same time, registrants of .yu domain names can file a request that they be either deleted or transferred into the .rs domain.

Eligible registrants

The proposed regulations would simplify conditions for registration of domain names not only for domestic entities, but also for foreign companies/organizations and individuals. However, it was decided that foreign entities (both legal and natural persons) not domiciled in Serbia should still have to register a domain name through a Serbian natural or legal person (for example, a local attorney, or a local ISP or a local distributor). This stipulation has been included to try to ensure that Serbian courts have jurisdiction over any disputes between a particular registrant and RNIDS. On this basis, the
proposed eligible registrants under the new system are:

1) natural persons (individuals), with Serbian citizenship;

2) foreign individuals, with a permanent residence permit;

3) natural persons, with Serbian citizenship, who are not
domiciled in Serbia (but only if acting through a representative
who has Serbian citizenship and is domiciled in
Serbia or has his principal seat in Serbia);

4) legal persons, with their principal seat in Serbia;

5) foreign legal persons, with no principal seat in Serbia (if
acting through a local representative who has Serbian citizenship
and is domiciled in Serbia or has his principal seat
in Serbia).

Unlimited domains

The proposed regulations would allow an unlimited number
of domain names per single registrant.

Whois database

The proposed regulations provide that RNIDS will have its own Whois database. It will act as a public source of information about domain name registrants registered in the .rs ccTLD Registry.

A domain name will be considered registered once it has been recorded in the RNIDS Registry and is accessible through the Whois database.

Cost and timeframe

Under the proposed regulations, it would be possible to register a domain name on a yearly basis, for a maximum of five years, after which a renewal will be required. The registration can then be renewed for an indefinite number of five- year periods, provided fees are paid promptly.

Domain name transfer

According to the proposed regulations, once registered, domain names will be permitted to be sold or otherwise transferred to another party. The assignee need only file a request for registration with a written statement, signed by the assignor of the particular domain name, within which the assignor gives his or her authorization for the assignment of the domain name. The assignor’s domain name registration will then be deleted and the new registration will be recorded into the RNIDS register and the Whois database in the name of the assignee.

New dispute settlement policy

The proposed regulations envision the adoption of a Dispute Resolution Policy. The new RNIDS Dispute Resolution Policy will be based on provisions of ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), in particular, the mandatory administrative proceedings (paragraph 4 of the ICANN Policy). However, RNIDS itself would not be competent to settle any dispute in connection with registered domain names. It will be recommended that parties address disputes regarding .rs ccTLDs to the Center for Arbitration, which is a department within the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (in accordance with the Law on Chambers of Commerce Official Gazette RS, 65/01), or before the Center for Mediation in Serbia (in accordance with the Law on Mediation, Official Gazette RS 18/2005).

In line with international standards

A new governing body, RNIDS, is expected to be operational soon and new regulations governing the registration of domain names are likely to come into force early in 2007. It is hoped that these changes, based on the best practices of surrounding countries and the EU, will bring Serbia into line with modern international standards in the internet area. This is another essential step towards making Serbia a competitive and attractive market for investment.

The authors, Vesna Gakovic, an associate and Kathryn Szymczyk, a director of legal strategies and client services, are based at SD PETOSEVIC Balkan Regional Office in Belgrade, Serbia.

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