Update on the FR naming charter

29 November 2004

Sandrine Rambaud

Since 1998, it has become easier to register an “.fr” domain name. The time when a French company could only register an .fr domain name where such domain name was also cited in official documents (such as the certificate of incorporation of a company (extrait K-bis)) is past. As from 11 May 2004, AFNIC (French Network Information Centre) a key body in charge of the naming charter for the .fr domain zone, has decided to liberalise the domain name registration process by removing this restriction. Accordingly, it is now possible to register a domain name in the .fr domain zone which has no connection with an official name or mark, thus opening the way for the use of generic words, for example, hair, car etc. It is nevertheless important to note the current conditions to be satisfied in order to be allowed to register a top-level domain name in the .fr domain zone[1], as follows:

1. Which entities may hold top level domain names in the .fr domain zone?

All the legal entities or persons identifiable by AFNIC on French public electronic databases may hold a domain name in the .fr domain zone, including:

  • all legal entities whose head office is in France
  • all natural persons of French nationality or of foreign nationality who are domiciled in France
  • all legal entities which possess an address in France that is expressly listed in the public electronic databases of the registrars of the commercial courts or the National Statistical and Economic Studies Institute (INSEE)
  • all State institutions or departments, local authorities or associated establishments
  • all legal entities or natural persons, which own a trade mark registered with the National Intellectual Property Institute or own a registered EU or international trade mark which expressly includes French territory

2. What restrictions are there on the choice of the top level domain name in the .fr domain zone?

A person applying for registration is now, in general, free to choose its top-level domain name. This is a significant development and a major change from the previous regulations.

That said, the AFNIC still maintains a list of prohibited terms which cannot be included:

  • due to their nature (for example, obscene or insulting terms)
  • because the terms are technical internet terms
  • because the terms are names of regulated professions
  • because the terms relate to State functions or departments
  • because the terms are names of the countries that have signed the Paris Convention or are terms used for international organisations.

In addition, the domain name chosen must be compliant with certain syntactic constraints. For example, the domain name cannot consist of a single character or of two letters.

On 2 July 2004, AFNIC further decided that only a local authority (collectivité territoriale) may register a domain name such as "mairie-xxx.fr", "ville-xxx.fr", "cr-xxx.fr" or "cg-xxx.fr". Moreover, only a local authority can register its name directly under .fr (for example, www.paris.fr).

In any case, the applicant is solely liable for the terms it chooses to use in its domain name.

3. How are applications for top level domain names processed?

Applications submitted to AFNIC are processed in chronological date order upon receipt of applications.

Applications must be submitted to AFNIC through one of the Internet Service Providers stated on the list established by AFNIC[2].

When requesting registration, the applicant must appoint an administrative contact which must be maintained for the entire period that the domain name is being used. The administrative contact may be the registrant or a third party. The administrative contact must be an individual or a legal entity based in France.

The term “based in France” refers to:

  • legal entities whose head office is located in France or which possess an address in France listed in the public electronic databases of the registrars of the commercial courts or the National Statistical and Economic Studies Institute (INSEE)
  • natural persons who can prove possession of an address in France for more than three (3) successive months prior to the request for the administrative operations

The administrative contact is the natural person or the legal entity that is responsible for responding to the AFNIC's queries, except in the case of procedures followed to resolve disputes, where the applicant is dealt with directly.

Conclusion

In terms of numbers, liberalisation of the registration process has been a success with some 167,092 domain names having been registered before 1 May 2004 and 282,550 on 1 November 2004. However, liberalisation increases the risk of domain name disputes. Therefore, AFNIC has implemented alternative procedures to resolve disputes. Each domain name registrant of the .fr domain zone must agree to comply with these alternative dispute resolution procedures.



[1] The .fr naming charter is on line at the following address: www.afnic.fr/obtenir/chartes/nommage-fr.

[2]You can find their contact details via the search tool provided by AFNIC on www.afnic.fr/obtenir/prestataires .