Click to start searching

Communications and advertising

Make sure your group understands how the law can affect what you can and can’t communicate.

Content last updated 26/10/2023

Registering a domain name

On this page

What is a domain name?

Websites are essential for most community organisations. An organisation’s website is often seen as a form of advertising, similar to a brochure, which draws people to an organisation.

Before your organisation can set up a website, it must register a domain name and take time to plan the website.

A domain name is your organisation’s address on the Internet.

A domain name is an important asset as it allows people to access your website and send emails to you (for example and

When you register a domain name you do not ‘own’ that domain name – you are granted a licence to use it for a certain period. The terms and conditions of the licence generally provide that it can be renewed.

Domain names are not equivalent to trade marks or registered business names, and do not create rights to exclusively use that name or phrase in the way that registered trade marks can provide protection. This is discussed further below.

Who manages domain names and makes domain name rules?

The internet’s global domain name system is coordinated by the not-for-profit organisation – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN determines the international policy for ‘.com’ and ‘.org’ domains (known as generic top level domains or gTLDs) including who is eligible for a gTLD and which names are allowed.

For more information, see ICANN’s website.

In Australia, the rules and management of national domain names are overseen by not-for-profit organisation – au. Domain Administration (auDA).

auDA manages the .au domain space and accredits and licenses other organisations or people to sell .au domains to eligible people.

auDA’s key responsibilities include:

  • setting and enforcing policy for the .au domain name space
  • accrediting and regulating domain name registrars that provide domain name registration services to the public, and
  • maintaining the integrity and security of the .au domain name system

Domain names themselves are recorded in a database called a registry. Registry details for global domains can be found on ICANN’s website. The registry for ‘.au’ is managed by auDA.

How to register a domain name

Select a domain name

Most organisations want a domain name that matches their own organisation’s name (for example, This can be the organisation’s proper name or a name that is commonly-used for your organisation.

Domain names work well when they are easy for your supporters and clients to remember, and aren’t too long.

Even if you are not ready to launch your new website, you should consider purchasing a domain early, as it can sometimes be difficult to find a domain that is available and that you are happy with.

If there are a number of ways of referring to your organisation, you may want to register all of these domain names. You can choose a ‘main domain’, and then redirect the unofficial ones to your main domain name. You may also wish to register similar domain names to your own to prevent others from using those domains and creating confusion.

If your organisation is called ‘Aid to Kids’ you might consider registering as well as, with the second domain redirecting to the first. You might also consider whether to register some common misspellings such as and

Consider what will make a good domain name. For example:

  • is my domain name likely to be misspelt?
  • is my domain name easy to remember?
  • is my domain name likely to drive people to my site?
  • is my domain name too generic?
  • is there a chance that people will misread my domain name?

Check the availability of a domain name

Before you register a domain name, you must ensure your chosen domain name:

  • is available for registration
  • doesn’t infringe a registered trade mark (you can’t choose a domain name that is substantially identical to or deceptively similar to, a registered or, sometimes, an applied for, trade mark), and
  • doesn’t have the potential to mislead users through being associated with any other organisation, product or service

Infringing a protected trade mark

If you register a domain name that is substantially identical or deceptively similar to a registered trade mark (often, but not always, signified with a ® for registered trade marks or ™ for both registered and unregistered trade marks), you may be ordered to stop using that domain name by the owner of the trade mark, especially if you are operating in similar fields or industries or providing similar goods or services. Trade marks may be registered in countries other than Australia.

To check whether your domain name may infringe a registered trade mark, you can conduct a preliminary search on IP Australia’s website to see whether your domain name is similar to a registered trade mark. A pending application to register a similar trade mark may also pose an obstacle to your use of the preferred domain name. If you have any concerns, seek legal advice.

Misleading users

Even if your domain name is similar to something that is not the subject of a registered trade mark, your community organisation may still be ordered to stop using that domain name if the use is misleading or deceptive. This might include the name of an entity, brand, product or slogan.

Consider Hewlett Packard, a global information technology company, which has registered as its domain name. If a new technology retailer decides to register as its domain name, use of the new domain name may lead consumers to associate the new retailer’s products with Hewlett Packard. In this case, the new retailer will unfairly benefit from the goodwill associated with the Hewlett Packard name. Hewlett Packard may argue that any sales generated from the new domain name unfairly took away its market share due to an improper use of its global reputation and may be able to access legal remedies because of the new retailer’s misleading or deceptive conduct.

Consider which domain extension you should register

Domain extensions are domain name suffixes. They are the part of a web address which appears after the domain name itself (for example, ‘.com’ or ‘’).

There are many forms of domain extensions. The most common forms of domain extensions are:

Generic top level domains (gTLDs)

These feature only one suffix in the domain name (for example,

Country code top level domains (ccTLDs)

These feature two suffixes – the second suffix often indicates the country code (for example,

Sponsored top-Level domains (sTLDs)

These feature two suffixes, and are reserved for specific organisations or groups, such as government or education institutions (for example,

For these types of domain extensions, suffixes are designated for particular uses. For example:

  • ‘.com’ and ‘.net’ are for general commercial usage
  • ‘.org’ is for charities, certain clubs and not-for-profit organisations
  • ‘.gov’ and ‘.edu’ are for specific organisations and groups, in this case, ‘government’ and ‘education’, and
  • ‘.asn’ is for political organisations

You must be eligible to use a particular suffix to register a domain name with that suffix.

The domain extension

Australian community organisations often wish to have ‘’ at the end of their domain names (for example,

To register an ‘’ domain extension, your organisation must fall under one of the following categories:

  • an association incorporated in any Australian state or territory
  • a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001(Cth)
  • a non-distributing co-operative registered under state or territory legislation
  • an Indigenous Corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) and which appears on the Register of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations
  • a trade union or other organisation registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth)
  • a charitable trust endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient
  • a non-trading cooperative under state or territory legislation
  • a public or private ancillary fund endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient
  • an unincorporated association that appears on the Register of Charities established under the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission Act 2012 (Cth),
  • a political party registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) or state or territory Electoral Act and which appears on the Register of Political Parties or
  • Government, being either the Crown or a Commonwealth, State or Territory statutory agency

Domain names with ‘’ domain extensions must be:

  • an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrant's name, or
  • otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant, such as the name of a service, program, event or activity the registrant provides

See the auDA website for more information on ‘.au’ (including ‘’) licensing rules.

Find an accredited registrar

You can register your domain name through a registrar or reseller listed on the auDA website.

Frequency asked questions

What if someone has already registered the domain you want?

If you are unable to obtain the domain name you want because someone has already registered it, consider choosing a different domain name that is still relevant to your organisation.

You may be able to obtain the domain already registered by someone else if:

  • the current domain owner is willing to sell the domain to you (use the WHOIS database to find the contact information of the domain owner), or
  • the current owner doesn’t renew the domain and it becomes available for registration again (monitor the domain to see when it becomes available and register as soon as possible)

If you consider a person has wrongly registered a domain name in which you have an interest and you aren’t able to resolve the dispute by engaging with that person directly, you may wish to consult the applicable dispute resolution policy for your domain type.

What do you need to know about domain name security?

If you register a domain name yourself, your personal information (such as your name, home address, phone number and email address) may be available for the public to access when they check the registry entry for your domain name.

To avoid this, you can use a domain privacy service. Many domain registrars offer a privacy service that replaces your personal information with the registrar’s contact information.

You can also register a private domain name. This involves paying a third party who specialises in domain name registrations (a domain name reseller) to register a domain name in their name on your behalf, for a fee. If you are considering a private domain registration, take care to select a reputable reseller. The auDA website includes a list of accredited registrars, but do your own research before deciding.

Will your domain name be registered indefinitely?

The terms and conditions of your domain name registration will provide an expiration date on your licence. However, under the terms of your licence, you will usually be entitled to renew the licence. As with initial registration, there is a risk that if you fail to renew your domain name on time, it may be purchased by another person.

Domain name dispute resolution

Both ICANN and auDA have dispute resolution policies to cover disputes about domain names.

ICANN’s dispute resolution policy has been adopted by ICANN Accredited Registrars for all generic top level domains.

auDA’s dispute resolution policy is based on the ICANN policy, and applies to all domain name licences issued or renewed under the .au country code top level domains.

The ICANN policy (mirrored by the .auDA policy) provides that if someone (‘the complainant’) believes that:

  • another person’s ('the respondent’) domain name is confusingly similar to their trade mark
  • the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of their domain name, and
  • the respondent’s domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith,

then the respondent is required to submit to a ‘mandatory administrative proceeding’.

This involves the Registrar considering each argument and deciding whether to cancel or transfer the disputed domain name. The respondent may lodge a response to the complaint within 20 days of the start of the mandatory administrative proceeding. All fees charged by the provider of the proceedings must be paid by the complainant.

One notable difference in the auDA Dispute Resolution Policy is that the respondent may lodge a response no later than 20 days after being notified of the complaint, as opposed to within 20 days of the start of the proceeding.


Make sure:

  • you have a process for managing and renewing your domain name that will be clear to anyone in your organisation, and
  • staff changes don’t lead to inadvertent lapses of your domain name registration

The content on this webpage was last updated in October 2023 and is not legal advice. See full disclaimer and copyright notice.

Apply for free legal help

Provide feedback