202101.26

Consequences of Brexit on domain names: .eu, ccTLDs of the EU Member States, and other geoTLDs

What is the impact of Brexit on domain name portfolios of UK natural and legal persons? In this context, it seems useful to explore the opportunities that businesses and non-EU nationals can take to establish or maintain a presence in the European Union digital space. Indeed, the EU ccTLDs (.eu and .ею) are only one layer of the cyberspace’s naming system corresponding to the EU. It is also necessary to consider the registration/eligibility policies adopted by the national registries of the Member States (ccTLDs) and by the registries of other geoTLDs, in particular cityTLDs.

ccTLDs of the European Union: .eu et .ею 

According to Article 4(2)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 22, 2002,

“2. The Registry shall:

(a) organise, administer and manage the.eu TLD in the general interest and on the basis of principles of quality, efficiency, reliability and accessibility;

(b) register domain names in the.eu TLD through any accredited.eu Registrar requested by any:

(i) undertaking having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the Community, or

(ii) organisation established within the Community without prejudice to the application of national law, or

(iii) natural person resident within the Community” (eur-lex.europa.eu).

There is no doubt that UK natural and legal persons are no longer eligible for .eu and .ею. The only exception concerns natural persons who reside in one Member States, although not European citizens.

On November 20, 2020, Eurid unveiled the final timetable for the consequences of Brexit on the eligibility of legal persons and UK nationals to register domain names in the .eu and .ею zones:

“On 1 October 2020, EURid notified by email all UK registrants and their registrars that they would lose their eligibility as of 1 January 2021 unless they demonstrated their compliance with the .eu regulatory framework by updating their registration data before 31 December 2020. They could do so by indicating a legally established entity in one of the eligible Union Member States, or updating their residence to a Union Member State, or proving their citizenship of a Union Member State irrespective of their residence.

On 21 December 2020, EURid notified by email all UK registrants who did not demonstrate continued compliance with the eligibility criteria and their registrars about the risk of forthcoming non-compliance with the .eu regulatory framework.

On 1 January 2021, as of 00:00:00 CET, EURid notified by email all UK registrants and their registrars that their domain name was no longer compliant with the .eu regulatory framework and therefore, it would be moved to the so-called “SUSPENDED” status until 31 March 2021. A domain name in the “SUSPENDED” status can no longer support any service (such as website and email), but may still be reinstated if registration data is updated to meet the eligibility criteria.

On 1 April 2021, 00:00:00 CET, EURid will once again notify by email all UK registrants and their registrars that their domain name is no longer compliant with the .eu regulatory framework and consequently is moved to the so-called “WITHDRAWN” status. A domain name in the “WITHDRAWN” status is not in the zone file and cannot support any service.

On 1 January 2022, as of 00:00:00 CET, all the domain names in the “WITHDRAWN” status, formerly assigned to UK registrants, will be REVOKED and subsequently, become AVAILABLE for general registration. Their release will occur in batches for security reasons.” (eurid.eu, 2020-11-20).

The use of the “proxy” or “trustee” practice is not authorized under section 5 of the Eurid Domain Name Registration Policy “(Eurid.eu).

As European Union ccTLDs are no longer available to British natural and legal persons (with the exception for natural persons residing in the territory of the EU), are there any alternatives which would allow them to maintain a digital presence, would it be partial, on the territory of the European Union?

ccTLDs of the Member States 

A ccTLD can be considered as an attribute of state sovereignty it designates. It follows that each state is free to enact the eligibility rules for access to domain names created in its ccTLD area.

At the European Union level, territorial restrictions cannot apply to European Union’s businesses and citizens. Conversely, they apply to legal persons who do not have their registered office in the Union and to natural persons who, depending on the case, do not have European citizenship or do not reside in one of the Member States. As the table below shows, such restrictions are in place in many EU member states.


ccTLDs of the European Union and the Member States of the European Union

ccTLDEligibility
Austria (.AT)No territorial restrictions. Art. 1 of the General Terms and Conditions (Version 3.2 of 16 May 2018)
Belgium (.BE)No territorial restrictions. Art. 1 and 3 of the Terms and conditions for .be domain name registrations, Version 6.1 – 6 April 2018
Bulgaria (.BG)Territorial conditions apply. "3.1. Any private persons or legal entities with legal or commercial registration in the Republic of Bulgaria or EU member state, or holders of a constituent act issued by a Bulgarian State Authority; entities, established by virtue of an agreement between Bulgaria and other countries; companies and organizations, registered abroad, having a registered branch or commercial representative office in the Republic of Bulgaria. 3.2. Efficient persons, Bulgarian citizens, foreigners with the right for permanent residence on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria or citizens of EU member state. 3.3. Legal entities, registered abroad, having authorized a third entity to register a DOMAIN NAME. The authorized entity shall meet the criteria under 3.1. or 3.2.". Art. 3 of the terms and conditions for domain name registration and support in the .BG zone and the sub-zones (Version 4.9. - updated on May 23, 2018)
Croatia (.HR)Territorial restrictions apply: "The application for second-level domain registration may, under the conditions from this Ordinance, be submitted by legal entities established according to the Croatian law (resident legal entities) or natural persons residing in the Republic of Croatia (resident natural persons). Under the conditions of Article 21 of this Ordinance, state bodies shall also have the right to submit applications when applying for the registration of a domain whose name is unambiguously linked to their field of competence. In accordance with this Ordinance, the application for lower-level domain registration may be submitted by every resident or non-resident legal and natural person. By way of derogation, the application for the registration of a free-of-charge domain to exercise the right to virtual identity of natural persons (Article 23 paragraph 3 of this Ordinance) may be submitted only by a natural person residing in the Republic of Croatia or having Croatian citizenship. By way of derogation from paragraphs 1 to 3 of this Article, it may be allowed, for duly justified reasons and subject to payment of a fee in the amount envisaged for domains referred to in Article 17 paragraph 1 point 4 of this Ordinance, that a non-resident legal entity which has a registered representative office, branch office or other permanent form of organisation in the Republic of Croatia, also applies for the registration of one second-level domain". Art. 15 of the Organisation and Management of the National Top-Level Domain, as amended by Article 5 of the Ordinance on Amendments to the Ordinance on the Organisation and Management of the National Top-Level Domain: "In Article 15, paragraph 4 is amended to read as follows: "By way of derogation from paragraphs 1 to 3 of this Article, it may be allowed, subject to payment of a fee in the amount envisaged for domains referred to in Article 17 paragraph 1 point 4 of this Ordinance, that a non-resident legal entity with a registered representative office, branch office or other permanent form of organisation in the Republic of Croatia, or legal entities with headquarters in one of the European Union Member States, also apply for the registration of a second-level domain.". Paragraph 5 is deleted." (last visit: 2020-10-28)
Czech Republic (.CZ)Territorial restrictions apply: "the applicant must provide a valid contact address within the EU/EEA upon request or designate a representative with a mailing address within the EU/EEA". Art. 12.6 of the Rules of Domain Names Registration under the .cz ccTLD (last visit: 2020-10-28)
Denmark (.DK)No territorial restrictions. Terms and Conditions for the Right to Use a .DK Domain Name (version 10 with effective date 1 March 2019)
Estonia (.EE)No territorial restrictions / Identification conditions apply. Art. 3.1.1, 4 and 4(1) of the .ee Domain Regulation (last visit: 2020-10-28)
Finland (.FI)No territorial restrictions. Art. 164 of the Information Society Code (917/2014) and Domain Name Regulation 68/2016 (Valid from: 05.09.2016)
France (.FR)Territorial restrictions apply. "The following can request the registration of a domain name, in each of the top-level domains: - natural persons residing in the territory of the European Union; - legal persons having their registered office or their main establishment in the territory of one of the Member States of the European Union." Article L. 45-3 of the French Post and Electronic Communication Law (last visit: 2020-10-28)
Germany (.DE)No territorial restrictions. Conditions apply. "If the Domain Holder is not domiciled in Germany, they shall name within two weeks of a corresponding request by DENIC an authorised representative domiciled in Germany for receiving the service of official or court documents who shall have the same rights as defined for an authorised representative for receiving the service of official or court documents in terms of Article 184 of the German Code of Civil Procedure. The appointment of the authorised representative shall be made to the person who wishes to arrange for service and shall be addressed to that person via DENIC. The information to be stated shall include the name of the authorised representative for receiving the service of official or court documents and their full postal address; specifying a post-office box number is not sufficient. In the request, which DENIC is entitled to send to the Domain Holder by e-mail, DENIC will name the person who intends to arrange for the service of documents to the authorised representative for receiving service of official or court documents. The request to name an authorised representative for receiving the service of official or court documents requires that the person wishing to arrange for a service of documents submit a request to that effect and that the conditions for setting a Dispute entry according to § 2(3) first sentence are met." §3(4) of the DENIC Domain Terms and Conditions (last visit: 2020-10-28).
Greece (.GR)No territorial restrictions. "All [.gr] or [.ελ] Domain Names can be assigned to any Greek or foreign natural or legal person, whether established in Greece or not". Art. 7.4 of the Regulation on Management and Assignment of [.gr] or [.ελ] Domain Names (DECISION: 843/2, 2018-03-01)
Hungary (.HU)Territorial restrictions apply. Art. 1.1.1 Delegation of domains directly under the .hu public domain may be applied for by a) any citizen of the European Union, of the Council of Europe, an EEA or EFTA country, or of a neighbouring country of Hungary, or a natural person having an ID card, passport or driving licence issued by an authority of such states, or b) any natural person holding a permit for domiciliation in Hungary or c) any legal entity i) established by virtue of law, ii) entered in the Register of or registered with an authority or court, or iii) filing its respective application with the competent authority or court and commencing its operations pursuant and according to the law prior to such entry or registration, in the territory of the European Union, of the Council of Europe, an EEA or EFTA country or a neighbouring country of Hungary. d) furthermore, the beneficiary of a trademark either registered with the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office or protected otherwise that is also applicable in Hungary. Art. 1.1.1. of the Domain registry Policy (2020-10-28)
Ireland (.IE)No territorial restrictions. Conditions apply. Non Irish/Northern Irish registrants must provide "evidence of a real and substantive connection to the island of Ireland". Art. 3E of the Registration and Naming in the .IE Namespace Policy, Process, Procedures, Rules & Guidelines (Effective from 16 November 2020)
Italy (.IT)Territorial restrictions apply: "the registration of a domain name in the ccTLD .it is permitted only to persons who have citizenship, residence or a registered office in the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA), the Vatican, the Republic of San Marino, and Switzerland". Art. 1.2.3.6) of the Assignment and management of domain names in the ccTLD .it (2014-11-03)
Latvia (.LV)Territorial restrictions apply. "Holder of the domain name under top level domain .lv may be: a commercial entity registered in Latvia from the moment it is registered in the Enterprise Registry of the Republic of Latvia; a state or local government authority from the moment it is established; a foundation, an agency, a union or other entity established in accordance to the normative acts of the Republic of Latvia from the moment it is established; a natural person, who has reached 18 years of age; a commercial entity or organisation registered outside the Republic of Latvia from the moment it is registered". Article 3.1. of the Policy for acquisition of the right to use domain names under the top level domain .lv (17 May 2019, entered into force on 22 May 2019)
Lithuania (.LT)No territorial restrictions. Procedural Regulation for the .LT Top-Level Domain (2018-05-25)
Luxemburg (.LU)No territorial restrictions. Art. 2 of the Domain Name Charter under .lu (September 1st 2020)
Malte (.MT)No territorial restrictions. "There is no requirement for the Holder to be established in Malta". Art. 4.3 of the Domain Name Registration Policy. (last visit: 2020-10-28)
The Netherlands (.NL)No territorial restrictions. "Anyone, living or based anywhere in the world, may apply to us through a registrar to register a .nl domain name. (...). We may attach additional conditions to legal and/or natural persons based outside the European Union". Art. 1.1. of the General Terms and Conditions for .nl Registrants (1 May 2019)
Poland (.PL)No territorial restrictions. .pl Domain Name Regulations as of 18 December 2006 (In force as of 1 December 2015) (2020-10-28)
Portugal (.PT)No territorial restrictions. Art. 11 of the .PT Domain Registration Rules (May 25, 2018.) (2020-10-28)
Romania (.RO)No territorial restrictions. Rules for Registration (last visit: 2020-10-28)
Slovakia (.SK)Territorial restrictions apply. "A User may be any physical or legal person that has a postal address (address to receive physical paper forms of communication) in any of the European Union member states, or a state within the European Economic Area, or a member state of the European Free Trade Association or in the United Kingdom. Art. 2.1 of the Terms and Conditions of Domain Name Service in .sk Top Level Domain (21.10.2019)
Spain (.ES)No territorial restrictions. .ES Terms and Services (in Spanish) (last vist: 2020-10-28)
Sweden (.SE)No territorial restrictions. Terms and Conditions of Registration For the top-level domain .se (from September 30, 2019)
Cyprus (.CY)No territorial restrictions. Art. 8.1 of the Agreement for the registration, assignment of license to use and administration of domain names under the ".cy" (last visit: 2020-10-28)
European Union (.EU)Territorial restrictions apply. "Registration of one or more domain names under the .eu TLD can be requested by any of the following: (a) a Union citizen, independently of their place of residence; (b) a natural person who is not a Union citizen and who is a resident of a Member State; (c) an undertaking that is established in the Union; and (d) an organisation that is established in the Union without prejudice to the application of national law." (Art. 3 of the Regulation (EU) 2019/517 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2019 on the implementation and functioning of the .eu top-level domain name and amending and repealing Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 and repealing Commission Regulation (EC) No 874/2004). "‘Eligibility Criteria’ means the criteria for eligibility to register a Domain Name as set out in article 4(2)(b) of the Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 of the European Parliament, and of the Council of 22 April 2002 on the implementation of the .eu Top Level Domain and article 20 juncto article 22 of Regulation (EU) 2019/517 of the European Parliament, and of the Council of 19 March 2019 on the implementation and functioning of the .eu Top Level Domain name and amending and repealing Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 and repealing Commission Regulation (EC) No 874/2004. As of 19 October 2019, a European Union citizen, independently of their place of residence, will become eligible to register a Domain Name" (Eurid Domain Name Registration Terms and Conditions, V.11.0, Definitions). "Only natural persons, undertakings, or organisations meeting the Eligibility Criteria shall be eligible to register a Domain Name" (Section 1 of the Eurid Domain Name Registration Terms and Conditions)
Greece (.GR and .ΕΛ)No territorial restrictions. Art. 7.4, Regulation on Management and Assignment of [.gr] or [.ελ] Domain Names (version of 2018-03-01)


Thus, British natural persons (with the exception indicated above) and legal entities will be able to keep the domain names they hold in certain zones: Austria (.AT), Belgium (.BE), Cyprus (.CY), Denmark (.DK), Estonia (.EE), Finland (.FI), Germany (.DE), Greece (.GR and .ΕΛ), Lithuania (.LT), Luxembourg (.LU), Malta (.MT), Poland (.PL), Portugal (.PT), Romania (.RO), Spain (.ES) or Sweden (.SE).

It should be noted that Slovakia (.SK) has modified its eligibility rules in order to guarantee the continuity of the accessibility of its ccTLD to British legal and natural persons. As for Croatia (.HR), only legal entities remain eligible to register .HR domain names, upon presentation of an identification number issued by the UK authorities.

For some other ccTLDs, including Ireland (.IE) and the Netherlands (.NL), domain names’ maintenance may be subject to additional conditions.

Also, Brexit de facto places the British outside the eligibility criteria of several national zones, namely Bulgaria (.BG), the Czech Republic (.CZ), France (.FR), Hungary (. HU), Italy (.IT), and Lithuania (.LT).

These restrictions may be lifted, where the registries so permit, through a trustee/proxy service.

Le .ccTLD britannique .UK

Nominet -the UK registry responsible for the administration of .UK-, does not currently consider restricting the eligibility requirements for access to UK domain names. The status quo is therefore maintained so that European natural and legal persons remain eligible to register .UK domain names under the same conditions as before the entry into force of Brexit.

Other geoTLDs

In addition to ccTLDs, the territory of the EU includes several other top-level domains: cityTLDs (.BERLIN, .MADRID or .PARIS), administrative regions (.ALSACE, .BZH, .CAT and .CORSICA) and cultural communities (.ALSACE, .BZH, .CAT, .CORSICA and .IRISH).

These extensions aim to magnify a metropolis, a region, or a cultural community. To achieve this objective, the registries require two types of conditions: i) territorial eligibility and/or ii) the website’s content must correspond to the objectives set by the registry.


cityTLDs, Regional TLDs, and Cultural TLDs Having a Link with the European Union

TLDEligibility
Alsace (.ALSACE)Territorial restrictions apply. Alternatively, a cultural interest is required. Art. 2.1, Politique d’enregistrement .alsace (V2.0 – 16 janvier 2015)
Britanny (.BZH)Territorial restrictions apply. Alternatively, a cultural interest is required. Conditions d'enregistrement du .BZH [last visit: 2020.12.15]
Bayern (.BAYERN)Territorial restrictions apply. Art. 3b, Domain Name Registration Policy [last visit: 2020.12.15]
Barcelona (. BARCELONA and .BCN)No territorial restrictions. A link with Barcelona is required. Content control applies. Art. 2.1, Normativa de registre de .barcelona [last visit: 2020.12.15]
Berlin (.BERLIN)Territorial restrictions apply. Art. 5.1, Policy for the Registration of .berlin Domain Names [last visit: 2020.12.15]
Brussels (.BRUSSELS)No territorial restrictions. Art. 2.1, .BRUSSELS/.VLAANDEREN 2012 Terms & Conditions (version of 27th August 2014)
Cologne (.COLOGNE)Demande d'information en cours
Corse (.CORSICA)Territorial restrictions apply. Alternatively, a cultural interest required. Article 1.2, Politique d'enregistrement du .CORSICA [last visit: 15.12.2020]
Hamburg (.HAMBURG)Territorial restrictions apply. Article 5.1, Policy for the Registration of .HAMBURG Domain Names [last visit: 2020.12.15]
Helsinki (.HELSINKI)
.IRISHNo restrictions. Art. 1 of the General Registration Policy [last visit: 2020.12.17]
Koeln (.KOELN)No territorial restrictions. General Registration Policy for .KOELN and .COLOGNE [last visited 14.12.2020]
Madrid (.MADRID)Territorial restrictions apply. Alternatively, a direct or indirect link with Madrid is required. Art. 4.1.1 del Contrato de registro de nombre de dominio ".MADRID" [last visit: 2020.12.17]
Paris (.PARIS)Territorial restrictions apply. Alternatively, a direct or indirect link with Paris is required. Article 2.1, .PARIS Registration Policy [last visit: 14 December 2020]
Stockholm (.STOCKHOLM)No territorial restrictions. General Terms and Conditions for the registration and maintenance of .stockholm Domain Names and The City of Stockholm Nexus Policy
Vlaanderen (.VLAANDEREN)No territorial restrictions. Art. 2.1, .BRUSSELS/.VLAANDEREN 2012 Terms & Conditions (version of 27th August 2014)
Wien (.WIEN)No territorial restrictions. Content control applies. "The following persons are eligible for Registration of a domain name under the .WIEN Top-Level Domain: any natural person, legal person, organisation or association intending to show an economic, cultural, tourist, historical, social or other affinity with the Austrian federal capital: WIEN [Vienna]. As with .at no verification procedure will be carried out at the time of Registration to verify whether the Applicant has the required interests in or relations to Vienna, but fulfilment of the nexus conditions can be reviewed by initiating alternative dispute resolution procedures ("Eligibility Requirements Dispute Resolution Policy")." (Art. 3.3 of the General Guidelines for Setting Up and Function of the .WIEN Top-Level Domain) (last visit: 2020-11-03)
Catalonia (.CAT)No territorial restrictions. Languages and cultural conditions apply. Art. 2.2 of the .CAT Domain Name Registration Policy (last visit: 2020-11-03) and Specification 12 attached to the Registry Agreement
Pays Basque (.EUS)No territorial restrictions. A link with the Pays Basque is required. Languages and cultural conditions apply. Art. 2 of the .eus Registration Policy (last visit: 2020-20-30)
Gent (.GENT)demande d'information en cours


Opportunities et strategies

The availability of domain names held by British natural and legal persons presents an inconvenience for some, an opportunity for others. It seems reasonable for eligible natural and legal persons to use monitoring tools and domain name portfolio audits to identify .eu and .ею domain names that could prove useful. A resale strategy for some, and acquisition for others, must be developed and implemented as soon as possible. Besides, it may be, in some instances, that the transfer of domain names requires a coexistence agreement. It is essential to keep in mind that this approach concerns ccTLDs in the European Union and geoTLDs requiring a local presence (BAYERN, .BERLIN and .HAMBURG).

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