Winds of Change for Domain Names

The overhaul of Finnish electronic communications legislation, i.e. the Information Society Code, also touches on the domain name business. In this respect, the goal of the new legislation is above all to clarify the roles of the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) and domain name brokers by offering customers a one-stop shop.

This amendment will bring the Finnish domain name business into the widely used international broker model. As opposed to the rest of the Information Society Code, the domain name sections of Code the will not enter into force until 5 September 2016.

Change to International Broker Model 

At the moment, domain names are applied for using a mixed model, in which either the party applying for a domain name itself or a broker voluntarily selected by the party applies for the domain name directly to FICORA. Elsewhere in Europe, a broker model has been adopted in which the domain name broker handles all contacts with the customer.

The Information Society Code will bring Finland from the current mixed model into the broker model, which can be characterised as a one-stop-shop. In future, domain name applicants will get all the services from a single source, their domain name broker. This means that applicants will no longer contact FICORA directly, but through their broker. Because brokers will have a larger role, their operations will also be more regulated in order to ensure the quality and
efficiency of customer service.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that FICORA will still be the one granting domain names, even though brokers will be handling contact with the customers. FICORA will also continue to maintain the administrative domain name register and the .fi domain name service. In addition, FICORA will supervise the operations of domain name brokers.

Foreign Companies and Private Individuals to Be Allowed Apply for .fi Domain Names 

The current Domain Name Act provides the general requirements for granting domain names. At the moment, .fi domains can be granted to legal persons or private entrepreneurs registered in Finland as well as to Finnish public sector entities, state enterprises, independent public services, public associations and diplomatic missions of foreign states.

Under the new Information Society Code, these requirements will be removed. In future, obtaining a .fi domain name will not require the same kind of connection to Finland as under the current law. The home municipality and minimum age of 15 requirements will also be dropped. This means that it will be possible to grant .fi domain names to foreign legal persons, private entrepreneurs or other organisations or legal persons. This significant change will particularly benefit foreign companies offering their services in Finland, but also Finnish private individuals who are resident abroad. 

Content Restrictions for Domain Names to Be Removed 

The Information Society Code also affects the form and content of domain names. Under the new Code, domain names can have a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 63 characters.

The new regulatory framework removes several restrictions permissible domain names. In the future, domain names expressing only a corporate form, such as oy.fi, will be allowed (“Oy” being a Finnish equivalent to, e.g., “Ltd”). It will also be possible for Finnish domain names to consist of just global top-level domains or country domains (with the Finnish ccltd “.fi” added). This change is based on the adoption of new top-level domains. For example, under prior legislation, the adoption of the planned .helsinki domain would have prevented the simultaneous use of the existing helsinki.fi address. The restrictions on the use of first and last name combinations will also be dropped. The protection of trade names and trademarks will remain unchanged. When applying for a domain name, one will still have to ensure that it does not infringe another party’s protected trade name or trademark.