Introduction A domain name can be likened to an address on the global computer network, which both identifi es and gives other information about a specifi c internet site. A web domain name permits web users to use unique alphanumeric website addresses rather than to have to remember numeric IP addresses. 1 For example:

The domain name system is overseen by a non-profi t corporation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was created in October 1998 and is based in California. 2 ICANN has, amongst other roles, policy responsibility for coordinating the assignment of internet domain names. 3 The technical operation of the domain name system is performed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which ‘allocates and maintains the unique codes and numbering systems that are used in the technical standards (“protocols”) that drive the Internet’. 4

The term ‘top-level domain’ (TLD), or ‘fi rst-level domain’, refers to the fi nal segment of the domain name. In the example given above, the TLD is ‘.uk’. IANA recognises fi ve different types of TLD, as follows. 5

ICANN delegates control over each TLD to a domain name registry. It retains direct governance control over the generic top-level domains (gTLDs), and can thus defi ne the terms and conditions to be applied by each gTLD registry. For sTLDs, a sponsor representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD is responsible for appointing the domain name registry, and for establishing the terms and conditions to be applied, in conjunction with ICANN. For ccTLDs, the domain name registry is usually appointed or controlled by the government of the state or territory, and ICANN does not control the terms and conditions applied by ccTLDs.