In today’s technologically oriented world, it is assumed that a business must have both a domain name and a website. However, the process of registering a domain and setting up a website can sometimes seem overwhelming. This article outlines how a business owner can register a domain name and details the legal documents that their website will need.

Domain Name

A domain name is an address for your business on the internet. It helps people browsing the internet to locate your website. Importantly, the name only gives a business the right to direct visitors to its website.

To register a domain name, a proprietor should select a registrar and follow their application procedures. Some registrars directly service the public, while others employ resellers. In Australia, the .au Domain Administration Limited (auDA) is the primary industry and policy body for the .au domain space. Their website provides a list of accredited registrars for those looking to register a domain name with a .com.au top level domain.

The most common kind of domain name in Australia is .au. To obtain a domain name .au, an applicant must meet certain eligibility requirements. For example, only non-commercial Australian organisations can have the domain name org.au. A business receives a name according to sequential order. The first in are first served. Also, a business owner does not own their domain name. They obtain a licence to use their name for a period. If they wish to continue to do so, they must renew their licence.

Domain Name, Business Name and Intellectual Property

A domain name is not a business name. Nor does a domain name confer any intellectual property rights to the business.

A business name is that name an enterprise uses to operate as. Conversely, a domain name is an address on the Internet. A proprietor is required to register their business name by law when they conduct business in a name other than their own. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission registers business names. Proprietors require an Australian Business Number before they register or be in the process of getting one. A business name does not give ownership of the name. If a proprietor wished to safeguard that name and prevent others from using it, they would need to trademark their business name in the appropriate classes.

A domain name is also not an intellectual property right. A business cannot, by their domain name, protect the name for their commercial purposes and prevent someone else from using it or a name very similar to it. To do that, a proprietor would need to register the domain as a trademark in the correct class with IP Australia. If a business registered a domain as a trademark, another entity would need their permission to use it or a name similar to it.  

Website

While setting up a website is a thrilling thing for any business owner, they must ensure that it contains all the legal documents necessary to meet their obligations and protect their business. They will likely require professional legal assistance.

While every enterprise is different, a website will typically need a:

  • Privacy Policy;
  • Website Terms of Use; and
  • Terms and Conditions.

Privacy Policy

The business’ website should have a clear and accessible privacy policy drafted in agreement with the Australian Privacy Principles. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) only requires certain entities to have such a policy, typically organisations with an annual turnover of over $3 million. Nonetheless, a website should have a privacy policy. Not only is it the best practice, but it can also instil confidence in users of your site. Consumers today are increasingly concerned about the collection, storage and disclosure of their personal information. An effective policy may make them more comfortable purchasing from your website.

Website Terms of Use

Your site requires a Terms of Use. These set of conditions ensure all users of your site know the rules and regulations concerning how to interact with it. These rules apply to everyone who uses the site, regardless of whether or not they make a purchase.

A Terms of Use usually protects intellectual property, limits liability and outlines what is not permitted when using the site.

Terms and Conditions

If your website is a means through which your business sells goods or services, it must also contain your Terms and Conditions. These are a client or service agreement that tells users of your website how you do business and any conditions they must accept if they purchase a product or service. These Terms and Conditions are different to the site’s Terms of Use because they apply only to those who make a transaction. For example, if your business sold products online your Terms and Conditions should include information about payment, deliveries, returns, refunds and exchanges. They should also limit liability. Similarly, if your enterprise sells services online, consumers need to have (among other things) a description of services and information about payment. Your terms and conditions will also need to limit liability. Please note that these lists are not exhaustive.

Key Takeaways

When setting up a business and establishing a website, it’s important that you understand the concept of domains and registering a domain name, as well as the legal documents you need to properly establish a business website.

LegalVision has provided many businesses with tailored online legal advice and bespoke documents for business websites. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any issue with your business, website, intellectual property and contract. Call LegalVision today on 1300 544 755.

Carole Hemingway

Next Steps

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