EU Policy

CENTR and its members are committed to an open, reliable and robust internet infrastructure embedded in a sound and balanced internet ecosystem.

CENTR strives to be the voice of the domain name system (DNS) community at EU-level, the centre of intelligence and a reliable partner on all things related to the DNS.

In order for Europe to benefit from and thrive on the internet’s power to connect people, facilitate the exchange of goods and services and enable innovation, CENTR and its membership contribute to the following policy objectives:

Sustain the diversity of the DNS community

The internet ecosystem consists of many actors, big and small, which are represented in different layers of the internet. Joint effort and successful cooperation require that stakeholders understand and respect each others’ function, role and limitations.

ccTLD registries operate the underlying infrastructure and processes that help “navigate” the internet. ccTLD registries do not store or enhance content online.

Vague definitions, an unclear scope or burdensome requirements bear the risk of overreach, collateral damage, or unwanted market consolidation. In some cases, they can infringe on fundamental rights of both users and businesses.

Maintain a level-playing field among all the actors in the DNS

All registries need to respect the technical rules and requirements of the DNS, but regarding its management each ccTLD remains responsible for setting its own rules under local regulatory framework. Bearing in mind that internet is a global resource, it is also crucial that European policy or standardisation efforts do not duplicate or contradict efforts at international level.

The natural variety in approaches to address online risks and challenges, derived from a local perspective, is an opportunity for DNS actors to benefit from mutual exchange and information sharing on an ongoing basis.

Encourage policy-makers to adhere to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality

ccTLD registries are strongly rooted in and guided by their local internet community, including government. Shifting regulation to a level that does not take into account these local links threatens to break these ties. Most ccTLD registries have successfully managed and operated their TLD for decades, thanks to their constant efforts to keep their systems and networks secure and reliable, and their policies and actions transparent.

Which EU policies are important for ccTLDs?

ccTLD registry operators are mainly governed by national law. Yet, a number of EU policies impact their daily operations, in particular cybersecurity, data protection and privacy, and consumer protection. Other (non)legislative and standardisation initiatives, both at European and international levels, also play a role.

Data protection

The DNS associates various types of information (records) with a domain name. They are needed to translate domain names into IP addresses. When someone types a URL into the browser, this “query” is matched against and “answered” using the zone file, a subset of DNS database, which holds the domain names and their associated name server information. The more easily memorisable domain name is then translated into a numerical IP address. A DNS database therefore holds a lot of technical data, however, also some personal data, which is needed to identify the holder of the domain and determine its availability for registration (i.e. WHOIS, a directory service maintained by the registry).

Cybersecurity

The security of networks and information systems is at the core of every registry and essential to the functioning of the domain name system. The commitment of CENTR members to a resilient, stable and secure internet is the key of their success. As a major building block of the internet’s infrastructure, ccTLD registries are a trust partner to all other actors in the internet ecosystem. CENTR members share information on security risks and good practices to solve or avoid incidents. Registries collaborate closely with their national CERT, some of them being part of or hosting the CERT.

Content liability

A ccTLD registry administers and operates the registration of internet domain names under a specific top-level domain. As a technical operator, a registry does not host the content available on a website that operates under a specific domain, nor can be held liable for content that is beyond its control.

Blocking access to content at ISP-level is often seen as an effective, low-cost means, yet its technical, indiscriminate impact on the underlying DNS and the access to services it provides are often underestimated (read more in CENTR paper on domain blocking).

Caution is needed when dealing with illegal content on DNS level, as far-reaching actions may risk or endanger the integrity and technical stability of the DNS. In addition, any approach to dealing with illegal content should be respectful of fundamental rights and due process. More information on ccTLDs and their technical role in relation to content online can be found in CENTR paper on Domain name registries and online content.

Intellectual property

In principle, any domain name is available for registration unless it contradicts national law. Registered trademarks are also protected online, i.e. also in the domain name sphere. Therefore, even where a trademark owner has not registered a related domain, the trademark is still protected. Trademark infringements are normally settled using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.