By Sunday Folayan, NiRA.
‘LEGITIMATE POSSESSION OF NIGERIAAIR.NG WILL BE SUBJECT TO EXISTING LAWS WHICH FORBIDS CYBER-SQUATTING.’
A Super-long [Facebook] post to address the controversy of cybersquatting as it concerns the newly announced business entity: Nigeria Air. If you are in the Domain Name business, you will this post interesting, and if you are also a concerned stakeholder, you will be better informed on the intricacies and legal limits to acquiring domain names. IT Edge News is sharing for purpose of general information. Enjoy it!
Many friends and associates have been tagging me up and down on social media, that the promoters of the Airline-in-formation were not smart enough to pre-register their digital asset, and that some smart-alec registered nigeriaair.ng, nigeriaair.com.ng and all its variants, and is offering it for sale at N48m or more .
You see, .ng a Country-Code Top Level Domain(ccTLD) and the rules are different from a Generic Top level Domain (gTLD) such as .com.
The issues and options, for those who are curious:
- Registering a name does not confer ownership. Read the NIRA Domain Name Policy , especially sections 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 quoted below:
<QUOTE> We do not impose restrictions on your status as applicant for the registration of a Domain Name in the following SLDs (“Open SLDs”):
• .com.ng; or
We do set out certain intentions regarding the class of applicant or use of registrations of the Domain Name which we assume you will comply with when applying for a registration of a Domain Name within an Open SLD. However, we will take no action in respect of registrations that do not comply with the SLD Charters. We may request certain information from you regarding your legal identity when you make an application for or seek to amend the registration of a Domain Name in the Open SLDs.
3.5 For any application by you for a Domain Name within the remaining available SLDs listed in Appendix A (“Closed SLDs”) we do specify certain criteria in the “Requirements on Applicants” section of the SLD Rules which you must comply with before your application for a Domain Name in a Closed SLD can be accepted by us.
3.6 As set out in our Registrant Agreement, we may cancel or suspend the registration of a Domain Name if you breach any of the Rules.
- If NO ONE needs or asks for the already registered nigeriaair.ng legitimately, then the registrants fella is home and dry, and may have hit jackpot. No shaking.
- Any legitimate or illegitimate buyer can approach such a registrant and pay the 48m price. That is called “domaining” and if he makes money, he will become a famous “domaineer” and probably a recognized legend for his courage.
- A legitimate owner will have a CAC registration Document for the name, “Nigeria Air” or “Air Nigeria” or a trademark for the name, or all of the above. There is thus a valid dispute. The legitimate owner can then submit to the NIRA dispute resolution procedure .
- Note that registering and laying claims with false pretense to a domain is called “Cybersquatting”. Note the very fine line, with “domaining” because the legitimate owner must show proof of ownership that predates the speculator’s action.
- If the legitimate owner is a government entity, then the rule gets interesting. A ccTLD operates within the ambit of the Country’s Legal system, meaning NIRA, the registry managers of .ng will work within the framework of the existing laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
- According Section 16 of the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 
(1) Any person who, intentionally takes or makes use of a name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Governments in Nigeria, on the internet or any other computer network, without authority or right, or for the purpose of interfering with their use by the owner, registrant or legitimate prior user, commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years or a fine of not less than N5,000,000.00 or to both fine and imprisonment.
(2) In awarding any penalty against an offender under this section, a court shall have regard to the following –
(a) a refusal by the offender to relinquish, upon formal request by the rightful owner of the name, business name, trademark, domain name, or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Governments in Nigeria; or
(b) an attempt by the offender to obtain compensation in any form for the release to the rightful owner for use in the Internet of the name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal, State or Local Government of Nigeria.
- No matter the outcome of this saga,
- Many more Nigerians will be better educated,
- NIRA and .ng will become more famous,
- Many more people will see the opportunities in Domain Name Registration and Hosting, that have long been ignored or overlooked.
- More people will see the protection in using the Nigerian identity, .ng
- Nigerians will all win.
Reverend Sunday Folayan is the President of Nigeria internet Registration Association (NiRA).