The domain name system in Sweden is privately held. The usufruct of the national top level domain is held by a foundation, II-Stiftelsen. II-Stiftelsen is the wholly-owner of NIC-SE AB, a limited liability company that runs the daily operations of the national domain name system. A rules committee, NDR designs the rules for domain name registration, but all rules are subject to final approval by II-Stiftelsen (disclaimer: I am a member of the NDR committee). NIC-SE may or may not register a certain domain name in accordance with the rules. If an applicant is unhappy with NIC-SE not granting his application, he may appeal. The administrative panel makes the final decision on domain decisions, NOD.
The basic rule for registration in Sweden is that the domain name shall refer to an enterprise with a connection to Sweden, and reflect the name of the enterprise as this is stated on the registration certificate issued by the Swedish authorities.
Further, a domain name may not be registered if it is evidently designed to cause offence or is in breach of good custom. This rule was added as an escape route to be used in extreme cases.
All rules are available online in English.
The decision on FUCK.SE
The applicant, Flashback Media Group AB, applied for the domain name FUCK.SE. NIC-SE did not grant the application. Flashback appealed to NOD. At the time of the decision, NOD consisted of Professor Jan Rosen (chair), Thomas Carlen-Wendels and Bengt Eliasson.
While all domain names must reflect the name of the enterprise as this is stated on the registration certificate issued by the Swedish authorities, Flashback had registered a firm, FU&CK Management. The Swedish authorities, that is the Patent Office, would under most circumstances not register the firm "FUCK", but they would register "FU&CK". However, characters such as @, &, %, the full stop or dot (.) and spaces cannot be used in a domain name. In Sweden, names with such characters are transliterated and in the case of "&" just disregarded. Hence, the applicant could use the firm FU&CK Management to apply for FUCK.SE. This method is often used to obtain generic domain names, but the rule still serve its purpose, namely to make it harder to operate for so called cyber-squatters or name-nappers. In practice, the Swedish domain name rules have worked well against cyber-squatting, but suffers from more bureaucracy than many other domain name systems.
According to the rules, the domain name shall reflect the name of the enterprise. This means that the basis for registration is the whole name of the applicant, as it is stated on the registration certificate. Certain differences between domain name and the name of the enterprise are allowed, if the differences correspond better with how the enterprise is known by the majority of those who use the products or services of the enterprise. A condition is however that the domain name is closely linked to the registered name of the enterprise.
NOD rules that the domain name FUCK.SE does not accordingly reflect the name of the enterprise, FU&CK Enterprise, while the domain name only uses a portion of the firm and this portion needs transliteration. Further, NOD adds that even if the applied for domain name would reflect the name of the enterprise, NOD would not grant the application. NOD states that a word with such negative meaning as ‘FUCK’, even in English, should not be registered under the Swedish top level domain. (Decision of NOD per February 5, 2002.)
This is an interesting decision for two reasons. First, the rules for registration under the Swedish top level domain are currently being revised to be much more liberal in respect of today’s need of a registered firm or trademark. Hence, if the rules are liberated in the suggested way it will not be possible to uphold the new practice. Second, in the long run, it is problematic to be the judge of good taste, especially in the global community. Many Americans would not regard FUCK as such an offensive word that it needs to be banned, but it appears that we need higher standards in Sweden.
In the light of this decision, it will be most interesting to follow the work with the liberalisation of the Swedish domain name rules. Will II-stiftelsen try to stay with this new approach or not? Is the approach ‘good’ or ‘bad’? I am certain everyone has an opinion. You are entitled to your opinion as long as you do not try to express it under certain ‘bad taste’ domain names in Sweden.
Mikael Pawlo is an associate of the Swedish law firm Advokatfirman Lindahl and serves on the committee for Swedish domain name rules, NDR.