Colombia: The Colombian Council of State Issues its First Legal Opinion on Domain Names

Last Updated: 6 March 2002
Article by Maria Elvira Acosta De Valencia

On December 11 2001, the Colombian Council of State, through its Consultation and Civil Services Office, issued the first legal opinion regarding the ".co", the domain name used to identify Colombia on the internet, in response to answering a petition filed by the Minister of Communications on the following issues: (i) the legal nature of the ".co"; (ii) the relation of the domain names and telecommunications; and (iii) the destination of the economic resources obtained from the registration of domain names.

The purpose of the Ministry of Communications for this consultation was to take part in the bid process that Los Andes University, as Administrator for the ".co" was organizing, in order to sell the ".co" to any national or international entity that was interested for the use of the .co as a generic domain name for the identification of companies.

To analyze the issues mentioned above, the Colombian Council of State in an outstanding (entiendo que usas "outstanding" para decir excelente) decision studied the origin of Internet and the features of the domain names, issuing the first legal opinion from that a Colombian judicial bodyorgan does, on domain names.

In this article, we will are not going to address the study that the Colombian Council of State did regarding the Internet and its origin. We will are just going to point out the conclusions that this bodyorgan reached regarding the legal nature of domain names and their relation with telecommunications.

(i) The legal nature of the ".co":

The Colombian Council of State, concluded that the ".co" has the following features, that are important to determine, in order to establish itsthe legal nature of the .co:

These features are:

  1. The domain names ".co" is composednstitute of two letters precededfollowed by a dot.
  2. These two letters were taken from ISO-3166-1 table, that is also maintained by the United Nations for the identification of countries (ICP-1, page 2).
  3. Pursuant to ISO-3166-1 table, the ".co" corresponds to Colombia.
  4. The ".co" is a top- level domain.

As to the legal nature of the ".co", the Colombian Council of State concluded that: (i) Colombia is the name of our nation according to our Constitution and that was given to the country in memory of Cristopherbal Columbus; (ii) that neither IANA or ISO granted our country the name of Colombia, from which the ".co" is derived; (iii) that in general, domain names are acronyms (sic—the Council erroneously used the term acronym rather than abbreviation; in this case ".co" is an abbreviation) that are used for the identification of nations, and thus, domain names can not be appropriated; and (iv) that the ".co" has a notorious public interest, that evidence the limitation of ownership over it.

In summarySummarizing, the Colombian Council of State said that the ".co" has a historic and public interest that identifies the Colombian community, and therefore nobody has a right of ownership over it, being the nation holder of this domain name.

On the other hand, the Colombian Council of State madedid the following considerations regarding to the delegation of the administration of the domain name exercised by Los Andes University: (i) that the university is merely a trustee of the domain name in favor of the Nation according to the rules established by IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) and ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers); (ii) that the university can not change the purpose of the delegation as to the territory, neither as to the functions attributed to this entity; (iii) being the ".co" of public interest, the university should comply with the Colombian legislation; and (iv) the university cannot change the ".co" as the abbreviation acronym used for the identification of Colombia.

(ii) the relation of domain names and telecommunications:

Law 252 of 1995 defines telecommunications as any transmission, emission or reception of signs, signal, documents, images, sounds, and information by telephone line, optic fiber, microwaves or satellite in the same way that occurs with the transmissions of the Internet. According to the Council of State, this definition constitutes a broad concept of telecommunications that adjusts to the development of the world in this area.

According to the legal opinion referred in this article, the Ministry of Communications is in charge of the communications and specially of the telecommunications in Colombia. The administration of the domain names constitutes a telecommunication service, being essential for the operation of the Internet. Thus the Ministry of Communications can plan, regulate and control the ".co".

(iii) the destination of the economic resources obtained from the registration of domain names.

Nowadays there is no legal provision that establishes the legal duties for the registration of the domain names. Thus, in the opinion of the Council of State there is no legal grounds for charging duties and therefore no destination forof theseis resources can be determined.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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