Government domain name snapped up for $30,000 by private company in digital asset blunder

Government domain name snapped up for $30,000 by private company in digital asset blunder

The Australian government has allowed its ownership of a prized domain name to expire and be snapped up by a private investor, raising questions around how organisations and businesses should go about protecting their digital assets.

The domain name training.com.au was registered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (now split into the Department of Education and the Department of Employment) and redirected to training.gov.au until yesterday afternoon. The domain went to auction after the registration expired at 1pm and was bought by a company called Now Hiring Pty Ltd for $30,110, ITWire reports.

Now Hiring Pty Ltd is an independently-owned software and web development company. According to the business’s LinkedIn profile, it specialises in software platforms and products for “job boards, recruiter websites, directory listings and classified advertisements”.

Dionne Kasian-Lew, chief executive of The Social Executive, told SmartCompany it is integral businesses secure their digital assets – including, but not limited to, domain names.

“You need to own your digital and social media assets even if you don’t intend to use them,” she said. “The first thing you do is grab your URLs. It should be absolutely front of mind in terms of managing your brand.”

Kasian-Lew said businesses should think of domains as “digital real estate”.

“That URL – that digital website space – that is your home,” she said. “We used to have a physical office, this is like your digital office. Companies need it to be visible, build their reputation and sell their products.”

Earlier this year the founder of parenting website Stay at Home Mum, Jody Allen, came under fire for buying domain names similar to her competitors. Allen was accused of “domain squatting” – a process where someone registers a domain name with the intent of selling it to another person who owns the trademark of that name for a profit.

After a social media backlash, Allen apologised in a video published on her website and transferred the domain names in question to the business owners in question out of goodwill.

“It wasn’t done vindictively,” Allen told SmartCompany at the time. “I have lots of domain names because I run a blog and have lots of business ideas. I think it’s just business savvy.”

Allen said it is important business owners understand domain names are a highly competitive environment and are just as important as a business’s physical assets.

“A domain should be the very first thing you think of when you think of a business name because there is such a huge competition for them,” she said. “Then buy every version of it because it’s a very competitive business. I’m not the only person who does this – everyone does it.”

In a statement, the director of Now Hiring, Mike Thomas, confirmed the company bought the domain name training.com.au.

“Training.com.au was acquired by Now Hiring Pty Ltd yesterday through standard domain acquisition processes,” he said. “The training.com.au domain aligns with the new strategic direction we intend on pursuing.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Industry said it was aware the domain name training.com.au had expired and the department was instead using training.gov.au.

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