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US court rules in favour of ZACR in .africa battle

In March, ZACR was given the go-ahead to begin operating as .africa domain's official registry but DCA's legal proceedings froze this process.

In March, ZACR was given the go-ahead to begin operating as .africa domain's official registry but DCA's legal proceedings froze this process.

A US court has granted the ZA Central Registry's (ZACR's) motion to dismiss all claims against it by rival DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA) in the ongoing .africa domain battle.

In April, the central district court of California granted a preliminary injunction in favour of Mauritius-based DCA, which prevented the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from immediately delegating the rights to the .africa generic top-level domain (gTLD).

Following the latest ruling, DCA now has the opportunity to amend its claims or the case against ZACR will be withdrawn. DCA's additional claims against ICANN are, however, still being evaluated by the court.

ZACR says the Californian judge has now essentially sent a firm message to DCA that "its spurious claims against the ZACR are deficient in law and don't stand up to proper scrutiny".

"As matters currently stand, the next step in these US-based legal proceedings is to wait for the judge to rule on the ZACR's motion to reconsider his preliminary injunction. We are confident matters will again be concluded in our favour," according to ZACR CEO Lucky Masilela.

Subsequent to the preliminary injunction, ZACR joined the litigation process directly and requested the judge reconsider his previous decision. It says this is because the judge based his decision on a key factual error.

"DCA's application never passed ICANN's Initial Evaluation (IE) process and it is unlikely it ever will because DCA simply does not have the requisite government support and has attracted significant government opposition," according to a ZACR statement.

After a two-and-a-half-year battle, ZACR was in March officially given the go-ahead by ICANN to begin operating as the .africa domain's official registry. However, the US court action initiated by DCA effectively froze this process. 

"We will continue to support the court process and look forward to a speedy resolution that will advance Africa's Internet interests," adds Masilela.

The battle for who gets to be the official registry operator for .africa has been raging since 2013. DCA's application to be the official registry for .africa was originally rejected in June 2013. ZACR then signed a registry operator agreement with ICANN in March 2014.

In May 2014, an independent review process (IRP) suspended any further processing of any application for .africa, pending a review. In July 2015, the IRP ruled ICANN violated its bylaws during its handling of DCA's bid for .africa. This effectively ‘unrejected' DCA's application and forced ICANN to put the DCA application back into the evaluation process.

ICANN's Geographic Names Panel then resumed its evaluation of DCA's application to operate .africa and in March 2016, ultimately found through its extended evaluation that DCA did not satisfy the necessary criteria to pass the review and its application was "ineligible for any further review".

The ZACR is the African Union Commission's preferred registry operator for the .africa gTLD and also has more than the 60% required support from individual African governments.

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