In the mid 80s, the German connectiviy service providers met in order to set up a joint domain name space.
Some of the general rules, how to set up the name space were specified.
The result of this meeting was a common name space for all service
providers and all types of users. Universities were strongly urged to
use names starting with a uni- (like
uni-dortmund.de) and there
were general rules as how to choose names (they have to be connected to
the owner in some sense), but nothing else was defined.
The University of Dortmund (at that time the service provider of EUnet for the German aera) covered the cost of running the DE-NIC by providing the man power for it.
This went on for the next couple of years, resulting in about 1/2 FTE workload in mid 1990.