You repaid for your domain registration, but do you own it?
One of the most common problems that we help new clients solve is establishing “ownership” of their domain. A domain is the destination you type in a browser to get to your company’s website.
First let’s define the word “own”. You only “own” a domain to the span that you “own” your home phone number. A better word to use should be “lease”, but we’ll stick with the commonly used “own” for simplicity.
All too often the unexpected answer to this simple question is no. Having the wrong name on your domain registration can cause high priced and frustrating problems. We have dealt with different cases where a client ran into serious trouble when they discovered that the domain they thought was theirs turned out to be owned by someone else. (find out who owns a domain)
The risks are real. Organizations who have built their business around a domain they thought they owned have been held hostage by retailers and former employees. Reasserting ownership of your domain can cost a lot of money, involve delays and legal fees, or in extreme cases even force transferring to a new domain name, losing the brand value of the lost domain.
OK, So Who Does Own My Domain?
Start by checking your the contact highlights on your domain registration record. You can do this for free using the Strother Web Solutions Whois search tool. If you don't use a privacy service you should be able to test the following:
The registrant name is either your name or the full legit name of your business.
The address and phone numbers are up to date and correct.
All contact names are correct and their email addresses are valid and working.
The contact addresses should either be those of people with a legal responsibility to the business, such as owners, officers and directors, or "meta-addresses" like firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider setting up an account with a mail service like Google Mail for your contacts. After all, if your domain has a serious problem, there's a good chance mail to your domain won't be choosing through.
If you use a convenience protection service then you need to check that they have the correct information. The process for doing this varies from service to service. In most cases, the service will use the information provided at the time the domain was registered. You should be able to access this by logging into sites to your registration account. If you don't have access information for this account, this might be the first sign of trouble.
Help! My Site Isn't Mine! Now What?
First, don't panic. There are lots of ethical enterprises and loyal staff who will never give you a problem. Most of the time, addressing the problem is simple and inexpensive. Your domain was probably registered by your web site developer, a current or former staff member. If you have a good relationship with them you still have time to protect your own self. The trouble starts when that romantic relationship breaks down.
If Your Web Developer Owns Your Domain
This is fairly common. Considering that, your web developer has the expertise you need to get your site registered, created and hosted. It makes sense to let them handle the initial registration. Web designers does frequently get bulk discounts for registering multiple domains, so their costs may be lower than what you could get undertaking it on your own.
To protect yourself, get, in writing, a statement from your web designer stating that you own your domain. The statement should further state that they will give up access to the domain upon demand.
Do this as soon as possible. You may have a good relationship with your web designer today, but the problem will arise when that relationship takes a negative turn.
If you have any concerns at all, tell the provider that you want the domain updated to reflect your name and email address. If they give you any grief, require that your developer move the domain to an account that is exclusively for your use. Once that's done, change the password.
This may seem inopportune, but the risk of giving a third party developer control over your domain is that if you ever elect to switch suppliers, an unethical custom ay try to hold your domain hostage, often insisting transfer payments in the thousands of dollars.
If a Staff Member Owns Your Domain
This is rarely a problem until after someone leaves the party. If the parting was not on good terms, or if it was due to some incapacitating illness, then there can be significant trouble. The employee can claim ownership of the domain, disable gain access to to it, intercept eMail, or even redirect your customers to another site that can be very destructive to your image.
Make sure that the persons listed as domain contacts have a "fiduciary responsibility" to your business. Examples are owners, officers, and firm directors. These people have a legal obligation to act in the interests of the company, which offers you a magnitude of legal protection against misappropriation.
However, if the owner is Becky, the snack bar girl, go on top and get control of the domain now while it's in Becky's interest to follow your lead. After all, when you fire Becky next month, she 's not likely to be bothered about what's right for you any more, is she?