web site has been up and running for a while, and has been very successful. One
day you start receiving calls from your clients or customers that your web site
is no longer accessible. You call your web hosting company and they tell you
the domain name was not re-registered by them and so it is up for sale. If you
want the domain name back, you will have to purchase it. How could this happen?
I pay for my domain name, but don’t I own it?
The answer is no, you may not. What about all the
content – text, images, videos, email, sounds, animations or more – do I own
that? Again, the answer could be no. If your web hosting company is the
registrar, they can control what other web sites yours points to, which domain
name registrar maintains it, have administrative control, change information
about your domain name account and have the ability to sell your domain name.
there are unscrupulous web hosting companies out there that will take advantage
of those who are not that tech savvy.
There are rules governing domain name registrants. The
International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
manages the domain name system on the internet.
ICANN is responsible for maintaining registries of Internet Protocol
(IP) address space. Basically, ICANN
doesn’t allow the registration of the exact same domain name on the same
top-level domain (.COM, .ORG etc.) to
more than one person or entity; first come, first serve basis only.
To check to see if you own your domain name go to the WhoIs
database and search for your domain name. When the information pops up, look to
see who is listed in the “Registrant” field and the “Administrative” fields,
including the email addresses. If the
registrar is listed as “domains by proxy” or “eNoms”, those are privacy
services set up by the registrar to keep your information protected. This is not necessarily a bad thing – it
prevents spammers from stealing personal information about your website. If
your name or your company’s name is not listed as either registrant,
administrator or both, but your web hosting company is, there are steps you can
take to gain ownership of your domain name:
If you have administrative access, you can
logon as an administrator and change it yourself.
Review your license terms and agreement
with your web hosting company. What does
it say about the domain name registration or ownership rights? What about
ownership rights to any other data or information on the website?
Ask your web hosting company if they will
transfer the domain name registration to you. This could have been an honest
error on their part and they will not have a problem transferring the domain
name. It never hurts to ask.
Finally, if none of the above works, you
can always take legal action. Check with your registrars’ policy on name
changes. If arbitration is needed, most registrars will abide by the Uniform
Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.
Having control and ownership of your domain name is
often overlooked. Take a few minutes to
find out who the registrant and administrator are. Take steps to make sure it
Photo credit: Flckr
About the author: Jose Rosa is CEO and President of
WebJuris, a boutique firm that specializes in offering services for web design,
social media and SEO for
attorneys and the legal community.