Recently, we successfully helped a client retrieve ownership and control of their domain name from their less than co-operative previous web service provider. Unfortunately this was not the first time we’ve encountered an issue like this and likely won’t be the last. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some information that will hopefully help educate business owners on the potential pitfalls and security measures related to domain name ownership.
First, let’s understand some terminology
- Domain Name:
The unique URL related to your business. (i.e. tenpine.ca)
An organization that manages the reservation of domain names.
The person, company or entity who owns or holds a domain name.
- Administrative Contact:
The individual who is authorized by the registrant to interact with the registrar.
So, who owns your domain name?
Let me make it clear that when you pay to have your domain name registered, whether that be directly to a domain registrar or to your web service provider (who handles the domain registration on your behalf), you own that domain name. Even if you do not have access to the domain name and even if you’re not listed as the domain Registrant, there are systems in place to protect you.
Even in the worst case scenario, where your relationship with the Registrant has become adversarial, all hope is not lost. The organization that oversees domain names, www.ICANN.org, has developed a “Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy” for such cases. Under this policy, a company that owns a domain name that’s completely unrelated to its core business may have a hard time holding onto it. For example, if “Walters Web Services” owns the domain name BillsExpertPainting.com, and Bill wants to take over ownership of that domain name when Walter has become unresponsive, common sense will play a major role in resolving the dispute.
How to avoid the hassle
Hopefully the above is a nice comfort for you, and that you are now more aware of your rights and options in terms of domain name ownership. However the best way to deal with domain issues, is to avoid them altogether. If you’re looking to be protected, there are two options we recommend:
Register your domain name directly.
You can create an account with a company like Hover.com, or NetworkSolutions.com to register your domain name yourself. You would be responsible for payment and annual renewals, however this would be your safest bet to make sure your domain name is under your control. You can always provide your web service provider the login credentials to access the domain name when needed (such as when it’s time to point the domain name to make your completed website live).
TIP: Make sure to use an email address that you will always use and have access to when setting up the domain name. All renewal & update notices will be sent to the email address that the Registrar has on file, and in the event of a possible dispute or simply an account password recovery, this email address will play a significant role.
- Have your web service provider put the domain in your name
They can still be the ones responsible for the management of the domain name, and you can still pay your web service provider to look after the domain name. However, if you’re looking for more peace of mind, you can have them make sure your information is listed as the Registrant of the domain name.
TIP: Also be aware who is the Administrative contact of your domain name. The Administrative contact is the one who approves any requested changes to the domain. So, although the Administrative contact is not the legal owner, they do have significant power.
In many cases, such as is the case with Tenpine, clients are very comfortable allowing their web service provider to register and control the domain name on their behalf. They prefer the hands off approach and would rather an experienced professional handle as much as possible. However if you’re the type of person who understandably wants full control over things, or if you’ve recently lost trust in your current web service provider, at least you know there are options no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in.
If you have any specific questions relating to website or domain name ownership that weren’t covered above, please do not hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to provide some insight.