4. Beware: do you own your domain name?
  • Posted:
  • March 16, 2011
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After a couple of recent ‘real life’ client experiences I thought it would be beneficial to cover this very important topic in the hope to help others not fall into the same trap.

So do you know if you actually own your own domain name?

Like many, you probably think my business is called <your business name>, the domain name for my website that I have paid a web hosting company and / or a designer for is <your business name>, I have invoices, etc so of course I own it.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as that.  Very much like when you buy a house in England, the owner is the actual name that appears on the Land Registery.  The same applies to the domain name for your web site (just think of it as a Title Deed).

If the central register contains your details then there should be no issues.  However, it is quite common when using a web designer that they will register the domain name in their own name.  This means that in the eyes of the central register, the web designer is the legal owner.

Likewise, there are a number of web hosting organisations offering free domain names while you use their hosting services.  Again in many occasions they will register the domain in their own name.

While this may not appear to be a big issue while everything is running smoothly and their is an amicable working relationship, what happens if there are issues, disputes, breakdown in relationships?  You could find that your web site is taking offline and you have no way of getting it back online.

You may say, well that is fine I will simply move the domain and web site to another provider.  Well you could but only if the web designer or host agrees to release and transfer your domain.  If they say no or demand a huge release fee, you may not be able to get access to your domain name.  As you can see, this would be a big, big issue.

You also run the risk that your domain name may not be renewed giving someone else the chance to register the domain.  For example, what if your web designer is on holiday, misses the renewal notice and fails to renew – you have lost your domain name through no fault of your own.

So what can you do to reduce the risk.

If you have not registered your domain

  1. Register your domain yourself.
  2. Ask the web designer / web host to register it in your name.
  3. Ask what is the cost and process for releasing / transferring your domain.

If your domain is not registered in your name

  1. Ask the web designer / web host to amend the details or check yourself using the Whois tool (note you do not enter the www part of your domain)

If they refuse, it is advisable to resolve the issue in an amicable manner.  Find out why they won’t amend the registration and find a resolution.

If you think there may be trouble ahead, make arrangements to transfer to a reputable provider.  This will involve asking your current web designer / web host to transfer the domain.  They will probably charge a fee.  As long as it is not silly it is probably less hassle to pay the fee and move forward.

In extreme circumstances, they may not release the domain.  In this case try writing formal, non confrontational letter.  If this does not work, you can try writing to the central register.  If this fails, you may then want to consider seeking legal advice.

Alternatively, can you register a similar domain i.e. .com version versus, slight change in domain name, etc?

If you have any questions or require assistance on this topic, please drop me a line  I would like to add that at Digital Ark we will always register the domain in the details you provide.