Who Owns Your Domain Name?
You probably answered ‘well I do, of course’, but it’s not always that simple. Read on to find out more.
If you registered the domain yourself
If you’ve registered your domain name yourself, directly with a domain registrar (for UK domains this means a Nominet Member and for .com domains it’ll be ICANN) then chances are you’ve done so in your own name and there isn’t a great deal to worry about. You’ve probably done this through a supplier with an online portal, but that’s not always the case (I don’t have one, yet I am a Nominet Member). In any case, you should be able to contact the registrar and confirm all of the information held against your domain.
Businesses and groups
A common pitfall for businesses and groups is that a domain name is registered on behalf of the organisation by an individual, in their name. It doesn’t seem like a big deal in the short term, but if they’re not involved anymore they take that information with them and they take with them the right to amend and administrate the domain. They also retain the ability to cancel or not renew the domain at any point. It’s a scenario I come across a lot, and quite often a new domain ends up being registered because it’s easier than trying to retrieve the old one. This is a particularly big deal for businesses who have built up their marketing around a particular domain, and for whom the associated email addresses are integral to their day-to-day operation.
Whilst it’s absolutely fine for an individual within the organisation to carry out the registration, they should be selecting the correct registrant rather than putting in their own name, and any login information/details for the registrar should be held centrally. If you’re unsure what the status is of your company or group domain, you can find out who the registrant of any domain name is with a simple WHOIS search at www.whois.com. You can also find out who the registrar is.
If you let a third party register your domain
If your IT support company, web designer or any other third party is registering a domain name on your behalf you should make absolutely sure that they’re registering it in the correct name, and supplying the correct contact details. More often than you’d think I speak to people who believe that a domain is registered to them only to realise this is not the case when they want to make amendments or change supplier. I recently saw a case where the third party supplier had emailed to confirm the domain name was registered to their client only for him to find out they were lying. You can find out who the registrant of any domain name is with a simple WHOIS search at www.whois.com. This is publicly held information that anyone can access. Remember, just because you are paying for a domain does not mean it is registered to you. Of course, there’s no problem letting a third party handle the registration as long as it’s all been done correctly.
What to do if you find out the domain has been incorrectly registered
Your first port of call is the third party you registered through. Find out why it has been registered to them and check over any agreement you have with them. It’s always best to resolve any dispute directly if you can because if you go to dispute resolution through Nominet (for UK domains) you’ll incur charges, but if the third party is refusing to transfer the domain to you there may be little other option.
A note on administrative contact details
A lot of people don’t realise that in addition to the registrant details an administrative contact is also listed, and it is important that this is also kept up to date. If you had your admin contact down as an old IT support company you no longer use or an employee who no longer works for you, make sure you get the details amended. You can do this through your registrar, or Nominet account (for UK domains).