You might think this is a rhetorical question or may be a marketing gimmick to attract your attention, but it is not. You should seriously check if your are the real domain owner as per the ICANN records, because over 75% our clients were not the real domain owners and came to us to resolve the dispute or loss of domain. It wasn’t until we told them how to check the ownership and why is it important to be the domain owner, instead of paying a vendor who retains ownership in most cases. This is where it gets confusing and if you’re under the impression that because you paid your vendor to book a domain name for you, you must be the owner, then you must read this.
Of course, I paid so I am the Domain Owner
Yes all of us pay for the domain, as there’s a yearly fee for booking domain names, which you can pay up to 10 years in advance to secure a domain name for that long. However, what matters is not who paid for the booking the domain name, and is irrespective of the domain name extension, but who’s name and email address are in the WHOIS records of that domain name. So even if you’ve a contract signed with your vendor which says that (S)HE or THEIR COMPANY HAS BOOKED/WILL BOOK a domain name on your behalf, it does not imply that the name is in your ownership, unfortunate but true.
The industry best practice is to book a Domain Name in the name of your company yourself, with the help of your vendor, may be. However, the access to the account (on the domain registrar website) used for booking a domain name should be with your company’s management, possibly those who manage highly confidential information of the company (top management/owners). Eventually, once the ownership is secured and domain booked for 5 or better, say 10 years, most domain registrars (the companies whom we book the domain from viz Godaddy, eNom, Vidsun Gorin, etc.) allow an add-on account to manage the domain and it’s technical details, like name servers, DNS records, etc. from a different account, which can stay with the vendor or subsequent other vendors. That only grants them the permissions (which can even be granularly controlled) to change or update only the technical aspects of the domain name which they are responsible for. However, they do not have access to the domain owner account and cannot sell or transfer the ownership without the company knowing it.
How to check Domain Owner information?
What you need is to check you domain on a WHOIS SEARCH tool. Mostly the WHOIS records are public and can be verified online, however, some services like this one of ours, offers Private Registrations for domain name information. If the domain records are made private, then you’re out of luck. You need to contact the vendor/agency who’s booked the domain name(s) for you. However, if your domain owner info is public on the WHOIS records, then check all three different types of information in the WHOIS records:
- Registrant Contact – The organization or person that has the rights to use (or “ownership” of) the domain
- Administrative Contact – Contact person for the domain for administrative, non-technical matters. Example, for legal matters, change of ownership, etc.
- Technical Contact – Contact person for domain’s technical matters. This could be the vendor/agency/IT person, whoever is responsible for the domain name tech spec management, like DNS records, etc.
The “Registrant Contact” Information is where your company’s name & information must be present. Admin or Tech could be from the agency or your IT department. If your company’s name & contact info doesn’t feature in the Registrant’s Information, implies that the domain owner is not your company! This must ring alarm bells. The first thing that your management or at least IT management should do is to ensure that the ownership is restored with them. Later in the article we’ll elaborate upon how to do that.
One other distant but unavoidable possibility is that an employee of yours has booked the domain name for you. They may not work for you anymore or are not responsible for the Website affairs in your company, etc. In that case too it should be the first priority to track that employee and get the domain owner info restored in the company’s favour and preferably the domain transferred to the company’s account as well.
Restoring ownership is not easy. It can be met with several different problems with the vendor/agency/staff/ex-staff/etc. who’ve booked your domain name in their ownership. Some of them try to prove their nuisance value. Some go as to the level of blackmailing (when the domain name value is high). Some others outright refuse to handover the domain. Of course such elements are less as compared to the good people and agencies who simply handover the ownership as and when agreed upon.
Transfer Domain Name Owner
The first and foremost step towards ensuring domain name ownership is to establish the proper WHOIS records for your domain as mentioned above. However, the safest and sustainable method is to transfer the domain ownership in the name of the company, management, owner, etc. someone who holds a “fiduciary responsibility” in your company. Thus they’re legally obligated to keep that access with the management of the company even after the company is taken over, merged or spun off into a different identity.
You can start by Initiating a Domain Name Transfer from any registrar you trust. This process differs a little from registrar to registrar, but more or less focuses on verifying who the current owner is and authenticating that current owner’s approval to transfer the domain to the new requested owner’s account. The process is completely digital. Detailed instructions of the same are sent to you by the outgoing and the incoming registrar by email and/or 24×7 helpline. The process normally takes place between 7-15 days. There’s a veto period granted to the original owner to avoid fraudulent use of this process without the knowledge of the current owner.
Once the domain name owner is changed, the WHOIS records start reflecting the new registrant details as entered by the new owner. This is the ultimate public record to confirm domain ownership or lookup domain name owner.
When Domain Owner refuses to transfer
So you’ve verified that you or your company isn’t the current owner of your/company’s domain name. You’ve tried to contact the current domain owner and they’ve refused to transfer it to you, for whatever reasons. Well then the first thing to realize is the mistake. Again there are very few as well as bleak chances that you will get the domain name back. The only few options left for you are:
- Approach ICANN the ombudsman of sorts for all Domain Name Registrars to resolve the domain disputes. Although it will be advisable that you go through the ICANN Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policies before you approach them.
- Check Domain Owner information on the WHOIS records to find out when the domain is expiring and Back-Order a domain to grab it when it expires. Though very few people who are adamant enough to hold someone else’s Domain Name for whatever reasons, shall let it go so easily.
- Last and the most obvious solution is to move on. Forget the domain. Remove all the domain name related information from all your promotional materials, printed or digital; including your social media accounts and book a brand new domain name to start from scratch. Painful, costly, but the best method to recover as much lost ground as you can. Unless there is an amicable solution in sight. This time do not forget to be the DOMAIN OWNER yourself.
If you’ve faced or are facing such a problem and need advice or help resolving the issue, kindly do no hesitate to contact our team at Creativity Please here.