Website Ownership: How to Protect Your Domain Names
If you have a website, one of the most important things to remember is that your domain name is your unique identity on the web.
Companies or individuals own domain names, and they can be valuable assets when filed adequately with the proper registrars. However, because of their potential for misuse, it can be challenging to know who owns them at any given moment in time – especially when multiple parties may have an interest in protecting them.
To protect yourself from future headaches caused by lost or stolen domains, here are some tips on how to keep track of ownership as well as what steps you should take if there ever arises an issue with your online holdings:
Your domain name is your unique identity on the Internet.
Domain name ownership is often a question of “who gets it first.” Domain names are unique, short alphanumeric identifiers that point to web pages. They are the first thing people see before visiting your site, so they’re an essential part of your identity on the web.
A good domain name can help establish trust in potential customers and drive traffic to your site—but only if it’s yours!
It’s not yours if someone buys it before you do.
If someone else snatches up your preferred domain name before you do, they will get all the benefits from its use without giving anything back to you. It’s like building your whole business from the ground up only to discover that there’s a business with your name/trademark already.
Domain names aren’t physical assets like cars or houses (though some can be extremely valuable). Their value comes from owning them exclusively and using them as part of an online business or brand strategy.
It might not be yours if you’re not sure who owns it.
To maintain control over these assets and protect them from theft by competitors, cyber criminals, and (unfortunately) even a web agency that might try to seize them for malicious purposes (like money or malware distribution), owners must take steps before it becomes too late, and significant assets are already lost forever. Managing critical resources such as domain names should be treated carefully. Whether you’re a company or part of a multi-national corporation, you need to know who owns your domains.
Domain ownership may seem like something only tech-savvy people deal with. But the reality is that we see this domain mishandling all the time for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
There are many ways to prevent malicious intent and keep your accounts secure
- Limit access to your registrar account to only the owner (you) and other highly trusted individuals who manage your website.
- Remember that anyone who manages your website should only need access to the registrar if a necessary change needs to be made. For example, if you are migrating your website to a new hosting provider or getting a new email service provider – nameservers will need to be updated.
- If anything needs to be updated on your registrar – you always have the option to collaborate with the individual who requests the change and make the updates yourself. A professional can easily guide you through this process.
- Check to see if you can add authorized users and provide permission levels. That way, you can easily add and remove users as you see fit – all without the risk of losing ownership.
- Never share your password information with anyone. If you need to share credentials, use a secure password manager – such as LastPass.
- Ensure your payment information is updated, and your domain renewal options are set to auto-renew. This will prevent the ownership from lapsing and other buyers from purchasing it.
Domain ownership can be complex and difficult to understand.
While purchasing domain names may be fast and seemingly easy, you need to ensure the proper person or organization is listed as the Registrant, the owner of the domain. When you’re unsure who owns your domain name—or if someone else controls it—it’s essential to know what steps you should take to protect yourself.
Domain names are valuable assets that can be transferred between owners at any time. This means that a thief or a shady vendor could steal your website by transferring its ownership from your account to theirs, leaving you with no control over the site or ability to regain access. To avoid this scenario, all webmasters and business owners need to understand who owns their domains to have complete control over them at all times.
How to find out who owns your domain:
If you’re unsure who currently owns your domain name – below are two methods to try before contacting the domain registrar (where it would have been purchased/registered).
Ask Your Webmaster, Website Management Team, or Your IT Administrator
In most cases, anyone who is managing your website or IT will either have administrative rights or will be able to figure out who owns your domain(s). They can also support you in gaining access and ownership, if necessary.
Perform a Domain Lookup
There are many lookup sites where you can enter your domain name, and the search will return some information about your domain.
In some cases, the information may be set to private – so you may only get a portion of the information you’re looking for. For example, you may only get information about the registrar itself. Many registrars offer domain name privacy protection to adhere to privacy laws. However, if the owner’s information is hidden, you can often contact the registrar for support.
How do you prove/transfer ownership of domains?
You can prove and/or transfer the ownership of your domain name. In most cases, the registrant is either you or your company.
If you want to transfer ownership of a domain name back to you, the process may vary (in-process and in the length of time) depending on which registrar the domain is currently on.
If your website admin / developer / agency is holding it hostage:
- Find out where your domain is registered. Document what you find.
- Contact the registrar with which the domain is registered. Explain your situation and add whatever information you’ve found to support your inquiry. In some cases, the registrar may have a simple form that you can fill out, which will guide you through the process.
- If the previous step fails, you may need to take legal action. We recommend reaching out to a lawyer familiar with Cyber Law.
Who can be listed as the domain owner?
There are many different types of entities that can be listed as the domain name owner:
- A person, including a corporate officer or director.
- A corporation (for example, Microsoft).
- A partnership (for example, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group).
- An association with at least one member.
- An unincorporated association without members (for example, a trade organization).
Domain owners are responsible for adherence to the terms of service.
As a domain name owner, you are responsible for ensuring that your website follows the terms of service. If your site contains material that violates these policies, you could be held liable and punished accordingly. Domain owners should ensure they understand the terms of service for their names before signing on to them.
Being able to access and control your domain name is critical in a business context.
Domain names are critical business assets, and most owners will want to be able to access and control their domain names at all times. If you lose control of your domain name, you also lose control of your business. This is because it’s the first thing people see when they look for your website—wherever they find it on the internet—and can be used as a way to identify one of your products or services.
In short: if someone else has access to something that belongs to you, they have power over you. And while there may be some hypothetical scenarios where this isn’t true (for instance, what if someone wants something from me but I don’t want anything from them? It doesn’t seem reasonable), in general, we can safely assume that if someone has something belonging to us, then there’s probably some leverage involved somewhere along the line.
In an employment context, businesses should clarify who owns domain names in their employee contracts or policies.
Employees should not be able to register company domain names or transfer them without permission. Employees should also not be allowed to use company resources (such as servers or computers) for personal gain, including registering websites that compete with the business.
Your domain names are valuable assets – protect them!
Your domain name is part of your online identity, and one of the most critical parts of your brand. A good domain name will convey the right message about your business and help you stand out from competitors.
If you want to protect this valuable asset, it’s best to register them with a company that specializes in registering and protecting domain names. Domain registrars are businesses that deal exclusively in registering domain names on behalf of clients interested in using them as part of their online identity or website address. The major registrars have built up their businesses over many years by offering services such as:
- Free advice on choosing a suitable name for your site;
- Competitively priced registration fees;
- 24/7 customer support via phone, email, and chat;
It’s important to understand that domain ownership is an asset an individual or company can protect. There are many ways to do this, but the most effective way is by keeping good documentation of who owns what domains and securing your accounts. If you’re having trouble finding out who owns your domains or need to reclaim ownership, please contact us; we can help.