Just Who Owns Your Company’s Domain Name?

Brendan Egan

Just Who Owns Your Company’s Domain Name?

It may sound like a silly question to ask — “Who owns your company’s domain name?” Most businesses simply assume that since they own their business and likely hired a company or web designer to setup their website, that they are the owner of that website domain name.  Many times that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Domain Name Registration

When you go to a site like GoDaddy, Enom, or any other domain registrar to register a website domain name, there are always terms involved as well as a process in which you list the legal owner of the domain, administrative contact and other important information as it relates to the owner of the domain.  Many times, website development companies have a “master” registration account in which they register all of their clients’ domain names.  The problem?  That makes them the owner of the domain and not you!
I’ve come across this issue dozens of times since starting in the industry.  Sometimes, these companies are happily able to turn over the domain name.  Other times, the company or web designer is no where to be found and we have to go through a legal process to obtain the domain name.  And worse yet, sometimes companies hold domain names “hostage” and refuse to turn them over unless you pay a certain amount of money or worse yet they just flat out refuse to turn them over period.

How Do I Know Who Owns My Domain Name?

There are various services which offer “domain name lookups” which allow you to check the public registration file to see the owner of the domain.  The problem is some of these tools require a subscription (a payment) in order to view the data.  The other problem is many website registrars allow domain names to be registered “privately” in which case the registered owner of the domain name is often listed as a 3rd party entity, and there is an agreement between that entity and the original individual whom registered the domain that they are the rightful owners.  This can make the process of understanding who owns the domain name fairly foggy.
The best free tool we recommend for viewing the owner of a domain is Domain Tools.  While their free version only provides limited data, it is often enough for a business owner to determine who owns the domain name.

What Do I Do If I Don’t Own My Domain Name?

If you don’t own your domain name or are unsure of who owns it, you should visit Domain Tools and type in your URL to view the owner of the domain.  If it is anyone except you or your company, you should promptly reach out to whomever owns it or setup your website and request they transfer ownership of the domain to you.
If they refuse, there are legal processes in place to dispute domain ownership, but they can be lengthy, costly and a flat out pain to deal with.

An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

The best way to avoid a domain name ownership dispute or have your domain name held hostage is to make sure you own your domain from the beginning.  Whenever we setup a domain name for a client, we either use their existing registration account or setup a new account for them to register the domain in.  This not only keeps the liability of owning the domain out of our hands, but is the right thing to do for the client in that it gives them full ownership rights to the domain name.
Alternatively, buying a domain name is fairly simple for even non-technical individuals.  Business owners can buy their own domain names, and then provide access to their registrar’s account so their web developer can properly setup and point the domain.  This ensures the business owner remains the owner of the domain name.
At the end of the day, make sure you’re the rightful owner to your domain names and a dispute will never arise.  If you require assistance with a domain name ownership issue, contact us at 888-918-1665.