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Who controls your domain name?

Jeff FacerBy Jeff Facer
CIBM Contributor

Do you control your domain name or know who does? If you do not, you should check immediately. You may be surprised to learn that other people or companies have legal control of your Web site's domain name.

Many people and companies operating Web sites do not control their domain names and are unaware of that fact. The party that controls an Internet domain name is the registrant. The term "registrant" means the person or entity that owns the domain name, according to the records of the registrar. (The registrar is the entity that is authorized by ICANN to issue domain names. Such companies include Network Solutions, Go Daddy, etc.)

The initial registrant, administrative, technical and billing contacts are the people or entities listed on the original domain name registration agreement filed when you apply for a domain name. Typically the Internet service provider or Web site developer applies for and obtains a domain name on behalf of its client. It is common for the party submitting a domain name registration to name themselves as the Web site registrant. While this does facilitate setting up the original domain name, incorrectly designating the registrant could be a very costly mistake.

The administrative, technical and billing contacts are individuals or groups who represent the registrant on matters related to the registrant's domain name. These contacts should be individuals or companies who the domain name owner trusts to handle issues involving the domain name record on file with the registrar. In no case should anyone other than the company owner be listed as the registrant.

The entity or person listed as the administrative, technical or billing contact should be the person or entity best able to answer questions about that particular aspect of the domain name's registration, and the individual should be authorized to represent the domain name registrant. He should be able to answer pertinent questions related to the domain as necessary.

To determine the registrant, administrative, billing and technical contacts for a domain name, you must perform a WHOIS search with the registrar of the domain name. This search will show all of the contacts for the domain.

The registrant has certain powers to alter the domain name record on file with the registrar. For example, the registrant of a domain name may complete and submit a registrant name change agreement to Network Solutions to take one or more of the following actions:

bullet Correct a typographical error in the registrant's name (e.g., misspellings or transpositions);

bullet Correct an organizational identifier (e.g., Inc., Co., Corp. etc.);

bullet Change the registrant's legal name;

bullet Transfer the domain to another registrant; and

bullet Change name servers and other technical information pertaining to the domain.

If you determine that your company is not the registrant of its domain name(s), you should take action to change the registrar's records to reflect the proper parties. If the registrant is not correct, you must convince the named registrant to complete, sign and deliver to the registrar a registrant name change agreement naming the proper person or entity as the new registrant.

Whenever a person or entity other than the party that is the actual owner of a domain name is named as the registrant of the domain name, the domain name owner should consider getting a written agreement with the person or entity that contains the following terms:

bullet The registrant acknowledges that the registrant is acting as the agent of and on behalf of the domain name owner with respect to all matters affecting the domain name.

bullet The registrant acknowledges that the domain name owner is the holder of all rights to the domain name and that the registrant does not have any rights to the domain name.

bullet The domain name owner may terminate the registrant's position as registrant with respect to the domain name at any time without notice.

bullet The registrant will cooperate with the domain name owner and sign any documents reasonably requested by the domain name owner to carry out any changes resulting from the termination of the registrant.

bullet The registrant grants to the domain name owner a special power of attorney coupled with an interest naming the domain name owner as the registrant's attorney-in-fact to take any and all actions and to sign any and all documents relating to the domain name on behalf of the registrant.

bullet The registrant will not modify the domain name record on file with the registrar without the prior written consent of the domain name owner.

A contract with these provisions will allow the domain name owner to protect its domain name if a person or entity named as a registrant becomes involved in a dispute with the domain name owner, dies, has creditor problems, files for bankruptcy or improperly alters or transfers the domain name. There are other ways to recapture control and ownership of a domain name, but they can be complicated, costly and time consuming.

If you do not know who controls your domain name, do a WHOIS search immediately and take appropriate action now. An ounce of prevention may save you a lot of headaches in the future.

- Jeff Facer is president and CEO of Area-Wide Technologies in Champaign. He can be reached at 217-359-8041 or jfacer@areawidetech.com.

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