Someone else owns my domain, what can I do about it?

Francie (not her real name) had a website built more than five years ago. She had rarely used it but things had changed and now she wanted to reactivate the services offered there. The website was in dire need of a makeover as well. She turned to Tech Warrior for the website redesign. When the web design was complete and needed to go live the trouble started. It turns out Francie’s domain name was not owned by her!

The story ended well. It took several days and some juggling but the domain is now firmly in her name. The fact that it was not originally in her name was largely due to a lack of understanding and knowledge about domain ownership.

Your domain name should be registered in your name

When a domain name is purchased, it should be registered in the name of the person who bought it, unless the domain name was purposely bought for someone else. When you have paid for your own domain name, the domain should be in your name, not the web developer’s, or the hosting company’s, or anyone else's for that matter. No one except you, yourself, and definitely you, should own the domain name that you paid for.

Many people overlook the importance of the ownership of a domain name because it is so easy, and usually, inexpensive to buy one when building a new website. Your domain name primarily directs traffic to your website, but it is also your Internet brand name. No one else should own your brand name except you. When developing a new website designed by a professional web design company, and you ask them to register a domain name for you, and you pay for it, then that domain name should be in no one else's name but yours. Get it?

Think of this as someone buying a new house that is being built from scratch. You paid for the house plans, the land, the materials and the contractors, so the house should be in your name correct? You wouldn’t buy the house and have it registered in the name of the architect.

Buying a domain name is a very important aspect of owning a website. Make sure you are the rightful registered owner of your domain name.

Does it matter if my domain is registered in someone else’s name?

There are several issues that could occur if your domain name is not registered in your name. These issues could arise when you want to sell your business, or, like Francie, you want to update the website. If the domain name is not registered with your details, you won’t be able to do either.

Sometimes the original web developer registers the domain in their name and passes on the annual domain renewal when it comes around. What happens if the web developer goes out of business, disappears or changes careers? If the domain is not registered in your name, you may not get the annual billing which could ultimately result in your domain name being suspended (worst case, deleted) and your website turned off.

Why would someone else want to own my domain name?

Some web developers will register your domain name with their details because they are lazy. It is too much effort to get your details to register it in your name. Less than savoury developers will register the domain with their details as a way of protecting ongoing business with you. Not a very ethical business practice.

If someone else owns your domain name unethically and you wish to change hosting service providers, then it could be a bit of a mission to get it moved. Just ask Francie! The owner has to be contacted so the domain name can to be transferred to the new hosting company. The registered owner can deny the transfer. If this is not you then problems can arise. The owner that is not you may try to hold you hostage and demand payment for your own domain name. You will need to prove to the registrar that you are the rightful owner of the domain and are entitled to it.

Purchasing domain names carefully is a very important aspect of owning a website. Having a website is an important part of running a business. Make sure you are the rightful registered owner of your domain name.

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