You may not own what you think you do if your domain name is not registered to you.
In most cases—especially with small businesses—setting up proper ownership of your website is an afterthought. In our work, we often see problems arise down the road for businesses that want to make changes to their website. Here’s some important information about how to verify that you, or your organization, is the legal owner of your website’s domain name.
What exactly is a domain name?
A website is made up of two parts—your actual website (the content files of text, images, etc) and your domain name (the location where it’s displayed on the internet). Think of it like your property; the website is your house. The domain name is the lot it sits on, with a unique address to tell an internet browser such as Internet Explorer where to find the location for your website content.
Should you own your domain name?
Say you own your house but you just learned that you don’t actually own the property the house is on. Someone else has the rights to that land but you are the one occupying the space on that land. The person with rights for that land has legal claim to how the land can be used. This is what not owning your domain name is like. If you want to make changes to your website, or even move it to another hosting provider, you won’t be able to if the domain owner is unwilling.
How can you check your domain ownership status?
Checking domain name ownership status is quick, easy and free!
Step 1: Visit the official WHOIS domain owner search engine at whois.icann.org and type in your website domain name.
Step 2: Verify that you or your company is the Registrant Contact
The Registrant Contact is the owner of the domain name. It’s not unusual for a website company or host to be listed as the Admin or Tech Contact, where they still have complete access privileges, however it is not necessary that they be the Registrant. And, if they are you may want to ask them to transfer domain registration to you. Any reputable website provider should willingly do that. It should be noted that it’s not unusual for a website company to register one or more of your domain names to their account when setting them up—we do that for our clients—and it’s often done as a convenience during the site building process. But if our clients ask us to transfer the domain to their account, or decide to take their website elsewhere, we gladly do that.
At KMA we believe owning your domain is a pivotal piece in the management and security of your online assets. We recommend looking into the ownership of your domain name to prevent problems down the road. We enjoy helping organizations of all sizes grow to the next level through professional marketing services and are always available to help if you have any questions. To learn more about domain ownership including legal disputes, trademarking and other related issues, download our whitepaper here; The Importance of Domain Name Ownership for Managing Your Brand.
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