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Who really owns your domain?

I’ve recently come across a few instances of overzealous web designers registering their clients’ domains under their own name instead of under the client’s name. It’s important to understand the various roles and rights associated with domain ownership.

The “registrant” is the legal owner of the domain. If the domain is owned by a company, the company name should be listed as the registrant. If it’s a personal domain, then your name should be listed. Never let a web designer or hosting company list their own name as the registrant. If you ever part ways with this party, they’ll legally be the owner of the domain and could make it difficult for you gain access to your own domain!

The “administrative contact” is someone appointed by the registrant to make changes to the domain on behalf of the registrant. In a corporate environment, the administrative contact is typically an employee of the company. The administrative contact receives important notices relating to the operation of the domain. The administrative contact is also usually involved when requesting SSL certificates and sometimes when setting up email hosting. If you’re not tech savvy and would rather your web designer or IT person handle these matters, then it’s okay to list a third-party as your administrative contact, as long as you understand that they have full rights to modify the domain’s settings.

The “technical contact” is responsible for maintaining the DNS name servers for a domain. DNS name servers instruct web browsers and email clients where your site is hosted and how to reach it. The technical contact is typically assigned to the person or company who is hosting your domain. Leave this one to the IT pros unless you’re handling all of the hosting yourself.

The “billing contact” is responsible for paying the domain’s renewal fees. You’ll typically want to be listed as the billing contact so you don’t miss any renewal notices, unless your hosting provider is paying your registration fees on your behalf.

Ensure the each of your domain contacts has a valid postal mailing address, email address, and telephone number. Providing false contact information can be grounds for cancellation of your domain registration. At least once a year, your domain name registrar is required to remind you to verify and update your contact information.

Take a moment to verify your domain information at http://www.whois.com/whois/.

NOTE: This article is not intended or offered as legal advice. These materials have been prepared for educational and information purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters.


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