One of the most valuable assets your brand has is it’s online location, AKA domain name, URL, website address, or www. It’s the very identity of many businesses (amazon.com) and a critical cornerstone of more traditional brick and more stores. Yet, you would be stunned about the number of businesses that are not named the legal owner of that most valuable property.
Many business owners spend in ordinate amounts of time ensuring that they are the legal owner of an idea (patent), the legal owner of their logo (trademark), the legal owner of their business space, equipment, etc. Yet, for one of the most valuable assets any business holds, they turn the purchase of it over to someone else and then never bother to get the account credentials and legal ownership of the domain name.
I’m willing to bet that nearly 90% of those of you reading this post — who have a website, can’t tell me right now who the legal owner of your domain name is. And what is particularly sad, 75% of those ARE NOT THE LEGAL OWNER.
Ready to find out if you’re the legal owner? It’s easy to check, just go to your favorite domain provider (or click here) and put in your domain name. Once you decode the ever-exciting human-proving captcha, you’ll see a page that looks much like the image to the right. What you’re looking for is the “Registrant.” If you are not listed as the registrant, you are NOT the legal owner of the domain. It needs to not only display your name (or your company’s name) but also your contact information in this area.
This means that whoever is listed as the registrant is the person or company that can determine what website displays at the address, how your email addresses behave, and whether you ever get the opportunity to make any of those choices about that domain name ever again.
If you are listed as the Registrant and your contact information is available — you can call the Registrar and (eventually) get complete control of the domain. If you are not listed — or your contact information is missing or wrong you have NO RIGHTS with regard to the domain. And you are dependent on the goodwill and availability of the person or company who is listed.
So, now that you’ve looked up the legal owner determined you’re not it…you’re probably wondering what to do. First things first, call the person or company listed as the Registrant and see what it will take for them to change the Registrant information to be you. AND while you’re at it, ask them to push the domain to an account that you can have the username and password to. Be kind, patient, and understanding — at least until you get control of the domain. Keep at it, owning your online presence is a fight worth fighting.