When you own a digital asset like a website, it’s important to know if your domain name is actually safe. Do you really own your domain name? Today we chat to Jeanette Jifkins from Onyx Online Law, who walks us through how a domain name works, and how to protect your control of it.
CLICK ON THE VIDEO BELOW to hear from Jeanette Jifkins
Matt Raad: Hi again, I’m here today with Jeanette Jifkins from Onyx Online Law and welcome to our kitchen table, Jeanette.
Jeanette Jifkins: Thank you.
Who owns a domain name?
Matt: We’ve got a really cool question for you today. And it’s one that people get confused over and maybe you can help all of us clear this up. Who owns a domain name?
It sounds so simple doesn’t it – how does it work?
Jeanette: It does sound simple. Nobody owns a domain name. It’s an international registration system. So, it’s very much like having a post office box. If you forget to pay for your post office box, they give it away to someone else.
So, your domain name is like having a post office box where people can find your website. It’s the address where people find what you’re making available online, but it’s not owned by you.
Find out who owns YOUR domain name
What you should really do though is do a “whois” search online. Enter “whois” in Google, you’ll find how to get there. When you do a “whois” search online it’ll give you the details of who the registrant is of the domain name. The registrant is the same as the person who has the right to use the post office box, they’re the licensee.
How to keep control over your domain name
Whoever the registrant is, is the person who has control over that domain name, provided they keep paying for it. So that’s where you’re at. If you are named as the registrant of a domain name and you continue to pay your fees then you have control over the domain name, but you don’t own it indefinitely.
Matt: So as long as you keep renewing it year after year, you can buy and sell your domain name if you want. You can also transfer it to other people. Through normal commercial measures. Just like buying and selling websites – you are buying and selling domain names. So that concept is nice and simple.
Do you actually control YOUR domain name?
Jeanette: But there’s one other important thing, if you are a small business and you do have a website, go and do that “whois” search. You want to search and check that you (or your business) is named as the registrant. Sometimes (particularly about ten years ago), a lot of web developers were setting up domain names in their name, not the business names they were building the website for.
So, you may not actually have control over your own business domain name. Please go and check it, make sure you can sort it out. If you need any help sorting it out, we can do that – just contact us at Onyx Online Law.
Matt: Yes, that’s really important. We have seen this happen a lot. We’ve helped clients through this and it’s easy to fix, but it’s something really important to check if you’re a business.
Thanks Jeanette Jifkins for sharing your tips on making sure your domain name is safe – awesome!