Marketing Trends, Best Practices, Advice

Who REALLY owns your domain name?

Tina Hutzelman
Domain names


If you have a website or a business branded email address, then you also have a domain name. 

But did you know, you don’t own that domain name?

In the same way you cannot own your phone number, you cannot own a domain name. When you pay for a domain name, you are actually paying for the right to use it. Therefore, if you forget to pay your renewal and allow your domain to expire, you could lose that right.

If this happens, a competitor could buy the right to use it or a bulk domain buyer could purchase it and then charge huge fees if you want to regain control of it.

Besides remembering to pay your domain renewal, it is critical to know who is actually listed as the "owner contact" on your domain name. 

When your domain name is initially registered, it is required to specify an owner contact. This includes:

  • • the person or business to whom the domain is being registered
  • • the owner's mailing address
  • • the owner's contact phone number
  • • the owner's valid email address

This information determines who has the legal right to use a particular domain name and is used when resolving technical problems, moving a domain name to another register or resolving a domain ownership dispute. 

Therefore, if you have someone other than yourself register your domain name (such as your website designer or I.T. person), be certain they use your information as the owner contact.

This is the only way the domain name will be registered to you or your business. If you do not do this, you may find yourself in a big mess down the line.

For instance, if your website development company offers domain registration as a service but they don’t use your information, the domain name is NOT legally registered to you.  You will not be considered the owner. So, if you ever part ways with your website development company, they could prevent you from using your domain name. In the same way, if you ask an employee to register your company’s domain name, be certain they use your business information.

Too many companies have learned the hard way that their domain name was never actually registered to them.

How do you know if your domain name is actually registered to you?

Years ago, the owner contact information was publicly available through a WHOIS search. Unfortunately, today most domain contact information is hidden behind a privacy wall.

This means that the only way to know if you are listed as the owner contact of your domain name is to contact whomever registered your domain name and ask them to show you the owner contact record.

If you can no longer contact the person who registered your domain name for you, your only option will be to contact the Domain Registrar, the company whose registration system was used to register your domain name. Your I.T. person or webmaster should be able to determine what registration system was used.

When talking with the person who registered your domain name, be sure to ask for a username and password login to the back-end administration of your domain name so that you can maintain control in the event that the person or company who registered your domain name becomes unresponsive.

About Tina Hutzelman

Tina Hutzelman is a marketing professional who helps companies discover their true value - that unique "something" that sets them apart from their competition. For over 20 years, Tina has helped companies tell their stories in a way that is relevant to their customers. One of her favorite questions is "what are you really selling?" She's found that many executives think they are selling the best widget around, when actually they are selling efficiency, shorter time to market, or greater potential for profit. When she's not at work, Tina enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

Domain Name Registration