Who owns your domain name? You may be surprised by the answer. If you let a web designer or web developer register your domain name for you, he or she may be the legal owner. And if you end up parting ways with them, you may find yourself in a bad situation.
How can I make sure I own my domain? When registering a domain, make sure you register it yourself and you are the one paying for it. Domains are only about $10 per year, well worth the piece-of-mind you get. When you register a domain, contact and ownership information are kept on file with the registrar. The most important piece of information is the “Registrant” or “Registered Owner”. Registering a domain yourself insures that this will be you. A design or development firm could register a name on your behalf and any reputable one would make sure your name is listed as the registrar. But why risk it? Register the name yourself to be certain.
How can I see who owns my domain? You can look up the public records of a domain name here: http://who.is You should see your name and or company under Raw Registrar Data. If not, you need to contact the Registrant and get him to update this information. You may also see that there is a “Private Registration” put on the domain. This hides the registrant’s information from the public. With this privacy on, it is impossible to tell who is the owner without going to the registrar. The privacy feature usually costs more, so if you did not register the domain yourself and there is privacy in place, this can be a bad sign.
I don’t own my domain, what can I do now? The first thing you should do is contact the owner of your domain and nicely ask if they are willing to transfer the domain into your name. If you are in good standing with this person or company there is no reason they should refuse. If you are not in good standing you will need to begin a dispute with ICANN. This dispute falls under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy and is normally resolved by court litigation between the parties that are claiming rights to the registered domain. More information on the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy can be found here.