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Domain Names Forum

    
Who owns my domain name?
My "ex-boss" or me?
dickbaker




msg:3552186
 11:37 pm on Jan 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a couple of websites. My primary site is the one that generates traffic and revenue.

I've been with the same hosting company for several years. In 2006, the owner asked if I wanted to do some SEO work on his websites in exchange for him not charging me for hosting or even domain renewals.

We've had a major disagreement about the value of my SEO services versus the value of his hosting services, so I've decided to host my sites somewhere else.

Problem is, the DNS records are now private, and I can't transfer the domain names myself using the hosting company's domain control panel.

I didn't want to confront the owner about our disagreements until my sites were safely moved to the new hosting company.

If things get ugly, who owns the domain name--me or the owner of the hosting company? If it's me, is there a way for me to force the owner to release my domain name to the new hosting company?

If it's not me who owns the domain name, I'm screwed.

 

Marcia




msg:3552189
 11:55 pm on Jan 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

You own the domain names, the question is who are they registered through? A registrar has to make things accessible to registrants.

Now, with Godaddy it's a separate entity that has to be contacted for matters concerning the private information and there's a separate account number for that, but still you can change the DNS information at any time for the site within GD's interface if you change hosting.

Terabytes




msg:3552200
 12:39 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Who's name in on the domain WHOIS?
Your's or his? That's the owner....

Laker




msg:3552206
 1:15 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

For some reason this reminds me of an earlier thread:

My admin stole my domain and now is trying extortion [webmasterworld.com]

davezan




msg:3552213
 1:28 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

You own the domain names

No one knows that unless the OP can answer the subsequent question:

Who's name in on the domain WHOIS?

To be specific, who is listed as the registrant? All .com registrars consider the
listed registrant as the legal name holder, period.

The legal name holder can be challenged...if someone's up to it.

David

dickbaker




msg:3552264
 4:14 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

The registrar is a company out of New Jersey. The registrant is listed as the hosting company I was referring to. That may be because my domains were registered as private. I managed to use the control panel to change the registrant for one of my small sites back to me.

But I can't get into the control panel for my primary site, as I was never given access for that site. I didn't even know that the hosting company had done this.

And here's another problem. The domain name expires at the end of the month.

Any suggestions?

stu2




msg:3552352
 7:49 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ask them to renew your main domain now. Then you have plenty of time to sort things out. You don't want the domain to expire and you'd have some proof it was your domain if you keep the renewal receipt.

dickbaker




msg:3552501
 2:48 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Stu2, that's what I'm going to try to do.

This is all getting more suspicious. When I Google the company that's listed as the registrar, I found out that it's a company that is affiliated with my hosting company, and that the director of that company is a guy whose name I've seen before in email exchanges between me and my hosting company.

This was all changed sometime last year. Prior to that, I was getting invoices showing that my domain name had been renewed, and it showed my name on the invoice. But there's been no invoice for 2008.

I knew something was wrong when, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to the owner of the hosting company that I wanted to put a shopping cart on my site. He said he wanted a percentage of the profits.

jomaxx




msg:3552611
 6:56 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

LOL, incredible. Who's hosting your website, the Mafia?

dickbaker




msg:3552694
 11:02 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

"Who's hosting your website, the Mafia? "

That's the way it feels.

I got over the first hurdle by letting the owner of the hosting company know that the domain was about to expire. I then asked him where I could go to pay to renew. He added my domain to the domain control panel, and I paid to renew.

So far, so good. The last step is to have the new hosting company contact the current company for the domain transfer. If it all goes through an automated process, the owner of the hosting company probably won't even see it.

Webwork




msg:3552700
 11:29 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

New Jersey, my home turf, eh? We take a different approach to doing business here, ya know? ;-P

Have your records showing that you paid for past renewals handy. Nothing quite shows "ownership" of a domain like invoices (to you) and records of payment by you. Of course, it's possible for a non-owner (registrant) to pay a bill but then other facts would have a be a bit robust: written agreements or emails supporting "real" ownership; evidence of changes to the WhoIs record, etc.

Let us know how it all works out.

buckworks




msg:3552799
 5:17 am on Jan 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

If some of the WHOIS info has been changed, expect a waiting period before you can transfer the domain somewhere else.

dickbaker




msg:3557476
 4:00 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, all records are showing the domain name being in my name, with me as registrant, administrator and contact.

Still, the owner got a red flag last night from one of his employees about the transfer, and he's now demanding that I either pay $400 a month for hosting services for the last 18 months or agree to do about 15 hours a month of SEO work for the next 11 months to pay him back for hosting. I've already given him estimates of the time I've put in working on his sites for the last two years.

I initiated the transfer of the domain through the new registrar on Tuesday. Is there a way that the owner of this hosting company can block the transfer?

This is the last time I do an exchange of services.

vincevincevince




msg:3557484
 4:27 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm still left wondering what kind of hosting has been provided worth $400 a month. For that fee I would expect (at a minimum) a good dedicated server (i.e. not shared with any other site) and bundled upgrades and patches.

Marcia




msg:3557495
 4:50 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've been with the same hosting company for several years. In 2006, the owner asked if I wanted to do some SEO work on his websites in exchange for him not charging me for hosting or even domain renewals.

18 months goes back to the middle of 2005, not even any time in 2006. Were you paying $400 a month for your hosting before the "deal?"

Laker




msg:3557613
 7:39 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is there a way that the owner of this hosting company can block the transfer?

Well, there's "good news" ... and then there's "news".

In short, the registrar, in my view, can't prevail by blocking the transfer ... however that may not preclude the registrar from blocking the transfer and telling you that they can. Said differently, you may have to initiate an ICANN process.

It does get a little dicey because, as you said, part of the barter arrangement was that the hosting company paid for, among other things, domain renewals.

The ICANN Policy on Transfer of Registrations between Registrars [icann.org] enumerates the reasons and circumstances under which the Registrar of Record (a/k/a "Losing Registrar") can deny a transfer request. I've included some relevant points from that with emphasis added:

3. Obligations of the Registrar of Record
<snip>
Failure by the Registrar of Record to respond within five (5) calendar days to a notification from the Registry regarding a transfer request will result in a default "approval" of the transfer.
<snip>
Upon denying a transfer request for any of the following reasons, the Registrar of Record must provide the Registered Name Holder and the potential Gaining Registrar with the reason for denial. The Registrar of Record may deny a transfer request only in the following specific instances:
<snip>
5. No payment for previous registration period (including credit card charge-backs) if the domain name is past its expiration date or for previous or current registration periods if the domain name has not yet expired. In all such cases, however, the domain name must be put into "Registrar Hold" status by the Registrar of Record prior to the denial of transfer.
<snip>
7. A domain name was already in “lock status” provided that the Registrar provides a readily accessible and reasonable means for the Registered Name Holder to remove the lock status.
<snip>
Instances when the requested change of Registrar may not be denied include, but are not limited to:

* Nonpayment for a pending or future registration period
<snip>
* Domain name in Registrar Lock Status, unless the Registered Name Holder is provided with the reasonable opportunity and ability to unlock the domain name prior to the Transfer Request.
<snip>
* General payment defaults between Registrar and business partners / affiliates in cases where the Registered Name Holder for the domain in question has paid for the registration.

The Registrar of Record has other mechanisms available to collect payment from the Registered Name Holder that are independent from the Transfer process. Hence, in the event of a dispute over payment, the Registrar of Record must not employ transfer processes as a mechanism to secure payment for services from a Registered Name Holder. Exceptions to this requirement are as follows:

(i) In the case of non-payment for previous registration period(s) if the transfer is requested after the expiration date, or

(ii) In the case of non-payment of the current registration period, if transfer is requested before the expiration date.

I think you can see that the "previous payment" issue may be tricky -- however, in my read, the domain name must be in "Registrar Hold" status prior to the denial of transfer.
Did you unlock the domain prior to initiating the transfer request? ... and, was the status of the domain not "Registrar Hold" prior to the transfer request? (You may want to take screencaps.)

To resolve transfer disputes, ICANN has a pretty good Registrar Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy [icann.org]. The "catch 22" is that to initiate the process, you need your registrar ("Gaining Registrar") to do it, as ICANN serves the registrars, not the registrant. In my experience, most registrars don't / won't want to bother with it. (Another reason to have a relationship with a registrar that values your business.)

That said, you, as a Registrant, can contact ICANN ... as ICANN states "If you [Registrant] have a complaint that concerns a matter addressed in the RAA, you should contact ICANN for assistance at [internic.net...] ". (FYI, the Policy on Transfer of Registrations between Registrars does fall within the "RAA" [Registrar Accreditation Agreement])

If you need to go that route, I'd suggest calling ICANN and tell them, very briefly, the nature of what you want to do ... ask for their help, and they may give you a different email address to use ;-)

Depending on your comfort level, and the level of "what's at stake", you may want to consult an attorney versed in domain name proceedings.

IANAL ;-)

dickbaker




msg:3557869
 3:29 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm still left wondering what kind of hosting has been provided worth $400 a month. For that fee I would expect (at a minimum) a good dedicated server (i.e. not shared with any other site) and bundled upgrades and patches.

I've brought that point up with the owner of the hosting company. For $400 a month I could get a dedicated server with one of the top-rated companies (rhymes with "back space").

I was paying $500 a year for the first couple of years of hosting. As traffic to my site increased, they found that it was bogging down other sites on the server. So finally they moved my site to a server that had one or two very small low-traffic sites on it.

They advertise unlimited bandwidth. Of course, the owner pointed out to me yesterday that their disclaimer, like those of just about any shared hosting company, says that if the site is consuming too many resources and adversely affecting other sites, then the unlimited bandwidth offer no longer applies.

Marcia, this is 2008. ;) Eighteen months of service goes back to mid-2006. I'd already paid a discounted fee of $237 for hosting for 2/1/2006 through 2/1/2007.

All of this started as a handshake agreement that I would do SEO work on their sites. We weren't talking specific dollar amounts or number of hours. Now he's being very hard-nosed about it. And he thinks the value of my SEO time is worth $25 an hour (a "wholesale rate," as he put it), yet the value of his hosting services is worth $400 a month, which is full-tilt retail.

Thanks again for the suggestions. I'll post again when there's a new development.

ceestand




msg:3557910
 4:18 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is the last time I do an exchange of services.

I've been very tempted (I think we all have) to enter into these agreements. I think it's close to miraculous when there isn't at least some kind of dispute.

All of this started as a handshake agreement that I would do SEO work on their sites. We weren't talking specific dollar amounts or number of hours. Now he's being very hard-nosed about it. And he thinks the value of my SEO time is worth $25 an hour (a "wholesale rate," as he put it), yet the value of his hosting services is worth $400 a month, which is full-tilt retail.

Wow. What an jerk. This would be the reason why even if we do choose to go for an exchange agreement, to contract a value of services rendered so that if one side won't hold up their end, there becomes a monetary value attached to the services rendered.

Thanks for sharing and good luck to you, dickbaker.

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