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Domain Names Forum

Domain dispute between partners

 2:01 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have a client that had a partner who was her webmaster (a very dishonest one). Her partner put the domain in her own name and not my client's and it's hosted on her own server and she won't give my client access to the site.

My client is the professional who has all the college degrees and expertise and wrote most of the content for the website so without her the domain has little value except the partner is now faking expertise and making money off the domain and doesn't want to let it go, plus it is ranking #1 for most of it's keywords in that field.

The partner will not give my client access to the domain. They are going through arbitration with a lawyer that doesn't know Internet law. I suggested she have the lawyer go through Internic once the legal matter is settled to get the domain into her own name.

I need to know if my client should change the domain into her own name before moving it to another host, (if it's even possible) or just move it and change the name later -- either way won't the partner still have to approve the move/change? She would like to do this so the partner has no more ties to the domain.



 4:16 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Partner as in business partner or partner as in significant other?

It can make rather a difference to the outcome. Also law on both domestic matters and business partnerships will vary by jurisdiction. While nobody here can give you specific legal advice any more general comments may be unhelpful or even downright misleading if based on the wrong country's laws.


 8:25 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Unless there is some form of contract between your client and her partner, then her partner is not in the wrong to hold on to the domain name she registered in her name as it belongs to her. Ethically wrong maybe, but probably not legally wrong.

If your client is desperate for the name, then she must register it in her own name or she will never have legal rights over it. And yes the partner would have to approve either domain name legal registrant change or change of hosting provider. Just changing the host won't solve your clients problem.

Your client has copyright over her material that she is currently allowing her partner to host. Your client is therefore entitled to withdraw that permission and ask her partner to remove the material.

Then your client could set up on her own with her own domain name (losing Google rankings of course).

I would advise her to stop thinking about the name, give it up, but withdraw permission for the material to be published there, and publish it herself.

Or negotiate to buy the domain name from her partner.


 10:36 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

1) Engage lawyer.
2) Instruct lawyer to demand that all material written by your client must be taken down immediately. A detailed list will have to be provided.
3) Do not offer to buy the domain.
4) Set up a new domain name and move on. If an offer to sell the old domain is made then consider it.
5) When the material has been taken down, if appropriate, contact webmasters of sites that have provided backlinks. Simply state that there was a legal dispute and the material has moved - don't go into any detail.



 12:34 pm on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's impossible to give actionable advice without referring to the exact terms of the partnership agreement, past business/partnership practices, AND the exact outline of any dispute(s) about the meaning or import of those terms, plus knowing the venue and other potentially material facts.

Without the partnership agreement (I don't want to see it) and without knowing "past practices" its difficult to say who has legal and/or equitable title to what. For example, were rights to intellectual property (the content) "contributed to the partnership" as a quid quo pro for the webmaster "contributing design and technical services"?

I don't want an answer, as I suspect such "facts" are in dispute. It has been my experience that lay people can be counted on to say "that's not in dispute" when, in truth, what they really mean is "that's not my view of the facts". As I lawyer I know I have to "examine every bit of evidence" before taking any assertion as ~fact. Right now I don't have a shred of the type of evidence need to offer guidance.

Whenever there is "litigation pending" - arbitration or lawsuit - "friends" need to be mindful that there are ways to be drawn into the litigation, on account of actions a friend counsels/encourages/enables or statements made. A friend can become either a witness or a defendant, the latter for interfering with the business interests of another or with lawful legal process. Since you say the matter is already in arbitration it shouldn't be long until there is a binding ruling.


 4:34 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks to everyone who has responded.

To answer a few questions:

The webmaster in questiion is the legal owner, and is a business partner.

The contract did not mention domain ownership however everything is supposed to be 50/50. The webmaster won't give my client access to the domain is the main problem and the domain is not in my client's name.


 6:56 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

She would like to do this so the partner has no more ties to the domain.

leaving the partner with what? nothing? does that sound right?

why would the partner just hand the domain over?


 10:33 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

The webmaster won't give my client access to the domain is the main problem and the domain is not in my client's name.
Then, since you're not a lawyer, you don't have a client.

I don't mean to be funny, but this sounds like a Mickey Mouse contract to me.


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