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Legal Owner vs. Registrant Field in Whois



2:33 am on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm getting really annoyed. I recently transferred my brother's domain name from his hosting company's control to Domain Discover where I've had a few others for several years. In the Domain Discover control panel there's a field called "Legal Owner". There it lists the president of the hosting company that originally secured the domain name for my brother's site. However, my name is listed as the registrant in whois. Domain Discover says they display their admin contact information as the registrant.

Here are some questions I'm hoping someone can help with:

a) is it considered OK for host companies to list themselves at the registrant for their client's sites? I thought that was frowned upon, and I've always listed my clients (side work) as the registrants and me as the technical and admin contact.

b) does icann recognize anything called "legal owner"? I'm beginning to think this whole thing is a ploy by Domain Discover. Are they just keeping the previous registrant listed there in their own database hoping to get the $25 fee to change it? They require the fee and they need a copy of the current "Legal Owner's" driver license faxed.

c) the guy listed as "legal owner" (hosting company president) is just blowing it off by saying he's never heard of such a thing, and it appears he won't be cooperating here. Domain Discover says I'll need to file a dispute with icann. What the !? I have full control over the domain name, but their one stupid (and possibly made up) "Legal Owner" field will force me to pay a fee and start a dispute resolution?

d) lastly, is it ok for Domain Discover to display the admin contact as the registrant? That doesn't seem right and actually seems like it might be breaking an icann rule.

Any advice is greatly appreciated here.



2:32 am on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Your questions involve personal legal issues that are beyond the scope of what we are ready, willing, and/or able to address. For further clarification I suggest you read the Domain Forum Charter. [webmasterworld.com...] with specific reference to the section entitled "SEEKING ADVICE RELATED TO TRADEMARK AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES".

Talk to a lawyer, preferably one who routinely practices in the jurisdiction where your registrar is incorporated and/or has its principal place of business. The lawyer should have some familiarity with ICANN, domains, etc. Therefore you might start with any of the names of lawyers who routinely appear before the NAF or WIPO in domain dispute hearings.


5:44 am on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Regardless of the legal situation, step one would be to transfer the domain out to a better registrar asap.

Once it's away from them you don't need to deal with their specific (rather odd) policies.

Most other registrars allow you to edit the admin contact (the owner) without charge.


3:37 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

That would usually be good advice, robho, except for the statement in paragrapn (c). IF the paragraph (c) status quo remains true (DD won't release. "Legal owner" won't act to effect a release) then it would appear the only solution will be to take legal action - which may include 1) convincing a court that DD's position holds no water based on ICANN policies, etc.; 2) joining the "Legal Owner" to compel him/her to act or otherwise sue for damages; and, 3) possibly seeking sanctions if DD's actions are lacking in merit.

Quite a mess, all for the sake of a domain name. Hopefully it's a domain worth the effort and expense.


4:10 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I still have a few names at DD and actually did check out what J_o_e_b wrote and fortunately mine are all ok.

I did transfer away a whole buch of names a few years ago because of cost however when I was about to transfer the remainder they were very quick to want to do a deal:-)

I've always found them, and BuyDomains, fairly easy to get on with and quick to respond to e-mail requests etc.

Have you tried writing to them or are you just reading through their faqs etc?


8:34 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Huskypup - I have had quite a few exchanges with DD about the problem. They've stood by their requirement until today. See below.

Webwork - I wasn't looking forward to any legal battles. Probably wouldn't be worth it since I have control over the domain name now (except for that pesky "legal owner" fake field).

Robho - I do have the ability to edit the Admin field. Is the Admin field always the owner? I keep seeing "registrant" being used as the "legal owner" across the Web. On DD, there's Admin, Billing, Org, and Technical contacts. Then that money grab one called "Legal Owner."

This morning I got an email from DD saying they had authorization to make the legal owner change for me. I think maybe my problem got to the right person. Maybe they read this thread?

The change hasn't been made yet, so we'll see. I'll keep you posted.

I'm curious. Does Domain Discover have a bad reputation I'm not aware of? This is the first issue I've had with them. Is there a good, unbiased review site for registrars? All the reviews I've seen seem to be owned by a registrar.

Thanks to all who replied.


8:42 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I just changed the admin field and just saw that the "registrant" field stayed as my name in the whois. The admin contact did however get updated in the whois from my change, so the two are apparently not related.


1:21 am on Sep 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just finishing this up... Domain Discover did in fact change their mysterious "legal owner" field for me without requiring the $25 fee with the photo ID and signature of the previous owner.

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