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Webmaster registered our .org site under his own name

Back when we were naive about registration



8:02 pm on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I sit on a non-profit marketing committee. Way back in the day, before my time, the committee went to a local webmaster to have him design a site for promoting a fishing derby, and to host the site.

It wasn't until recently, when the committee sold the operating rights to the fishing derby and the associated website to private person that we found out the webmaster had registered the domain name in his name, and not our committee name (they were naive about this potential discrepancy, assuming it was in their name, and the webmaster didn't inform them otherwise).

Now, the private person can't make changes or ensure the website (with online registration and database capabilities) is visible to the public, without paying hefty monies to the webmaster to allow us access and use of the content.

Finally, the question - do we have any legal recourse to reclaim the .org domain name and content in order to give the new derby master full and legal access, or make legal claims that the webmaster has been holding our content hostage to ensure his own profit?

He purges the derby registrants every year so that the derby master would have to pay him a lot of money to get and keep the database.

Any precendent I can research? Thanks!

[edited by: tedster at 12:32 am (utc) on Aug. 4, 2004]
[edit reason] remove specifics [/edit]


5:23 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am not a lawyer, but it sounds like you need one.

Do you have any proof to support your claims?


5:50 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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

I can see the merits of the webmaster handling 'all things web', which would include the registration and renewal of the domain, but I would assume that when webmasters act in this capacity they 'hold the domain in trust' for the organization. That is, the don't own the domain even though, in handling the registration, they - for whatever reason - registered the domain in their name. The 'for whatever reason' wouldn't include that they were to be the owner of the organizations domain because 'they aren't the organization' - they are merely the webmaster for the organization.

If the webmaster plays games talk to a lawyer. If it was an organization I'd sue him/her in a heart beat. No jury would believe the webmaster was intended to 'own' the organizations identity. It's one thing to handle the registration, which for convenience might include the webmaster using his identity - it's another for the webmaster to assert that somehow he's the organization, including it's identity.

Unless the facts were clear that for some insane reason the webmaster would own the organizations identity I'd say the webmaster is inviting trouble, which could include compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees if consumer fraud laws apply.

Talk to a lawyer in your jurisidiction. Free advice in a forum isn't worth a damn. A decent lawyer shouldn't charge you more than $250 for a conference and a little letter writing. A lawsuit would cost more but this is the type of case that filing a lawsuit should bring it to a swift end.

P.S. Is your webmaster paid in full for all services?

P.P.S. I won't field further questions on this.

Webwork, Esq.


7:34 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you all! I think that is very sound advice and some good buzzwords I can pass on to the derby guy trying to claim the website and content.


2:54 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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

It doesn't sound like you've even spoken to the webmaster. I recently spent a few weeks trying to convince a non-profit to register their own domain and that it would be better for them to have it in their name, not mine. They just thought it would be less hassle if I took care of it.

Don't be confrontational or accusatory in your first conversation. I wouldn't even ask why he did this. I would just say matter-of-factly that the site has been transferred and the new owner wants to transfer the domain name.

Then if there's trouble, you can call in a lawyer.


3:25 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the reply. Under the assumption that the domain was in the council's name, our President & the derby master contacted the webmaster and to inform him that the control of the website was to be transferred to the derby master. It was then that the webmaster (in a nutshell, I wasn't in on the conversation) said everything was in his name, and that content updating and public access to the site would be at his discretion, but the derby master could pay him for his services and access to the registrations and ongoing leader boards. Apparently at that point the webmaster took the site down for a while, right during derby registration time, until the derby master paid him $1,800 to put it back up on the web. I've shared your thoughts with the derby master, and he is of a mind to wait until his fall fishing derby is over, to avoid any pouty webmaster/website sabotage during the derby, and then pursue discussions with an attorney. THANKS ALL!


4:08 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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

Wow. OK. Tactical nuclear weapons are justified in this scenario.



8:32 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is the site dependent on search engines for traffic?

If not, why not build another site? Just scrape the old site and have someone throw together a registration script.

Then nuke the selfish idiot.

[edited by: tedster at 10:51 pm (utc) on Aug. 5, 2004]


1:25 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've gone through a domain dispute at a previous job. A disgruntled employee, who had registered the company domain in his name, changed the DNS registry on our domain to his own personal web server.

We won our domain back in very short order when we provided the registrar with copies of invoices for domain registration we had on file, along with copies of our company credit card statement that showed our company had actually paid for the registration fees, regardless of the individual name on the account. We didn't even need to consult an attorney.

Perhaps your organization has retained similar documentation that could help your case.


7:11 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

when you get it back go to your local papers and have them run an article on it, a bit humillating but itll kill the webmasters business stone cold.


8:06 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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

As a practical (not moral) matter, never do anything just for revenge.

It does you no good at this point to destroy the webmaster's business. If there is an article, the webmaster will be interviewed. What will you do if this clearly unscrupulous person responds by a pack of lies about how he was cheated out of thousands of dollars that were probably skimmed off by derby organizers?

Get your domain back, report the guy to the BBB and the Chamber of Commerce and move on.


11:39 pm on Aug 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with the previous postings.
The production of receipts or other financial documents to the registar my work.
A lawyers letter is not too expensive, and may get results.
The authority for this type of dispute rests with WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, they are recognised by ICANN. However even filling with them costs $1000.
Least trouble some may be to simply ask the person what they are willing to sell the site for.


11:44 pm on Aug 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Is it possible to trademark the name of an .org? That gives a lot of clout.


9:41 am on Aug 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Actually, these types of disputes should never have to go to ICANN. Talk to the registrar first, then local police if you have to. Don't pay $1,5000 for a dispute process that's supposed to be for cybersquatting complaints when it's a case of direct theft.


12:35 pm on Aug 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just to want you all to know I've been reading your posts and I appreciate your input. It looks like after the fishing derby, the derby master is going to take the info from here that I've been sharing with him and consult a local lawyer to help him. They'll point out, using invoices and receipts, that the webmaster registered the domain in his name but on the council's behalf, and that the council and the derby master want all content and ownership to transferred to the derby master. We'll see what transpires from there. Thanks all!


8:29 pm on Aug 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Amazing a firm would allow their webmaster or website designer to register a domain under their name.

I once sold a domain to a midsize firm (4-figure sale) who contacted me asking to buy it. Their (independant contractor) website designer/webmaster asked me to transfer the name direct to him and be under his personal control, saying he always does that for domains he is developing.

I hesitated doing so and suggested to buyer that is not a good idea and advised against it, especially since my check for the name came direct from the buyer (not the webmaster). The firm sent me email saying I need to do whatever the webmaster said.

The name expired 2 yrs later as the buyers webmaster left the job and his email address in Whois also stopped working, so the name was never renewed and the buyer did not realize it was expiring. The domain was then grabbed thru a drop catching service and the firm ended up buying the name from its new owner for the second time for the same price they originally paid for it.

Moral of the story is never allow your domains to be reg'd and in effect controled by someone else, even if he is your webmaster or anyone else for that matter.


9:47 pm on Aug 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I agree wholly. It espicially hurts the good-hearted not-for-profit who often can afford the financial hit even less than a for-profit firm.

I just went through a domain name clean-up project with one client - they owned 100+ domains, most of which were in use. But they were registered to a hodge-podge of "owners" who were at some time loosely related to the organization.

Also a hodge podge of registrars was involved, with no central documentation and no consistent email address. It's the kind of thing many organizations do not appreciate until they've been bitten at least once.

In this case they had already purchased print advertising and them discovered that they had no control over the domain they just advertised. Ouch! But that alerted them to a much more widespread issue.


10:00 pm on Aug 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We had the same problem a while back where a former employee had put all the registrations for quite a few names in his personal account. I produced copies of the company credit cards reciepts which paid for the service and the Registrar added the accounts to a company account. Taught me a valuable lesson, if you have domain names that are intellectual property make sure they are registered in the company's name.


8:21 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hello everyone!

I read w/ gusto this VERY interesting post about a
domain name registered by someone else instead of
its intended owner. Great posts, everyone!

I especially got interested w/ Katana's post about
how she & her group got the domain name back using
legal avenues.

Signal50, I'd definitely do what Katana did about
using receipts, credit card statements, et al.

Good luck!

David ;o)


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