Domain Name Ownership

This document starts out with a fairly detailed discussion of what it really means to own a domain name. If you are only interested in the details of how to do a transfer, please skip down to the Transfers section.

What Owning a Domain Name Means

There is a lot of misunderstanding about exactly what it means to "own" a domain name. A domain name is not a material object, but is simply an entry in a data-base that is used to locate a machine that is connected to the Internet. It is most commonly thought of as being used to access a Web site, but it can also be used to access almost all other Internet services. When you "own" a domain name you have the exclusive right to specify the "IP addresses" associated with the domain name. These are the low level addresses (like a phone number) that actually specify a partictular computer that is connected to the Internet. You can also change the various "contact addresses" that are part of the data-base entry for the domain. These are the physical and email address (as oposed to IP addresses) that specify the owner, the administrator, the technical contact, and the billing contact for the domain name.

Actually, the term "ownership" is somewhat misleading since what you "own" is actually the right to rent, for as long a period as you wish, the use of the domain name. This rental usually runs for one year and can be renewed indefinitely. Some resistrars/providers (see below) allow you to pay for a longer period, usually with some discount on the yearly registration fee.

When you buy an existing domain name from Boxed Brands (or from anyone else), you are buying the right to have the control of the already registered domain name transferred to you and the right to continue renting it.

When the domain name system was first established, there was a single organization (Network Solutions) that managed all domain name registrations. In Network Solutions' data-base the information stored as the "owner contact" and/or the "administrative contact" determined who "owned" (that is, could control) the domain name.

Today there are many different organizations that manage domain names. These are usually companies, although some non-US government agencies manage country specific domain names. Most of these organizations use "user accounts" to determine who has control of a domain name. The person(s) who has access to a user account has control over the domain names registered in that account and thus effectively "owns" them. Under this scheme, the contents of the owner and administrative items are mostly comments, although in some cases the administrative email address is used to send important information (such as a notice that the registration is about to expire or a request for permission to transfer the domain name to a different account) to the "owner" of the domain name. There have been a number of court cases that have attempted to define exactly what it means to own a domain name, but none have been definitive.

There are two levels of oranizations that domain name owners interact with: registrars and providers. The registrars are the organizations that maintain a data-base that contains all of the parameters associated with a domain name. A provider is an organization that acts as a retailer or reseller for one or more registrars. Some registrars will work directly with domain name owners, others will only work through providers who then work with domain name owners. In practice, the domain name owner sees little difference in working with a registrar or a provider.

Your Registrar/Provider Account

As described above, to be able to control (own) a domain name, you must have an account with a registrar or a provider. This allows you to log in to their site (virtually all registrars/providers today provide on-line Web access) and manage your domain names. Setting up an account is free with most registrars/providers.

Once you have an account with a registrar/provider you can create new domains or transfer existing domains from other owners' accounts. When you buy a domain name from Boxed Brands, you will be transferring it to your registrar/provider account.

Transfers

The exact details for how to transfer a domain name vary between different registrars/providers, but most follow the following general pattern:
1) You obtain an "authorization code" from the seller of the domain name.
2) You request that the domain name be transferred to your account. This request will include the "authorizaton code" that you received from the seller.
That's it!

There is usually some additional behind the scenes activity where the seller confirms the transfer, but that should not concern the buyer.

There may be a delay of several days before the domain name is available in your account

You need to refer to your registrar's/provider's documentation for the complete details on how to do this. There will usually be a menu item or button labeled something like "Transfer" which will then ask you for the domain name and authorization code.

If your account is with Netfirms (netfirms.com), you will need to call Boxed Brands at +1-866-220-2929 to do the transfer. It cannot be done as described above.

When a domain name is transferred, the expiration date for the domain name's registration normally does not change. Domain names owned by Boxed Brands expire on various dates, depending on when they were originally aquired by Boxed Brands. Thus a Boxed Brands domain name may expire anywhere from about 20 days to just under a year from when it is transferred to you. Most registrars/providers will charge for a one year extension of the registration when the domain name is transferred (generally between $10 and $40 - there is quite a bit of variation between registrars/providers and also for different top level domains (sometimes called extensions or suffixes)). This normally extends the registration, so you do not lose the original registration period.

Once a domain name has been transferred to your account, you should update the owner, administrator, billing, and technical contract information as soon as possible. You will normally be the owner; you or someone working for you will normally be the administrator and billing contact. The technical contact will normally be whoever hosts your Web site, but it may also be you. There are no fixed rules for this, although the owner and/or administrator contacts are generally considered to define who "owns" the domain name. (As described above, this is incorrect. In reality, a domain is "owned" by whoever controls the account where it is registered.)

Many domain name "owners" allow their Web hosting service to "manage" their domain name(s) by holding them in the Web hosting service's registrar/provider account. This saves the owner some hassle, but provides virtually NO protection for the owner. As described above, the owner has effectively given ownership of the domain name to the Web hosting service. While contracts can be signed governing what the hosting service can do with the domain name, if there is a dispute and the hosting service withholds use of the domain name (or worse, gives it to someone else), the only recourse is through the courts, which is lengthy, expensive, and uncertain.

It should be noted that some registrars/providers also provide Web hosting services. This is a completely different situation which should not cause problems. It is often the easiest way to maintain a Web site and its associated domain name.

Other Things About Domain Names

Before you can use a domain name to direct users to a Web site (or to anything else on the Internet), you must update the various "records" associated with the domain name. The details of this are beyond the scope of this short document. Whoever hosts your Web site should be able to tell you what to put in these records. (If they can't, you need to find someone else to host your site!)

A domain name also specifies the Internet addresses of two "name servers". The name servers are the machines that are accessed when a domain name is used to access something on the Internet. You should also ask whoever hosts your Web site what goes in these items. The name servers are often provided by whoever hosts your Web site, but may also be provided by the registrar/provider (usually for a additional small annual fee) if the Web site hosting service does not provide them.

A domain name can be locked, which means that it cannot be transferred to a different account. When you transfer a domain name to your account, it will NOT be locked initially. Once it is available in your account you should lock it. This provides some significant protection against having the name hijacked.

Most registrars/providers provide a security or "non-published" option. Normally all of the contact information associated with the domain name is publicly available through the "whois" service. If the domain name is non-published, this information is not available. This is an individual choice. If the domain name is for a business, you may want the information to be available. If it is for personal use, you may want it to be unavailable. The ICANN rules say this information cannot be used for solications, etc. (in other words, for spam). Unfortunately, this is pretty meaningless and this information is routinely harvested by spammers. Most registrars/providers change a small additional annual fee for a non-published domain name.

There is a restriction that a domain can not be transferred to a different registrar/provider within 60 days of the last transfer or the initial registration of the domain name. This does not normally apply to transfers to a different account at the same registrar/provider.

Summary

To effectively own a domain name you MUST have an account with a registrar or provider that only the owner(s) has access to. Anyone who has access to this account can modify or "give away" the domain name.

 

All text & graphics Copyright 2012 Alan Bennington/BOXEDBRANDS and other copyright holders

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