Who Owns You

As an independent business owner, we like to think that we are free to run things the way we want to. We presume that nobody owns us. This may not be the case, however, for our website.

We all know that we don’t have exclusive rights to our own name – someone else could have been given the same name by their parents. This may cause a bit of confusion if they live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school.

However, in the world of business it is more important to have the exclusive right to use our own business name and not have it encroached upon by someone else. Governments don’t allow the same name to be registered as a business name by two different organizations.

In the world of the internet (also called the World Wide Web) uniqueness of website names is maintained by an international (non-governmental) organization that coordinates the registration of all website names (also called domain names). When you pay a fee for registering your domain name you are is essence paying for the exclusive right to use that particular name and no one else anywhere in the world can infringe on that right. The domain name of your website is a primary asset of your business. It is the unique name by which you are known to all the search engines.

Unfortunately however, even though you have paid to have a domain name registered, you may not have been given the authority to manage or control where it sends people to find you website. This only becomes important when you want to change website vendors. When you want to exercise your freedom to have your website improved by a different vendor or even simply moved to a different website hosting company, you may encounter a surprise.

It may turn out that the original vendor named themselves as the “administrative contact” even though you are listed as the official owner of the domain name. This means that you need their permission to change where the domain name points to. Usually this is allowed as a courtesy by the administrative contact. However, I’ve recently seen a case where they charged a fee to allow the domain name owner to have his domain pointed to his new website.

It’s an even nastier surprise when you discover that the original vendor didn’t even bother to list you as the owner but simply registered your domain name as belonging to them. In either case, you have been paying for a registration that you didn’t really own in the true sense of being able to control or change it at your own discretion.

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