One of my new clients has domain names registered for their website under a third party who setup their phone systems in their office space.
Telecommunications service companies should not DARE offer registering or hosting to any of their clients. This is not their area of true business and it is a manipulative scheme.
After the launch of the new site, we kindly contacted the administrator listed from the third party agent. We asked them to transfer the name back to the site owner. The client has ceased doing business with them a while back. For whatever their reasons were they ended up making another bad decision to go to another competitor that sold them their pitch that they could offer the same services for less. The following competitor “CLAIMED” to have transfered the domain, hosting of the website but that was clearly exposed once we reviewed the Whois (http://www.whois.com) registry. But lets go back to talking about the original third party agent who registered the domain on their behalf.
When the client left the original telecommunications company they had an outstanding balance of $400.00. They were with them for 6+ years which they paid monthly about $900.00. The telecommunications company proceeded to tell me that we will agree to transfer the domain once we have the balance paid.
This is not acceptable. A company that acted as the client’s agent in obtaining the domain name has no legal right to request money for it outside of reasonable administration costs associated with a transfer. Their actions can be viewd by legal authorities as extortion in nature and subject to both civil penalties, criminal charges and criminal prosecution. This is absolutely something that a lawyer can break down for further action. Such as if you are prevented from updating your website that leads to hinder your business practice and obligations to your affiliations. Domain ownership and telecommunication financial obligations are absolutely without question are separate issues. Sequentially, they are two separate subject matters.
My recommendation is to give a quick phone call to your lawyer and have him draft a reply to the third party agent explaining to him that because he acted as his agent in obtaining the domain name that he had no legal right to request money for it outside of reasonable administration costs associated with the transfer. Money was paid in 2003 for a domain to be purchased on behalf of the client by the acting agent.
End it with that they have ____ hours to reply or that you would release your lawyer for further action.
Honestly, most of the third party “telecommunications companies” or even webmasters enjoy preying on clients that have little knowledge of the Internet, let alone Domain Name dispute policies and they are hoping that the client will cave to fork over to their demands to get their domain name back. This is why telecommunication companies have no business in your domain.
You absolutely can file a lawsuit to what ever monies from loss of sales $____ amount per day, plus punitive damages and court fees.
Advice to Middleman:
1) SHOW SOME PROFESSIONALISM: Don’t be a troublemaker, if the client leaves…be a professional and POLITELY turn over the domain name and any other digital assets to the new company. There is a reason for them leaving you. Think about it. For starters, you already took advantage of their lack of knowledge about the Internet with the domain registration by putting your name in as owner. Gee I wonder what other corners you are cutting.
2) DOMAIN RELEASE REQUEST: When a client requests to release their domain, simply transfer it back to the client at cost if anything at all. It’s important to point out that an agency’s money should come from development, design, advertising services or marketing expertise it provides, not from holding someone else’s brand name or property hostage. Hosting with you should be an option for the client but you should as a courtesy show them how to host it themselves.
3) DOMAIN REGISTRATION: If you register a domain on behalf of your customer, you should list the registrant as “[your company name] on behalf of [your customers name]“. This way it will be clear and you will not impact your client’s trademark rights.
4) DETAILS ARE IN THE CONTRACT. Who owns the content? Who owns the domain? Don’t forget no one OWNS any domain. They are all rented from registrars.
5) RESULTS OF UDRP ARBITRATION: The complainant must prove each of the following elements to win a UDRP arbitration:
a) The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;
b) The domain name owner does not have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
c) The domain name owner registered the domain name and is using it in “bad faith.”
You can read more about this subject matter here by going to the following link: http://www.keytlaw.com/urls/udrp.htm#What Must a Trademark
d) Fees paid by the party that files the complaint could start as low as $1250.00 unless the domain name owner requests a three member panel which could go up to $6,000, in which case the two parties are each responsible for one half of the fee. Attorney’s fees and costs are in addition to the complaint filing fees payable to the Provider. A court order may occur to transfer the domain name to the trademark owner and monetary damages for trademark infringement. The winner will get an award from an administrative panel instructing the registrar of the domain name to cancel, transfer or otherwise make changes to the domain name registration.
6) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INFRIGEMENT: Lawsuit can be engaged against the acting agent or company. Depending on the information provided on the domain registration listed will be used against you in a court of law. As well as any correspondence that indicates that you are willing to accept money that is not equal to the value of registration fees.
Advice to Business Owners:
1) IT’S YOUR BUSINESS: If a third party or webmaster won’t release the domain name…don’t back down. Get a lawyer, and in some cases call the authorities. It may take time and money, but there is a ton of legal precedant in the favor of the true site owner that will protect you. Make sure to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area.
2) OWN YOUR DOMAIN: Everything set up to do with your website should be in your name. Give the web company strict instructions it’s YOU who are giving THEM access to this data, and you are paying them to do this for you.
3) USE A REPUTABLE REGISTRAR: We use GoDaddy.com. Our experience with GoDaddy has proven to be a reliable, fully compliant, accredited registrar with excellent support and business practices. Additionally, they maintain a reasonable price structure for domain registration and a great tool for managing multiple domains.
4) DOMAIN NAME DISPUTE POLICIES: “ICANN is also responsible for accrediting the domain name registrars. ‘Accredit’ means to identify and set minimum standards for the performance of registration functions, to recognize persons or entities meeting those standards, and to enter into an accreditation agreement that sets forth the rules and procedures applicable to the provision of Registrar Services.”
They are the ones who make sure that companies are playing by the rules in terms of making the Internet continue to work as we expect. They also make sure that TCP/IP (the protocol of the Internet) addresses are not duplicated.
ICANN is the place where end users can present claims of misbehavior for those registrars who have official ICANN accreditation. Business news is fraught with accounts of misbehavior, such as requiring additional, undocumented funds for transfers or disallowing the modification of the domain record.
5) THE POWER OF PLASTIC: A credit card must be used with most domain registrars and it is important for you to use your own credit card so you know when and what charges are made in relation to domain registration. Once the process is completed, you will be sent an e-mail receipt and confirmation of the registration information, including your account name, so it’s important that your e-mail address is documented in the registrant section. These are important documents that should be retained as permanent records. Be sure to include the password you selected for your account as well.
No matter how busy you are, knowing that you own your domain is one of the most important steps to launching a successful site and maintaining control over what might be one of your most valuable assets. You should have a URL, a username, and a password that allows you to make any necessary changes to your own domain. You may leave this to your trusted consultant, but you should always know that you have access to this information…just in case. If you maintain control of this information, you will significantly reduce the possibility of being held hostage.
6) HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU OWN YOUR DOMAIN? To check ownership of your site, go to www.whois.com and enter your domain name. Even if the site is privately listed (so ownership information is hidden), the registrar of the site should be listed. Alternately, if you go to www.godaddy.com, type your domain name in the domain search, then click the “more info” button. This will keep you aware of your asset.
BE CLEAR. BE SEEN. BE YOU