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WATCH OUT! Does your web designer own YOUR Dot com name?

WATCH OUT!  Does your web designer own YOUR Dot com name?

I'm posting this because time and again I see unsuspecting people giving their web design money to unscrupulous designers who register a name for the customer – IN THE DESIGNERS NAME.

The tough thing is that you may invest large amounts of money, time and marketing into your site.   Once you become dependent on this website and the name becomes valuable due to search engine position, the web designer can charge you whatever they want.

Just because they seem nice when you are paying them – doesn't mean that they won't take advantage of you when you are in a dependent position.   In fact this is a great test of ethics on the part of a web designer.   See if they offer to register the name on your behalf.   To the unsuspecting it seems like you are getting great customer service.    However an honest developer will help you do it for your self.

These tactics on the part of web service providers may violate a host of laws – however most people just don't want the headaches of going to court and hiring lawyers.   You are often faced with either paying exorbitant fees, legal time and expense, or simply letting go of something that should belong to you.

All of this grief can be avoided if you register the domain name in YOUR name with your own registrar and simply POINT the DNS records at the server where your website will be hosted.

These are also known as Name Servers.

An example would look like this.

It just takes five minutes to insert this wherever you registered your domain.

You have to be sure that the administrative email listed in the Whois record lists an email address that YOU control.  A good idea is to create a Gmail account just for domain registration purposes.

If anyone tries to initiate a transfer of the domain name – the authorization will be emailed to that address.

Have Your Own Agreement

You may want to require that the designer sign what is called a "Work for Hire" agreement.  This stipulates that they are simply working for a fee and that all content is to be rightfully owned by the "Hirer", including all copyrights.  Be sure your agreement mentions "written content, graphical content, audio & video media content and Search Engine Optimization assets.

This standard type of agreement is also used, for example: in the music industry when composers are retained to write musical material.  The original composer forfeits the right to even receive credit for writing the work: the writing credit may be attributed to whomever the employer elects.

Be sure that your web developer doesn't then go ahead and try to get you to sign another agreement giving them contradictory rights.

Without some type of explicit protection: your web developer might at anytime claim ownership of your website, its words etc.   The language of your agreement must also cover future modifications to the work and entitle you to move your website in its entirety to another hosting situation or designer of your choice at any time that you elect.

You can even go so far as to specify the jurisdiction any proceedings must be decided in and who will be liable for legal fees in the event of a dispute.

It could also be useful to specify the limits of your mutual liability in the event of termination of your agreement.

I have seen web developers say that their subsequent search engine work to bring the website up in the ranks entitles them to financial consideration beyond the scope of their original work.

You may wish to retain an intellectual property attorney to be sure you are protected.

Other Domain Name Scams

Fake Renewal Letters

Let's say you registered a name about a year ago with a legitimate registrar.  Months later you had almost forgotten about it – but something tells you that your renewal fees are coming due.   Then one day you get an invoice in the mail.   Its a little more than you originally paid – but – you like your website so you just pay it.

Well – this company that sent you the invoice is not actually the one you originally registered with.   They are just trying to pluck customers.   If you send in the payment – they transfer the name to their registrar and keep billing you.   They make it really confusing if you try to move your domain back to your original registrar.


Registrars that Auction Names

Once I used the big "G" domain name registrar – thinking I would save a couple of bucks.  However it seems that they may have a conflict of interest – because they are big into auctioning valuable dot com names. 

Once it came time for renewal – I received a couple of unobtrusive emails – which I neglected to act upon.   The day my registration expired – they attempted to sell my name back to me for about $80.

My other favorite registrar has never attempted that.    They notify me over and over, starting well before the expiration date and will keep a name off the market for up to a month after the registration expires to give you first dibs on renewal.

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