Is Your Website Really Yours? Are You Sure?

Posted By Jay Moldave On Thursday, January 8th, 2015

do_you_own_your_website

Scenarios We’ve Seen More Than Once…

Your website disappears – it’s kind of like discovering your car’s been stolen from the parking lot. Something you rely on is gone without warning.

Recently we’ve helped new clients straighten out website issues they didn’t know they had until there was a problem.

  • The account or the URL wasn’t registered to the appropriate person (e.g., business owner)
  • The hosting account was held by the previous web designer, who vanished.
  • The original designer disappeared with all of the original image files.

In the following situations, do you know what to do?

You try to move your site to another Internet Service Provider but you find you don’t hold the URL (i.e., aren’t the domain registrant).

There’s a good chance you were working with a web developer or designer who registered the URL for you, but listed himself or herself as domain registrant. Even though the business is yours, if you are not the registrant, you don’t hold the URL for your own web site. Ugh!

Usually, if the person who registered the site is ethical, you can resolve the issue fairly easily. The developer will go into the account, change the registrant name to yours, and with a few emails back and forth among you, the domain registrar, and the former domain registrant (the person who had been listed), the situation is resolved. Once you have the change made, it’s a good idea to change the password to the account so you have exclusive access. If you have a designer or developer working with you, you can give that person access as an admin contact or technical adviser contact. You maintain your status as domain name registrant of the account.

You can go HERE to see if you are the owner of your URL. If the Registrant Name and Organization isn’t you, contact your developer, designer, or whoever the listed registrant is and go through the change process.

If you have to go further and you can’t get the registrant to come clean, there are legal steps you can follow to settle a dispute. For more information on legal recourse and other aspects of domain-related issues, click HERE. This site also provides other information.

Someone calls you to say “I can’t get on your website. A message comes up that says domain expired.” What do you do?

This means that your domain, or URL or website address (www.yourbusiness.com), has expired. You probably paid for 3 or 5 or 10 years. Someone got an email from the entity with which you registered the domain, but it wasn’t you, or you received it and didn’t respond. This can be easy to fix, unless your domain is a highly desirable name that someone else might want. But be aware, there’s a time period that you have to wait before the domain becomes available again. Once it expires, if someone requested that domain in the past, they may receive a notification when it becomes available so they can purchase it if you don’t renew.

Remember- if you’re not the Domain Registrant (see above), you won’t be able to renew, so our suggestion is to make sure you own the domain immediately and if you don’t, fix it!

You want to update your website, so you need the original files that were used to create the site, but the developer or designer is MIA.

The question of who owns files is cloudy unless you clarify it from the start. It’s a good idea to specify right at the get-go who owns what. That way, you’ll have all of the original files if you want them, and your designer/developer is aware of what his or her obligations are.

It’s a good idea to back up your site to a cloud site such as Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive or Box. If you have a site developed in WordPress, there are plugins that do automated backups. For HTML sites, ask your developer to set up a backup system.

Even if there’s no backup, you can access the files that are on your server by logging in to the server via FTP.  Then you (or your developer) can download whatever is on the server.  If your site is database driven, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, be sure to back up the database also. BUT – and this goes back to the beginning of this post- you have to make sure that you have access to the account, know the passwords, and are the domain registrant!

There’s a good chance that the original artwork (hi-res image files, content documents, original animation files, etc.) won’t be on the server, but at least you’ll have the web images and HTML files for your site. If you don’t have the original files and you want the same images and your developer/designer has flown south and set up shop on a beach somewhere doing t-shirts instead of web sites, you’ll probably have to recreate image files, etc. if you want to have the same images on your site.

The good news is that all of the above hassles are avoidable: make sure your domain name(s) and hosting account are all in your name and you have access to them, and come to a solid agreement with your developer/designer as to who owns all of your source files. Everyone will sleep easier at night.

Keep in mind that we are not lawyers and this blog does not constitute legal advice.
The listing of a specific company in this blog is an example and does not constitute a recommendation.

 Some resources for you:

Domainbits.com
Bitlaw.com
icann.org

A Few Definitions

Domain Name: A unique name that identifies an internet resource such as a website. It is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control on the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules of the Domain Name System (DNS). Any name registered in the DNS is a domain name.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator, which means it is a uniform (same throughout the world) way to locate a resource (file or document) on the Internet. It indicates the location of a web page. So each page of your website can be found via its URL. A domain is the whole site, a URL is an individual page.

Domain registration: The process of registering a domain name, to use in URLs to identify particular Web pages. The person or business that registers domain name is called the domain name registrant.

Administrative contact: The individual who is authorized by the registrant to interact with the domain name registrar.

Billing contact: The individual who is authorized by the registrant to interact with the domain name registrar to answer questions about the domain name registration and registrant.

All registered trademarks, trademarks, and service marks are the property of their owners.

 

Problems with your web site or have a marketing question? Give us a call at (908) 233-9344 or contact us HERE.

One thought on “Is Your Website Really Yours? Are You Sure?”

  1. That was really well done and very thorough in terms of covering all the eventualities. Almost every time I was asked to “take over” work on someone’s site back in the day, it usually turned out they were not the registrant of record, had no backup of the site and did not even have the password to get FTP access to the files. So you should have written this ten years ago 😉

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