Who actually owns your domain name?

Greg Southcombe

April 13, 2023


Who owns your domain name

Who actually owns your domain name?

Updated on May 20, 2023 by Greg Southcombe

I’m often surprised to find that the owner of a company’s domain name is not who it should be. Worse still, the company is also often unaware of this. Let’s see who actually owns your domain name.

Your domain name is your online identity, it appears as a web address such as www.digimark.co.nz. Your domain name is an important asset and it should be owned by you.

A common example I come across is when a business asks its digital marketing agency or web developer to register the domain name for them. That agency does so but makes itself the owner. This is usually an innocent or inadvertent error on the agency’s part but it could be a big problem down the track.

Here are three reasons why you should ensure YOU are the owner of your domain:

  • It’s a valuable asset: If you plan to sell your business the buyer will want to ensure they’re buying the domain name. It’s potentially the worst possible time to discover that you’re not actually the owner!
  • Protection from fraudulent activities: By determining you are the owner of your domain, you can avoid falling prey to deceptive practices, such as counterfeit domain names.
  • Control of your online persona: Owning your domain name enables you to take measures to safeguard your brand and reputation online.

Here’s the process for identifying who actually owns your domain name.

The legal owner of a domain name is called the Registrant. You can check who owns your domain name or any NZ domain name for that matter by doing a WHOIS lookup. The best place to do that for New Zealand domain names is on the Domain Name Commission of NZ website. For domain names for other countries (usually ending in .com of across the Tasman in .com.au), you can use ICANN’s lookup tool.

There are four ‘contacts’ registered for a domain name:

  • The Registrar – this is the service provider who handled the domain’s registration. We use 1stDomains and manage all our clients’ domain names through them.
  • The Registrant – this is the legal owner of the domain name. This is the one that should be YOU!
  • The Admin contact – this is the person or agency responsible for administering the domain. This usually means the person or agency that manages the renewal of the domain and any changes to the registrant. If we look after your domain name then we make Digimark the Admin contact.
  • The Technical contact – this is usually the person or agency responsible for managing the technical (geeky) side of the domain. This includes managing the DNS (domain name settings) so it points to your website and email system. If we look after your domain name then we make Digimark the Technical contact.

So what next?

If you’re the Registrant then you’re the owner. Well done. Now make sure all the contact details are correct as that’s how the Registrar will know who to get in touch with when it’s time to renew your domain name.

If you’re not the Registrant then you’re not the owner of that domain name. There’s a process to fix that but you’ll need to get the current Registrant’s consent. This is probably the point where you should contact us and we can help sort things out for you.

A few domain name tips and tricks

  • Domain names are renewed annually. If it’s your company name and you plan to be in business for longer than a year then register your domain for multiple years. Domain names are cheap ($27.50+gst per annum) and grabbing yours for 3, 5, or even the maximum of 9 years means you can (almost) forget about it.
  • You can choose ‘stealth mode’. Your domain’s contact details can be kept private so people doing a WHOIS can’t see it’s you. Maybe you’re a start-up not quite ready to come out of the closet.
  • Consider registering similar versions of your name, if they’re available. There might be common misspellings of your name or people might often use a plural. It can be a good idea to register these simply as protection to ensure someone else can’t grab them and benefit from your momentum. If you own these alternatives you can also redirect them all to your chosen website.