If someone else registered the towns website domain, then there’s a good chance that they registered themselves as the owner, not the town.
Unless you spent some time researching domain name registrations, you wouldn’t know that all website domains (ie www.yourdomain.com) need to be registered with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). And that whoever the person ICANN has listed in the Registered Contact is akin to being the owner of the website.
If someone else registered the domain for you, then chances are pretty good that they registered themselves as the owner, not you. Due to this I recommend that every small municipality check the ownership status of their town’s website. You might be surprised to learn that your town is NOT listed as the owner.
Let me explain how you can check Luckily, ICANN makes it very easy to lookup whois the registrant contact. All you need to do is go to their ICANN WHOIS website and type in your towns website address (see example below)
After that look at the Registrant Contact and the Admin contact. Both of these should have a Town Official as the contact along with the correct phone number, physical address and email address.
Why having the website domain listed with a town official is important.
Registering the website domain name is the digital equivalent to titling the plow truck in your name. I’m sure we’d all agree that putting your mechanics name on the truck title isn’t an option. And so naming your web designer as the owner to the town’s website shouldn’t be either.
Chances are that nothing bad is going to happen, but why risk it? Because if something bad does happen, what would you do? How would you fix the issue without having ownership of the website. Especially since trying get names changed on a title without being the registered owner is very difficult.
Registering a website is the digital equivalent to having your name on the title to the towns plow truck
What you should do if the town is not listed
In most cases you hired someone who could understand the tech world to create the website for you. Maybe it was a friend, a coworker, or a professional designer. That person most likely registered the website in their own name because it saved them some time. They didn’t have to go back and change the contact info. Or maybe they receive bulk-discount pricing from their own domain service provider and had no intention of putting you as the contact. Or maybe they just didn’t know. The list of reasons why can be lengthy.
But regardless of the reason, the contact information needs to be updated to reflect your town. If you aren’t showing as the contact, then reach-out to whoever is. Once you bring this to their attention then, it should be no big deal. Within 5 minutes they can update the ICANN contact info to show your township and town official as the new registrant contact. Also, if you don’t already have them, ask for the access codes to both the Domain and Hosting provider.
Naming your mechanic as the titled owner of the towns plow truck is not an option. Naming your web designer as the website owner shouldn’t be either
What could possibly happen?
• The designer passed away. Clients can lose a domain because sadly the web designer passes away. In one case, the person was still building the website which he registered in his name. He also used a domain privacy service to hide his identity. Several attempts were made to reach-out to the grieving family and the domains registrar. But at the end of the day, the client had no choice but start all over with a new domain.
• The website is held hostage. The trusted person you hired becomes unscrupulous. He begins charging you unreasonably high fees for every little change request. You notify him of your intent to switch to a different provider. He counters back by holding your website hostage. He says he owns the website because he built it and offers to sell it to you for $5,000 or he’ll shut it down. Technically if the domain is in his name he can get away with it. You would have to pay the ransom, start all over, or take your chances with the formal dispute process. (it does happen).
• The designer disappears. When the person you relied on for so long quietly disappears or goes out of business then the annual registration fees stop getting paid. Since the domain is registered to someone else, none of the town officials ever get a reminder notice from the accredited registrar. As a result, the website stops working at its expiration. When the problem is finally discovered you’ll reach out to the designer with emails and phone calls. Unfortunately, all you’ll get back is the proverbial sound of crickets.
The accredited registrar doesn’t know that the town officials even exist. They only know what is in their database which is the current registrant contact.
The name change predicament
Imagine going to the Department of Motor Vehicles and asking to transfer a title into your name without proof of ownership. Your contract (if you have one) or email receipts do not prove ownership unless it explicitly states registrant contact.
You might plead your case with something like “Look at the website domain name, it’s the same name as my township”. You might say that you’ve had the website for 10 years now, that you got hundreds of hours in documents, posts, pages, and pictures stored there. Or what about all those documents with the town officials name on them, aren’t those proof enough?
Sadly none those prove ownership. Unless you have the access codes, the current registrant will have to transfer ownership. If the current owner won’t play nice then you can file a complaint with ICANN using the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.
All the pages, posts, pictures, and even the website domain name itself does not prove ownership.
How to check who is listed for your website
Every website is registered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. ICANN is the organization responsible for maintaining and coordinating the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the Domain Name System (DNS). The person or organization listed as the Registrant or Admin in the ICANN database owns the right to use that domain name.
ICANN allows you to list the following contacts:
- Registrant – The name of the person overall responsible for the website. A.k.a. – the owner (Village President or Town Chairman)
- Admin – The name of the person appointed to make changes to the ICANN listing on behalf of the owner (Clerk)
- Tech – The name of the person or organization appointed to technical changes regarding the domain servers within the Domain Name System. (Web Designer)
Visit the ICANN website and type in your website address. Make sure an official is listed as both the Registrant and Admin Contact. Also make sure the email listed belongs to you not your web designer.
Bottom Line – Protect Your Towns Resources
The aim of all locally elected town officials is to be responsible stewards of the town resources. The town website is one of those resources just as the towns plow truck is. There is no logical reason why the plow truck or the website should be registered to someone else. It really is an unnecessary risk.
Especially since the solution is so simple and within just a few minutes your web designer (or current registrant) can name a board member as the new registrant. Something that should have been done from the onset.
- View the contact info at the WHO IS ICANN website
- Make sure the towns name is listed as the organization
- Make sure the towns email is correctly listed
- Make sure a towns official is named as the registrant and admin
You’re welcome to reach out to me too if you need help. I’ll be happy to review your situation and offer some guidance.
|Jack Ikhtiari Sr
Kamduke Web Designs
Helping Small Communities, One Website at a Time