As I have pointed out, Domain names are the real estate of the 21st century. Following is a short overview of some of the more important things to think about as you consider Domain name ownership and a the new term, CyberSquatting.

Most Domain owners think that Domain name Registrars are licensed by some governmental agency having oversight responsibilities. That is certainly not accurate. Due diligence of ICANN and the various registries in approving registrars is virtually nonexistent. All it takes to become a registrar is the $10,000 fee. Please never take any comfort that seeing your name on a WhoIs listing ensures that your Domain names is safely yours. Registrars, the keepers of your Domain name, just like any other small business, fail.

Recently some registrars have gone out of business giving no notice to the Domain name owners, resulting in cancellation and loss of the enrolled names. Others have encountered security problems in which either the data queries or data flows were intercepted by unscrupulous third parties during availability inquiries. Result. . . . .  Loss.

In many cases with your Domain names, you may never really know who you are dealing with and are therefore at added risk. With Domain names, there are no published due-diligence or established minimum standards. There are no meaningful standards of performance that would serve as an alert system for problems with your registrar. There is no one overseeing registrar performance.

Your Domain name is always at risk. You may not even know of the tragedy until it is too late. A Domain name may have changed ownership without the rightful owner knowing until it is too late. Resourceful Domain name thieves change the ownership information but leave the DNS pointing to the real owner’s site until the time is right to pull the plug and steal and re-transfer the name. Don’t assume there is no problem simply because you still have traffic to your site. There have been Domain names lost where databases were accessed legally and then filtered for incorrect e-mail addresses.

Without laws or enforceable rules, a potentially serious problem exists. Following are some basic safeguards that you can put into place to keep from loosing your Domain name:

- Make sure that you place your Domain names with a reputable and reliable registrar.
- Make certain that your e-mail address is correct in your WhoIs registration records.
- Regularly check the Whois information to confirm that you are still accurately listed as the owner and that _all_ of the contact information is correct.

What should you do if you lose your Domain name? It is not realistic to expect that the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) arbitration will help. This 'policy' is not designed to deal with stolen Domain names. If the Domain name thief infringes on your registered or common law Trademark, a UDRP arbitration might help. Unfortunately these thieves are most often too smart to do that. The most common scenario is their sitting on your Domain name until you buy it back! The greatest number of these thieves are overseas con men and, for all practical purposes, untouchable by economically feasible, applicable laws.

If your Domain name is valuable to you, or potentially to others, watch it properly.

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Last updated 10/15/2010    dSkinner Online