Someone in our community had a community website created years ago but the software is not supported well any more. We created another website with another host but the domain is still at the old host and expires sometime in 2019. Who owns the domain name? We would hate to lose it. None of our community names are on the Registrant or Admin Contact from WHOIS, it's just the old website firm's. We paid the final bill including a domain transfer fee and the website access is suspended. No response from the firm to our request to unlock the domain. They use godaddy as Registrar. ICANN.org requires proof that we are the transfer contact. Any suggestions?
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The contact designated as the "Registrant" is the legal owner of the domain. That is why it is so important that you have your name (not developers or hosting -- that's what the technical contacts are for) as the Registrant for your domains. Is any of your community info on the Whois record for your domain? That would be helpful...
You are going to have to be aggressive in trying to get them to do the right thing. I would call, stop by, send registered letters, threaten to report them to the BBB. I'm wondering if they went out of business because there is no reason for them to hold your domain, that is unless it has some resale value.
One option may be to try filing a Domain Name Dispute. You will be required to prove you paid the web firm for the domain (contract, cancelled check, credit card record, emails discussing the issue, etc.).
You could try giving GoDaddy a call, explain the situation and see if they have suggestions on how you can authenticate yourself as the owner. The usually requires the same paperwork with a matching company/org name that only an owner would have.
If none of the above is an option, and if the old web firm is unwilling to cooperate and change the Registrant info to you, you are going to have to rely on the UDPR (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) to guide you in regaining control of your domain. Which would include having to probably hire a professional to help you out with that.
Keep us posted on what happens as I'm sure there are others who will find themselves in that very situation.
Thank you for a very informative reply. I made a complaint to ICANN.org and will post the result. No one in our community is on the Whois record. Probably because of that, per a GoDaddy support person, GoDaddy does not want to get involved.
Unless an organization is large enough to have a dedicated IT staff, most people can’t or are not able to figure out things like nameservers, contactprivacy.com, etc.
If we are successful in getting our domain, I will split firms between a host and domain firm. I agree that someone in our community should be the Transfer Contact. Should it be a name or the name of the community organization? What about the other two contacts?
Over the years I've seen way too many small businesses and individuals end up in this situation. Folks who are in the business of helping get you online should know better than to put their name as the Registrant/owner. So anyone reading this know that if you are not the Registrant on your domain record, get to work getting your name on there pronto! There is NO reason for your web dev or tech company to be the Registrant/owner of your domain!
The person noted as the Registrant should be the person from the group taking responsibility for the ongoing renewal and ownership of the domain. However, moving forward, on the domain record have an email address using your domain that is not individual specific. Such as firstname.lastname@example.org versus email@example.com. This way, if johndoe leaves you don't have to worry about accessing their email or tracking them down to assist with access.
Being confirmations and owner authentication are primarily email based this will solve the issue from happening in the future. You'll always have access via that email address regardless of the actual Registrant name. If that person leaves you can login, and make that change.
You can have your groups name on all contacts being you are so small. If you find someone you trust and want to have them as the technical contact that's fine but not really necessary for anything that has to do with your site or domain.
ICANN just replied to my complaint and said there is nothing they can do as no one from our community is listed as the Administrative Contact. So much for ICANN!
If one of our names were listed, we wouldn't need ICANN at all. They suggested we either make an agreement with the Host (but that firm does not reply), let the domain expire (in 2019) or go UDRP or URS, the last two which will take a lot of effort.
The previous website Host has their domain at GoDaddy but GoDaddy was no help per a phone call pretty much for the same reason - the Host's name is the Administrative Contact. They have no record of our community.
It looks like our community will lose our ORG domain. This is unfortunate as several real estate firms have domains almost identical to our name with no relation.
I know how frustrating this must be for you.... Who is down as the Registrant? Track them down! Can anyone physically stop by the other developer's location? Did you try sending a registered letter to the contact info/name on the record? There are ways online to track folks down by name and then be able to apply pressure to do the right thing...
Is this a formal community that you can provide documentation for the community that matches the .org? If you can prove you are part of the organization, by providing official paperwork IOW paperwork only someone involved in the .org would have, you should be able to authenticate yourself with GoDaddy to help you out.
=> Proof of business/tradename registration in your state, city, etc.
=> Receipts proving that you paid for the web design and paid for the domain name.
=> Any contracts supporting that the domain name is for you.
=> Any correspondence that might show that the designer was registering the domain on your behalf and that you paid for it.
The thing is without this level of documentation anyone could "claim" ownership of any domain name. Imagine if that was enough for someone to get domain ownership changed? So while it is a terrible situation you are in, these requirements are in place for a reason.
If your domain is specific to your .org and not anything of value to anyone else, you should be able to reacquire it when it becomes available. You could also backorder the domain, which includes daily monitoring.