Monday, 13 August 2007

Warning over web addresses

Shropshire companies planning a new website must protect themselves and their web address or they could face serious business problems.

Stuart Haynes, of the Commercial Team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many firms with existing websites may well find they don’t actually own their own domain name.

“Having a good web presence is a key element in business, but putting together a website is not as easy as it sounds, so most people employ specialists to design it and sort out the domain name.

“But this can be a dangerous move, and if you’re planning to commission a new site, it’s vital you protect yourself from the very start of the process.”

Stuart said the most important point was to make sure your company “owns” the domain name. “This doesn’t mean you have to register it yourself, your web developer or web host can still do this for you, but you just have to know how the process works."

There are three contacts named when a domain is registered: the Registrant (legal owner of the site and the registered address); the Administrative Contact (person who administers the site); and the Technical Contact (person who deals with any technical problems with the domain).

“To ensure you remain in control, you need to be named as the Registrant and the Administrative Contact – only the position of Technical Contact should be left to the web host or developer, otherwise they will still be able to change the record,” said Stuart.

And he said leaving ownership to the web company could prove disastrous for your business.

“If you have a disagreement with your web company, they could take your site down, causing untold damage to your business not only through lost trade while the site is down, but also because it would have to be re-built with a different name.

“The same issue could arise if you change the agency you are using, because you could well find the name remains the property of the previous design firm.”

Stuart said for companies who were unsure whether they owned their own domain name, it was important to seek professional advice and take action as soon as possible.

“If you don’t own or administer the website, you can ask the web designer to transfer ownership to you, but if they refuse, there are steps you can take to get the records changed.

“The best approach is to specify in the initial contract that you will be the Registrant and Administrative Contact for the new domain name, as that way you’ll be in control from the very outset.”