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Important Information on Recent Court Rulings Regarding Domain Names

by Cissy Hartley; printed by permission

A number of authors have recently found themselves the victims of "cybersquatters." (A squatter is a company or individual who buys up domain names in order to resell them later at an inflated price). As a result, they are unable to establish a website using their own domain unless they're willing to pay an exorbitant price to the person who holds the name. However, a couple of recent court rulings have come down squarely in favor of those an individual having a RIGHT to their own domain name. Julia Roberts has just won the dispute over her domain name, and last week British author Jeanette Winterson prevailed in a case against Mark Hogarth of writerdomains.com and won back her name.

The Winterson/Hogarth case is of particular interest to authors. Hogarth currently owns the domains of over 100 high-profile writers, including Susan Elizabeth Phillips. If your domain name has been taken, particularly if Hogarth has taken it, now is the perfect time to try to get it back. Simply citing the two recent rulings might be enough to persuade some squatters to come to terms.

How do you find out if your domain is gone?

  1. You can use the "WhoIs" search function at Network Solutions to find the status of your domain name. Just go to http://www.networksolutions.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois and type in yourdomain.com in the search box. You'll find out immediately if your name is available or if it has been taken.

  2. If your domain has been taken, the above WhoIs search will give you detailed information on who owns your domain name and how to contact them. You'll see listings for the registrant, the technical contact and the administrative contact for each domain. The "registrant" is the actual owner of your domain. You'll find snail mail, phone, and email contact information listed under the registrant's name.

  3. If your domain name has not yet been taken, RESERVE IT IMMEDIATELY. It currently costs $35 per year to reserve your domain name. All domain names must "reside" somewhere, so if you don't plan to use the domain right away, you'll need to park it at an ISP. Many sites (including Writerspace) will park the domain free of charge until you're ready to use it. You might first check with your ISP to see if they offer free domain parking; many do. If not, feel free to use Writerspace's domain reservation service at http://www.writerspace.com/reserve.html to park your domain.

An important follow-up point: Just as you can look up detailed contact information for any domain owner, so is your own domain ownership a matter of public record. Unless you want your home address and phone number to be searchable by anyone with access to the web, you should never use your personal information when registering a domain. It's much better to use a more generic address and phone, such as your webmaster or your agent. If you have already registered your domain using personal contact information and would like to change it, you can do so at http://www.networksolutions.com/makechanges/

Cissy Hartley, Writerspace, cissy@writerspace.com


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