Domain stealing with a twist
October 6, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine has a small business breeding and training horses. They asked an employee to help them create a website and she did. They later fired the employee, but the employee holds the registration to their domain in their own name. Is there any way to wrestle it away without going to court?

Somehow as the most technical friend they have, I'm the designated expert. However, I don't know much about it. They have an employment attorney to pursue other aspects of the failed employment relationship, but that attorney is not particularly tech savvy.

The domain is in the exact name of their Florida corporation. It hosted a web site describing their horse business until the employee was fired, when the employee replaced it with a page looking to sell the employee's personal horse. After a nasty letter from the farm's lawyer, the employee replaced it with an ugly "under construction" page. I'm given to understand that a peaceful resolution is out of the question at this time.

The domain is hosted by Yahoo domains, who are listed as the admin and tech contacts on whois. The actual registrar is "MELBOURNE IT, LTD. D/B/A INTERNET NAMES WORLDWIDE" if that matters.

Is the only process for overturning a registration the UDRP appeal? I think he has a problem with that approach because the domain is a name of a corporation, but not a registered trademark. Is there any value in appealing directly to the registrar?
posted by Lame_username to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Who paid for the domain registration and site hosting? Was it a company check/credit card or from the employee's personal funds?

If it was paid for with company funds, you should be able to change the name on the registration easily by faxing credentials to the company that the domain was registered with. And the same goes for changing the hosting information, including resetting the password.

I had to do this at the company I work for—although there was absolutely no malice or weirdness involved, just a domain that was registered by a helpful volunteer—and it just required a little paperwork and a little time.
posted by bcwinters at 7:57 AM on October 6, 2008

Is there any value in appealing directly to the registrar?

Yes. I was only tangentially involved, but this is how some people I know got control of a domain that had been taken in a fairly similar fashion. Here, the fact that you seem to own a licensed corporation with that name may help greatly; if you can pull up some archives from the Wayback Machine or something showing that it used to be about your business, it would be even better.
posted by fogster at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2008

This seems to be a pretty clear case of misappropriation of assets. The employee was asked to obtain an asset for the employer, in the course of that employee's employment, and using company assets. The employee failed to convey the asset. This is a home-run set of facts for a potential lawsuit. But the posters above point out that there are plenty of alternative, administrative remedies available, so those should be pursued first.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2008

"This seems to be a pretty clear case of misappropriation of assets."

Did you reimburse the employee for the domain?
posted by fogster at 8:17 AM on October 6, 2008

Response by poster: Reviewing the posts thus far, the archives aren't kept by the Wayback Machine, but Google has all of the old pages in their cache. I've saved them off.

It appears that the employee paid for the domain registration themselves by credit card and was later reimbursed.

I'll suggest to my friend that they contact the registrar with the facts and see if they will give them some relief. Thanks to all who answered.
posted by Lame_username at 11:04 AM on October 6, 2008

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