How do I get my domain name back?
October 18, 2006 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Help me get back my domain name. It was stolen.

My company had a .com domain. Due to a clerical error, we failed to pay the renewal fee and it expired (it was billed to an expired credit card and the reminders wound up in the secretary's junk folder for some reason).

We immediately contacted our registrar, who is in Japan. They told us that there is a cooling off period or grace period of 30-45 days during which *nobody* can register this domain. Including us, the rightful owners. I couldn't believe it, so I also asked another Japanese registrar, who basically confirmed this. So here's my first question:

1) Is it normal that the previous owner of an expired domain cannot (re-)register it during the grace period or is this a Japanese thing? How does it work in *your* country?

Now the 45 days are over and during the last few days we tried to register it every day. Alas, we were too late. It turns out that now the registrar is a company called which is possibly a subsidiary of another company called snapnames. Anyhow, I called and the nice lady that I talked to explained to me that they are only the registrars and that our domain was registered by a company called . So here's my second question:

2) What's my best course of action to getting my domain back from

A little research suggests that is in the parasitic business of snapping up expired domain names and trying to extort money from their previous (rightful) owners. A post to a bulletin board also suggested that if there is not much traffic to the site, they might just let it lapse after a few days. It's hard to guess, but I don't think my site draws much traffic, probably less than 10 legitimate hits (i.e. without spiders). I mostly want it back for my email, i.e. there may be a couple of people (including clients) that may contact me through the domain in the future.

I wonder whether contacting the parasites might be a step in the wrong direction, because that will prove my interest in the domain, so that they'll hold on to it. But supposing that I contact them, how high is the extortion fee that I'm looking at?

Also, I prefer dispute resolutions without lawyers or hired goons, but just out of curiosity -- what's the legal angle to this? The domain name was essentially a part of our company name. Can I derive rights to the domain from that? What if I register a trademark on our company name in the US? Too late now? (Yeah, I know a lawyer is better prepared to answer these last questions, but I thought I'd query the hive mind first...)
posted by sour cream to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
All domain names are governed by a set of rules established by an entity called ICANN. It's not affiliated with any particular country or government; it's like an international overseer of all things internet. They have a formal dispute resolution process for disputes over domain names. See their public information site at InterNIC. I think the FAQ section will address your questions as to why there was a waiting period and how you can pursue a formal complaint.
posted by ubu at 3:05 PM on October 18, 2006

When the same thing happened to me, the extortion fee was $500. I laughed, and laughed, and walked away. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
posted by vorfeed at 3:12 PM on October 18, 2006

I went through this with a non-profit last month. We decided to get the dot com and forgot about our dot org. It had been registered through Yahoo, and when they didn't renew it reverted to a registrar in Australia. If the dot org is available through normal channels after the cooling off period (which they said is 60 days) I may get it back at the usual $10 price. If not, no big deal.
posted by COD at 3:23 PM on October 18, 2006

You indicate that the domain name is essentially the name of your company. Depending on the facts, it is possible that your company has acquired common law trademark rights in its name. Although having a federal trademark registration is preferable, UDRP proceedings are often based on common law rights. These situations are highly fact specific. I am an intellectual property lawyer. This is not legal advice, nor do I represent you or your company.
posted by anathema at 3:30 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

how high is the extortion fee that I'm looking at?

There's absolutely no way to tell without contacting the current owner. Sometimes it's $50. Sometimes it's $800. I've seen companies demand five figures. The worst part is, you probably won't be able to bargain because you won't be able to contact anyone empowered to change the price.

I wonder whether contacting the parasites might be a step in the wrong direction, because that will prove my interest in the domain, so that they'll hold on to it.

You'd think so; but in my experience, these companies don't pay that much attention to what they're doing. In other words, they'll probably keep renewing the domain even if you don't show any interest, simply because it's in their inventory and it's easier for them to renew everything than to pick and choose which will be profitable. I've heard stories about domains being dropped within 10 days or 2 weeks, like you say — but in my experience, once they've got it, they won't let it go unless you pay.

what's the legal angle to this?

The legal angle is, Yes, you might have a case — obviously you'd have to consult a lawyer — but without knowing the nature of your company or its domain, I'll put 10 to 1 that any legal battle would prove more expensive than just buying it back.

And by the way, you won't help your case by insisting that your domain was "stolen." It wasn't. Yeah, some worthless vulture snapped it up for a less than honorable purpose, but only because you let it lapse. It's opportunistic, but you weren't "victimized." Own the mistake.
posted by cribcage at 4:03 PM on October 18, 2006

I had a domain get "snapped" by one of GoDaddy's affiliates, WildWestDomains. (Although they claim publicly that they don't do that)

What I did is wait quietly four days. I did NOT visit the domain, I did NOT contact them. That shows interest. Just wait four days, until the end of the free return period. Sure enough, they dropped it and I got it at normal prices.

I think Snapnames usually doesn't just get domain names unless they have a buyer already, so that might not work. This technique is more for the resellers, parasites as you call them.
posted by Invoke at 4:14 PM on October 18, 2006

3 years ago, this happened to a friend of mine, in the US (it's not a Japanese only thing). 7inchtaint dot net was a gaming community website, with no stellar traffic by any means (maybe 20-50 unique hits a day). He let it lapse, and after the cool off period, someone snatched it up immediately. Not to be extorted, I recommended he shrug it off and just buy the .com domain and move on, which is what happened. 3 years later, they want no less than $500 for the .net domain.

Now seriously, who would even hang onto that obscure of a domain for 3 years, much less think that anyone would pay $500 for it? These companies are vermin.
posted by tdischino at 4:22 PM on October 18, 2006

tdischino... it could be the domain snappers are just big Mr. Show fans.
posted by YoungAmerican at 4:55 PM on October 18, 2006

Is it normal that the previous owner of an expired domain cannot (re-)register it during the grace period or is this a Japanese thing?

No, I don't think that's normal. The whole reason the 45 day thing was created because in days of old, I understand, there were too many fuckups on the part of the registrar and they were releasing the names on the proper day when they shouldn't have. The point of that period is to ensure the proper owner has ample time to renew. I think your company screwed you--I mean, really, what would be the reason of them not taking your renewal money? They knew they could get more for it from someone else is the only logical reason.

I've had domains in the grey period and renewed them online, thru my registrar, without issue. I'm in Canada. My registrar is in the USA. I gotta wonder why on earth you'd register a .com (as opposed to a .jp) in Japan.
posted by dobbs at 8:24 PM on October 18, 2006

dobbs: because of Japanese law, apparantly. I work for a pretty large computer company and we had some strange legal issues with our .jp address.
posted by drstein at 9:49 PM on October 18, 2006

Seconding dobbs, the time during which the domain is untouchable is referred to as 'redemption period.' This shows up if you do a search of the registry through the registry maintainer (Verisign for com/net, PIR for .org, etc).

The domain can be pulled back from redemption by paying a specific amount (usually ~$400 or so) to the registry, with your (former) registrar getting some in addition to register the domain for a year.

It's overwhelmingly important that one keep all their contact details up to date within both WHOIS as well as their registrar's accounting system to make sure you're not missing renewal and status notices.

If possible, add someone totally unrelated to the computer side of the business (an accounting office, say) so that there's no single point of failure.
posted by owenkun at 4:51 AM on October 19, 2006

« Older Is there a way to back up the songs on my iPod to...   |   Save deleted files? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.