(sub) domain name lease.
November 16, 2006 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Complicated: How should I structure a lease for a domain name? (actually a sub-domain)

I have a domain that I have 'owned' since April of 1993. A few people over the years have approached me to buy it off me.. but I don't want to give it up for many reasons. Here is what I am trying to do:

1. Keep the domain in my name.
2. 'lease' out the use of 'www.domain.com' for 5 or 10 years
3. be able to structure it so the customer will be assured that I can't screw them over after they pay me.. like get a good legal document for this purpose and / or use a service that acts as a fair 3rd party agent.

Has anyone done anything like this?

posted by cowmix to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I did it once. The idea was that they would use the domain for their ISP (including customer e-mail addresses) and the "pay" for me would be that I would build the portal (that is, the web site at www.thedomainname) that would be the customer's default start page (getting the advertising and affiliate revenue). The ISP ended up going under in a few months so it didn't really come to much. It was also an arrangement with a friend and we didn't write anything down. (Not as a formal contract, at least. There were alot of e-mails hashing out the details)

Anyway, I would avoid using the word "lease" (or any other property-related words). The agreement should just say that they will be able to use the domain for x, y, and z and you will retain control of a, b, and c.

As for assuring the customer that they won't be screwed over, in a contract (just like anywhere else) you can't "force" anybody to do anything, you can just provide incentives for desired behaviour and disincentives for undesirable behaviour. The penalty for you if you screw the customer should be such that (a) the customer is reasonably sure that you will do what you can to avoid the penalty and (b) their loss will be compensated for by that penalty. Off the top of my head, I'd suggest maybe that if you willfully take control of the aspects domain that they should be controlling, you forfeit the registration of the domain to them.
posted by winston at 5:55 PM on November 16, 2006

Googleing "'domain escrow' lease" turns up several hits for both services and contracts (e.g. 1, 2, 3) . But there's no way to be confident that any of them will still be in business 5-10 years from now, still enforcing your rights under the lease and especially ensuring that the domain is returned to your control at the end of the term.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:01 PM on November 16, 2006

I would keep ultimate control of the domain. For example, I'm not sure if it's the same with others, but with the registrar I use (OpenSRS), the lost-password process sends an e-mail to the admin contact for the domain. With that password you can take control of anything else (change any of the contacts, change the name servers). So if you were giving them any control of the domain registration, I would keep myself as the registrant and admin contact and give them access to change the nameservers and perhaps be the technical contact.

Another thought: A number of the dynamic DNS services (e.g. cjb.net ? I think) offer subdomains to users (e.g. yourname.cjb.net). Maybe looking at their user agreements will give you some ideas about what to include in your contract.
posted by winston at 6:12 PM on November 16, 2006

Are you asking about the legal or technical side? Legal - draw up a contract and have both parties sign it. Technical - just delegate the subdomain to their nameserver with a SOA record on your nameserver. They will have complete control of the subdomain (and any sub-domains of that subdomain) to do with as they please. DNS was designed as a heirarchy for this very purpose.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2006

Response by poster: I was wondering more on the legal side.
posted by cowmix at 7:52 PM on November 16, 2006

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