Skip navigation
Skip navigation
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser.

Do you really know who owns your website? You paid for it surely it’s yours. Recent findings suggest you should check that fact carefully.

The results of an exercise conducted in the UK by Neutralize (**) an independent internet marketing agency for Business Link and UK Online for Business to help SME’s improve their internet usage, highlighted many obvious points about how companies could improve their websites, procedures and approach to the medium to generate a better return on investment.

However when the data was being examined a surprising problem appeared that no one had expected. For 36% of the companies examined, that company was not the legal registrant of what they thought was their own domain name.

Lucy Cokes a senior consultant at Neutralize (**) said she was “quite surprised…this definitely needs looking at on a larger scale to check how big the problem could be or what other unforeseen issues like this might exist”

What does this really mean?

When you register or any other domain name there are various sets of details that must be completed to identify who has responsibility for the management of that domain.

These are usually:

- Legal Registrant - The owner of the domain

- Billing Contact - Pays the registrar. Possibly you or whomever you registered the name through

- Technical Contact – Usually the company hosting the website or the web developer

Of these only the technical contact and legal registrant can actually affect changes to the details registered for your domain name. They are also the only people who can affect changes to the technical attributes of your domain name. For example where your domain name points, and the e-mail attributes you may have associated with the name; does it point to a live website? do you use the e-mail address

So what happens when you are not listed as either of these and the company that is either goes out of business or experiences other problems…you’re caught in a legal nightmare or at minimum lot of hassle to reclaim your property.

DomainAudit, a company managing large numbers of domain names for blue chip clients says “It is not only small to medium sized companies who find themselves with problems concerning the ownership of their online assets. Large multinationals face the same problem. However, if SME’s can recognize and tackle the problem now, it will make for a less expensive and smoother future for their growth and stability in the online arena”.

Consider the fact that when you are conducting business online, your website address is the single most important asset you possess. It controls access to one of your main communications mechanisms via email, and in many cases the primary public face of your company - the website. As your investment in technology increases it is a piece of intellectual property that needs to be carefully protected, without it a company becomes digitally dysfunctional.

According to DomainAudit “Companies spend millions of pounds every year recovering intellectual property assets which have been mismanaged online. This research is a timely reminder to companies to look into this area and take back what is legally theirs to own”.

Alex Chapman of Intellectual Property Lawyers BRIFFA, commented "If you have paid a third party to register a domain name for you but you are not registered as the legal owner, it is still likely that actual ownership (that is "beneficial title") will belong to you. However, whilst the person named as the "Legal Registrant" should be deemed to be holding it for you, enforcing that right may require legal action... and the problem does not stop there. If there is no formal agreement between you and the developer of your website, copyright in it may not belong to you. Your rights will be limited to an implied licence to use it for a particular purpose and these rights may only be guaranteed after going to court. It is therefore important that these matters are addressed early and whilst the relationship with your service providers is still good.”

The message arising from the research is that SME’s should spend time finding out what they own in terms of domain names and websites, and ensuring that these assets are being managed properly. Choose your service provider well, and be aware that the cheapest option in the short term is not always the most cost effective in the long term.

Editors notes

In spring 2001 Neutralize (**) an independent internet marketing agency based in the South West was contracted by Business Link and UK Online for Business to conduct a consultancy exercise and assist a group of SME’s increase turnover from their
websites. The response was incredibly positive with over 50% seeing significant benefits.

The data Neutralize (**) gathered also showed the provision for people with skills and time to manage the web presences was also an issue for many SME’s. Of the technical issues, the most common were missing pages and layout problems, which could indicate poor quality testing on the developers’ part and showed that in many cases the websites were not being checked or updated regularly.


Neutralize (**)

Judith Bradbury
PR and Marketing officer
3 Gilberts Coombe, Redruth, Cornwall
T: +44 (0)1209 210910

Domain Audit
Niamh Cullen
Marketing Manager
34 Park Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2JD
T: +44 (0)20 7659 9452

Business Link/UK Online for Business
Mike Robertson
IT Advisor

Alex Chapman
Interactive Media Solicitor
+44 (0)207 288 6003

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Neutralize in the following categories: Consumer Technology, Personal Finance, Business & Finance, Computing & Telecoms, for more information visit