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My "Free" Domain Name Cost Me $99!

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Dr. Vernon R. Sandel
September 26, 2007

Dr. Vernon R. Sandel
Dr. Vernon Sandel is Emeritus Professor, Michigan Technological Univ. and owner of Sunshine Services, an affiliate marketing company.
Dr. Vernon R. Sandel has written 1 articles for DomainInformer.
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Internet hosting service providers very often offer one or more free domain names to make their hosting packages more attractive. Since domain names are important to any web site, they become valuable property. This is especially true when associated with a site with page rank and high traffic. It takes time and effort to make your domain name valuable.

Are you aware that you may have expended all that time and energy on behalf of your internet hosting service provider? If you have accepted a "free" domain name from your web host, they may have registered it in their name and not yours. This is especially true if the host has advertised "free domain for life" as they are responsible for renewing the registration. This is not a problem as long as you continue hosting your web site with that host, but things can get sticky if you try to move your site to another host. Since they own the domain name, you may have to buy it from them to move your site. You have only "borrowed" it for the duration of your hosting contract. Thus any time and money you have spent to make that domain name valuable may have been enhancing its value for your internet hosting service provider.

If relations with the host of your web site go sour, they may choose not to release the domain, or they can charge whatever they like to transfer it to your name. They may also use it as leverage to keep you tied to their hosting. In my own experience, when I tried to switch from an $80/month hosting package to a cheaper one, the response was,"You can't." I did not own my domain name, and I had prepared my web site with their proprietary web building program. After paying their $99 price to transfer the registration of my "free" domain name to me and building a new web site, I was able to change to a cheaper internet hosting service provider.

If you have accepted a free domain name with your hosting account you should check the Whois register to find out who the registered owner and administrator are. If they are not both in your name, you should request that they both be transferred to you. Even if you are the registered owner, all communications for transfers must originate with the administrator. Thus the administrator still has control over the domain name and that could cause problems.

Also there is the question of what happens to a domain name that is registered in the name of the internet hosting service provider if that company should go bankrupt? If a domain name registered to them is valuable, would the creditors take over that value? If you sell your business can you sell "your" valuable domain name with the business or would the internet hosting service provider insist on the profits? One could come up with a number of situations where the host's ownership of your domain name could be very risky.

The folly of this situation is not widely known among the publishers of web sites. Your web hosting company may be honest and release the domain name to you when confronted, but don't count on it. When you pick an internet hosting service provider for your web site, be sure that any free domain name is registered in your name with you as administrator, and not in the name of the host.

The safest way to avoid problems is to register your domain name with a registrar (under your name of course) and host your web site with a different internet hosting service provider.

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