What if the Internet domain name I want is taken?

Way back in 2005, some friends and I set up a nonprofit named Operation America Cares.  We offered free video services for American families connecting with loved ones serving overseas in the military.  I have lots of great memories from that period, but by 2010, for lots of reasons, our Minnesota OAC had run its course.  Meanwhile, another group in San Diego with the same name started up.  The California OAC sends care packages to US troops serving overseas and they wanted to set up an Internet identity.  I had a few conversations with the founder and, since the Minnesota OAC was dormant and the California OAC was doing great work, we transferred the operationamericacares.org Internet domain name to them.  If you want to support a great group of people doing great work for our troops, go to www.operationamericacares.org and donate some money.

I share that experience because sometimes people are willing to let go of Internet domain names when it’s the right thing to do. It goes back to the original intent of the Internet, to foster free and open collaboration.

Unfortunately, since the great mid 1990s Internet gold-rush, the Internet is not so free and open. Theoretically, anyone can register an Internet domain name for negligible cost. Here is a blog post for how to do it. In practice, it’s often more complicated when somebody else controls that perfect domain name you want. Some organizations make money by registering domain names and using them for pay per click ads. Others put names up for sale at wildly inflated price. Many call this cyber-squatting. I call it legal extortion.

Let’s say Annie, the author, wants the annie.com domain name to promote her new books.  But somebody already controls annie.com. Visit www.annie.com and it redirects to another website, www.yeah.com, which shows links to ads for all kinds of stuff.

A whois lookup for annie.com shows the name belongs to an outfit named DigiMedia.com, L.P., in Edmond, OK, USA. When I visit www.digimedia.com, I see this friendly announcement:

“Digimedia develops category-defining businesses and brands, utilizing and cultivating each of its globally regarded domain names. The company combines these original, premium domain names with established enterprises, experienced entrepreneurs and growing startups across a vast spectrum of products and/or services. The company serves as a builder, incubator, investor, partner, consultant, accelerator, and/or promoter.”

I wonder if DigiMedia’s founder is familiar with the expression, lipstick on a pig? Cut through the BS and this company makes money from clickbait and Internet domain name speculation.

Where does that leave Annie?  If she owns a trademark around her name in the physical world, maybe she could go to court to seize annie.com in cyberspace.  That fight will no doubt take years and cost a fortune.

Or she could make an offer.  The DigiMedia.com website provides a convenient “Contact” link, where Annie can submit her name, contact information, and the domain name she wants to inquire about.  And now, it’s down to old-fashioned horse trading. DigiMedia makes money from the annie.com Internet domain name, and so it probably won’t want to relinquish it for anything near what Annie can afford to pay. DigiMedia might not even bother to answer Annie’s query. Realistically, Annie will most likely need to find another Internet domain name.

But let’s say either a miracle occurs, or Annie has $thousands burning a hole in her pocket, and DigiMedia accepts Annie’s offer. Now what?

No doubt, DigiMedia will want its money up front. But Annie wants assurances she’ll get what she pays for. Buyer beware should be uppermost in Annie’s mind. The good news is, the domain name transfer process is designed to ensure integrity and it has milestones.  Annie’s real risk is DigiMedia will take her money and run.  Which is unlikely since DigiMedia seems to care about its legal standing.

And now, the rubber meets the road. Time to transfer the annie.com Internet domain name from DigiMedia to Annie.  Just like setting up a new Internet domain name, Annie will need to set up a free account with any domain registrar she likes.  Since DigiMedia uses Tucows for its registrations, it might make sense for Annie to use another registrar for hers.  There are plenty to choose from.

Here is how the process works:

  • Somebody from DigiMedia will log into Tucows and fill out a form to transfer the domain name away.
  • A few days later, Tucows will send an email with a special code to the administrative contact for the annie.com domain, presumably somebody from DigiMedia. This is a check to make sure DigiMedia really does want to transfer the name away.
  • DigiMedia will forward that code to Annie – that’s what Annie paid for.
  • Annie will navigate to her domain name registrar’s screen and fill out a form to import a domain name. That code will be one of the fields. Annie will pay her registrar between $20 and $35 per year for her domain name.
  • Annie’s domain name registrar and Tucows will validate the code and execute the transfer. This will take another few days.

After the transfer finishes and Annie is the proud owner of her domain name, Annie can begin building her Internet identity.  Two cautions for Annie:

  1. Remember your login credentials for your domain name registrar.
  2. Don’t let your registration expire. You don’t want to go through this name transfer time and expense again.

Hopefully Annie will sell lots of books.

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Your Internet Identity Doesn't Need to Be Complicated; But You Need To Be In Charge - dgregscott.com

  2. Hi Greg,

    I was ready to contact digimedia for a domain that they hold but was thinking “how does this actually works” 😉 I’m used to pay 20$ per year for my domains and have never bought them. I then found your article and was wondering if you could help me with these questions :
    1 – Did you really tried to buy from digimedia yourself ? Or from another ?
    2 – What is the average price of such a sale ?
    3 – Are there company’s that are specialized to negociate abd buy domains ?

    Thank you for your help.
    Marc

    • Hi Marc – no, I never tried to buy anything from Digimedia. I’ve done a few domain name registrar transfers, but I don’t want to do business with any of those outfits. I’m not sure if anyone knows the average price for such a sale, because those deals are always murky. I’ve seen resale prices ranging from a few $hundred, up to five figures and everywhere in-between. There are a few companies who buy up recently expired domain names, or unused ones they think may become popular, and they exploit those names either with pay-for-click ads or for resale at wildly inflated prices. There may be companies who specialize in representing you in buying domain names from these guys, but why would you want to pay one of them to make the same offer you could make yourself?

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