As a website owner you know that it is important to keep track of things like your domain name’s renewal date, right? Well, a lot of people don’t know that or just don’t pay it much attention. It’s still a relatively new part of doing business that often falls off people’s radar. Domain renewals are not the sort of thing you can just take a few more weeks to pay for and the registrar will keep bothering you until you pay (like the phone company sending you new notices that you’re past due). If you neglect to pay your bill in this case, your expired domain is likely to be snatched up by a domain reseller who will be glad to sell it back to you at a price that well exceeds the renewal fee you might have otherwise paid–not by a few dollars but by thousands.
Here are a few examples from the news:
- Man Takes Police Website By Surprise
- Ski Club Loses Domain Name to Sex Toy Site
- Nova Scotia MP Cuzner loses domain name
- Foursquare Raises $10 Million in Funding, Forgets To Renew Domain Name
- Microsoft forgets to renew hotmail.co.uk domain
Registrars have different policies when it comes to renewals and grace periods. Some drop your name in a couple days for others to buy. Some, like Godaddy.com, have policies that continue to remind owners over a period of time, replace their website with a ‘parked’ page (so perhaps the owner will notice there is a problem and contact them), and charge progressively more for the owner to renew the domain after the expiration date.
If you’ve lost your domain name because it expired without your paying for the renewal, you can still attempt to recover it from the new owner, but that won’t likely be cheap. There are services that show recently expired/lapsed domain names that people who make a living off of reselling domain names access in order to cash in on your situation. Some people will register your expired name with privacy enabled in order to make it more difficult for you to track them down. Some may encourage you to pay their fee by pointing your domain name to questionable sites. You can dispute their ownership via legal means, but this can be quite costly and time consuming indeed.
In one particular case that I worked on with a company that wanted to acquire a domain name with their product name as part of it (they had put out a press release with a new product name in it before considering purchase of the relevant domain name). It cost $20,000 in legal fees to be told that they had no legal claim to the domain name, and then an additional $20,000 to pay off the domain name holder to acquire it at last. All in all, that wasn’t too expensive for what could have been paid.
Even if you do litigate, the courts are not always siding with business owners and corporate giants when it comes to intellectual property law. As long as there is no malicious intent behind the other party owning your domain name, the courts may not be inclined to force them to give up a domain name to you.
A few lost causes from in the news
- Bill Clinton Loses Battle For Domain Names
- Tiger Woods loses domain name dispute
- Google Loses Domain Name Dispute Over Groovle.com
- Domain Name Geography: Mexico Loses Fight over Mexico.com
Certainly you can see that it’s much cheaper and less painful to keep track of your domain names.
Tips to keep on top of your domain name renewals
- Be sure that you’re aware of your renewal dates – set up a calendar reminder or even add a check of your renewal dates to your monthly bill paying routine.
- Consolidate your domain names at one registrar for ease of access to renewal dates. You can even consolidate their renewal dates at some registrars
- Pay for your domains years in advance – you can even register a domain for up to 100 years at this point
- Don’t depend on your registrar’s auto-renewal to work for you – your credit card could have expired / changed, for example.
- Be sure that your contact information is up to date so you can receive renewal notices, especially your email address. Don’t register domain names with email addresses you only occasionally use or you may miss it!