Don’t let your domain name get taken hostage!
You’ve no doubt worked hard to develop a web presence for your business. The last thing you want is for that lovingly curated and promoted website domain to get hijacked by a nefarious individual or company who plans to take down your content, replace it with something distasteful, and then refuse to give you back control of your site unless you shell out a big cash payment.
In addition to shutting down all of your web marketing and e-commerce efforts, this type of domain blackmail can tarnish your company’s good name forever in the eyes of many current and potential clients. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk domain blackmail tremendously with a few simple precautions.
How Domain Blackmail Happens
Sometimes called cybersquatting, domain blackmail can happen in one of two ways:
- Prospective blackmailers may buy up expired website domain names when the owner fails to renew them on time.
- Prospective blackmailers may buy up domain names that are confusingly similar to existing domain names or to the service mark or trademark of a famous person or organization.
It is very important to distinguish domain blackmail from the completely legitimate practice of domain reselling. Domain providers have the right to auction off expired domain names, and individuals and companies may certainly buy them. The transaction only enters into the realm of domain blackmail or cybersquatting if signs of bad faith are detected. Requesting an exorbitant payment to resell the domain name to the original holder could be a sign of bad faith, as could using the domain name for a purpose that is clearly counter to the reputation or intention of the original holder.
#1 Tip for Protecting Against Domain Blackmail
Small businesses are most vulnerable to the first type of domain blackmail, which involves buying up of expired domain names and populating them with unsavory content such as pornography. Fortunately, this type of domain blackmail or cybersquatting is easy to protect against with one simple tip: Never let your domain name expire!
To avoid accidentally letting your domain name lapse, consider taking these steps:
- Make sure your domain registration company’s email address is in your address book so that it will not go to your spam folder.
- Set up a rule in your email account so that emails from your domain registration company will be flagged as urgent or important.
- Create a recurring event on your calendar to remind you to double check that your domain name has been renewed.
As your company grows and your web presence becomes more noticeable, you may eventually become a target for the second type of domain blackmail, which involves buying up domain names confusingly similar to your own. For maximum protection against this type of cybersquatting, you might consider buying up these types of domain names yourself right now.
What Happens if You Become the Victim of Domain Name Blackmail?
If you have already become a victim of domain name blackmail, you have three main options. First of all, you may buy back the domain name from the blackmailer. This has the advantage of providing a fast resolution to the issue. Secondly, you may decide to arbitrate the matter according to a process set up by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). A successful arbitration could result in the cybersquatter being forced to sell you the domain name at a fair market value, and possibly even fined for improper use of a trademark. Finally, if the cybersquatter is subject to US law, you could take legal action against them under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999.
If you have questions or concerns about domain blackmail or cybersquatting, please contact Webstract Marketing at 855-201-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you protect your domain name or rebuild your online presence and reputation as needed.