Domain Name Rights
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What is a domain name and how does it work?

Every computer on the public Internet has a unique numeric address—similar to the uniqueness of a telephone number—which is a string of numbers that is difficult for most people to remember. This string is called the “IP address.” IP stands for “Internet Protocol.”

To make it easier to find a given location on the Internet, the Domain Name System, or DNS, was invented. The DNS translates IP addresses into unique alphanumeric addresses called domain names that are easier to remember. If, for example, you would like to visit the ICANN website, would you rather remember the IP address, or type “” By associating a familiar string of letters—the domain name—with an IP address, the DNS makes it much easier for Internet users to remember websites and email addresses. In the example above, the “” part of the address is called the domain name. The www. part identifies to your browser that you are looking for the World Wide Web interface for that domain name.

Domain names can also be used to send email. Whether you are sending business or personal communications, you want to be certain that your message is directed to the intended addressee. To borrow an analogy from the phone system, when you dial a number, it rings at a particular location because there is a central numbering plan that ensures that each telephone number is unique.

The DNS works in a similar way. Both the domain name and the IP address behind it are unique. The DNS enables your email to reach the intended recipient (, for example) and not someone else with a similar domain name. It also enables you to type “” without having to enter a lengthy IP address, and get to the right website. Without this uniqueness, both the DNS and the telephone systems would be less predictable and reliable.

A domain name can remain unchanged even if a website is moved to a different host computer or server because the DNS can be told to point an existing domain name to a new IP address. This is just like a household or a business moving its location—the family or business name stays the same, even if the street address changes.

How do I register a domain name?

The first step in registering a domain name is to select the top-level domain (TLD) and the second-level name you would like to register in that domain. Domain names have two parts: the characters that follow the last dot in the domain name and the characters that come after it. The part following the last dot is called the top-level domain (TLD), or the extension. The part to the left of the dot is called the second-level domain, or the label. It is this part of a domain name that users are most likely to associate with your website or email address. Together, the “icann” and the “.org”parts of “” are the domain name.

The next steps are to select your registrar and decide the number of years for which you would like to register. Most registrars offer registration periods of from one to 10 years, often with discounts for longer periods. A multi-year registration means more of an initial financial commitment than a single year, but it reduces how often you have to renew your registration before it expires. Many registrars also offer discounts on each year of a multiple-year registration. Some people make their initial registration for one year, and, if they find they are indeed using the domain name, then renew it for a longer period.

Next, you should see whether the name you want is available. In the case of a gTLD (generic top-level domain), if the domain name is still available, you can register it directly with a registrar or through a reseller that has a relationship with a registrar. The list of current ICANN-accredited registrars can be found at

If the domain name you want is not available, you could modify the second-level part of the domain name by trying a different way to describe the same idea (for example, try “”). The search tools on registrar websites often have features that suggest variations on a name that might be available when the primary name selected is not. Alternatively, if you are trying to register “,” you could change the top-level domain and try one other than “.org.” There are now nearly two dozen generic TLDs, although some have eligibility requirements. Some of the unrestricted TLDs are .COM, .INFO, .ORG and .NET. For a complete list of gTLDs and any restrictions, see's accredited list.

If the domain name that you are seeking is already registered, you may be able to acquire the right to register it from the current registrant (in other words, from the person or company that registered it most recently and owns the rights to use the domain). Some registrars and other companies offer services related to the reselling of domain names, which could involve a bidding or auction process. However, the process may be time-consuming and complex. You can find out the registrant of the domain name you want by using the Whois database. One way to search Whois across all generic TLDs is available at The final step is to complete the registration procedures with the registrar or reseller that you have selected.

How can I protect my personal information?

For most gTLDs, information about the registrant of each domain name is publicly available in each registry’sWhois database, which is used to facilitate the resolution of technical problems and to enforce consumer protection, trademark and other laws. Two notable exceptions are the .COM and .NET registry Whois services, which list the registrar responsible for maintaining the domain registration record. Information about who is responsible for these domains can then be found by accessing that registrar’s Whois database.

As part of the registration process, you must provide your registrar with accurate and reliable contact details and promptly correct and update these details as necessary. This information includes your full name, a valid postal address, email address, voice telephone number and fax number (if available). The willful provision of inaccurate or unreliable information, or a willful failure to update information provided to a registrar, can be the basis for cancelling your registration and the loss of any right to use the domain name.

Given growing concerns about identity theft and other criminal activity, many individuals are legitimately concerned about having their personal data publicly available on the Internet. One option for registrants is to use a valid postal and email address from their business or place of employment. Another option is to use privacy protection or proxy services, sometimes for an additional fee. Some registrars make these services available through a third-party proxy service that allows you to provide the required contact information to your registrar, and the proxy service becomes the registrant of record. You agree that the proxy service can disclose your personal data to respond to requests from law enforcement or conflicts related to infringements on legal rights of others or when presented with evidence of actionable harm. Another option is to register through an intermediary, such as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or webhosting company, which then becomes the registrant of record. With this arrangement, you should be aware of which rights you have and which rights the intermediary has in regard to the domain name.

Where do I go for help with domain name problems?

If you have a conflict with a domain, you should contact a Wex Law attorney to assist you in resolving the domain name dispute.

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