The law around the purchase, sale and ownership of domain names is developing all the time.
There are a number of individuals and companies who have diligently gone around 'acquiring' names that can be associated with existing celebrities or businesses and put premium prices on those domain names and there has been a fair amount of discussion around whether or not that behaviour should be regulated. Some companies and individuals have sued those enterprising entreprenuers, calling them 'cyber squatters', seeking to obtain the domain names without the large price tags. (paying the lawyers instead)
Firstly, what is a domain name?
Your Domain Name provides people surfing the web with a virtual address to find you
Well, I had a look in Wikipedia for a useful definition and found something equivalent to legalese, so my alternative (and possibly not wholly technically accurate) explanation is that your domain name provides people surfing the web with a virtual address to find you. Thats it. It doesn't necessarily give you a website and it doesn't automatically appear as a webpage just because you purchase the address. It does give you the exclusive right to attach webpages or a website to the address for people to find for as long as you remain the registered owner.
Like registering a business name, there aren't a lot of hoops to go through. You find a domain name seller (from my experience www.godaddy.com is pretty good), search the site for the domain name you want, and purchase it if it is available.
Again, some hints for you are:
- don't try and register something that you know is someone elses brand name or trademark, it'll only end in tears
- know who or what entity is going to own the domain name and whether that is the same person or entity that is going to operate the website (it doesn't have to be, but you should put a written agreement in place between the entities to clarify the legal relationships if it isn't)
- know why you want a particular domain name and how much you are prepared to pay for it if someone else has already registered it
You can buy a domain name from an existing registered owner rather than through a domain name company, but if you want to go down that path be careful about handing any money over before you have access to the domain name and get a written agreement before you hand over the money. Chasing up money you have paid overseas is expensive, labourious and often unsuccessful.
Obviously a domain name which comes up without website content attached to it has the chance of being easier and cheaper to acquire than a domain name with a website attached, unless it has special value as a trademark.
.. tomorrow, a note on trademarks…