Once a domain name is registered, many people think that it is theirs and that is the end of it.
Even with a copyright, you need to renew your domain name and keep it registered or you may have to pay costly penalties, or try to get it from auction.
Whilst owners of trademarks are protected, this does not mean that a trademark owner is not subject to fees, and legal battles to get their name back.
This article is meant to help guide the domain name owner through the different stages that a domain name goes through before it is either again made available, or purchased by a new owner.
Before you register a domain name, the registry first determines whether your domain name is available. This is done through a whois server run by the registry that keeps track of all the domain names registered for that top level domain (TLD).
When you register your name, there is a short period usually a matter of minutes or hours when the domain name is pending.This sorts out any issues such a two people trying to registering the domain name within a short period of time.
Generally domain names are offered on a first come first serve (FCFS) basis, so the first to be registered will be the one that gets the domain name.
When you register a domain name it needs to be registered under a legal name. This is generally, a person, or a corporation.
Dirrerent countries have different legal types that a domain name for their country code top level domains (ccTLD). In Canada the ccTLD is ".ca". Canadians used to be able to register city and province level domain names, however this has been abandoned. Current domain name holders of these names can not get their province and city level domain names back once they have gone through the lifecycle and been released.
In Canada a domain name can be registered to a Corporation, a Canadian Citizen, Permanent Resident of Canada, Government, Canadian Educational Institution, Canadian Unincorporated Association, Canadian Hospital,Partnership Registered in Canada, Trade-mark registered in Canada, Canadian Trade Union, Canadian Political Party, Canadian Library Archive or Museum, Trust established in Canada,Aboriginal Peoples, Legal Representative of a Canadian Citizen, Official mark registered in Canada, in Canada.
In Australia, for example (.com.au) a domain name can be registered to Charity, Citizen/Resident, Club, Commercial Statutory Body, Industry Body, Trademark Owner, Political Party, Religious/Church Group, Sole Trader, Trade Union, Child Care Centre, Government School, Higher Education Institution, National Body, Non-Government School, Pre-school, Research Organisation, Training Organisation.
In the United States of America (.us) a domain name can be registered to Business use for profit,Non-profit business, Club, Association, Religious Organization, Personal Use, Educational purposes, Government purposes.
For .com and other generic top level domain names (gTLD) or those not associated with a country, anyone can register and there are not so many rules. If you run into an issue, however, the mediation process for gTLD names is much more expensive and longer to settle than for ccTLD names that are governed under one country's laws. As a result, gTLD names are a bigger target for "squatters" or those who buy available, or just released domain names for the sole purpose of profiting from selling the domain names again.
For some TLDs such as .ca names, there is a grace period after you register a domain name. This is a period of 7 days for .ca domain names.
During this period you can cancel your domain name. It is best to do this well in advance of the deadline, as your registrar may have to do it manually during business hours.
During the grace period your domain name is active and you can run email and web hosting services with your new domain name.
This is the normal state of a domain name for most of it's life. If you register your domain name for 10 years, then this is the state it will be in for 10 years.
For a period after a domain name is registered or transferred, the domain name can not be transferred to another registrar again. After this period we call the “holding period”, a domain name can be transferred to another registrar.
The holding period for different TLDs varies and for .ca domain names this period is 60 days, and for .com domain names the period is 90 days.
You can renew your domain name at any time, but you cannot renew it for more than a 10 year period. Some registrars will allow a 10 year renewal and renew the remainder of the period once your domain name reaches 9 years left in its registered lifecycle.
It is important to remember that the day you pay for a renewal has nothing to do with when the domain name will be renewed until. It is a good idea to pay for your domain name renewal as soon as the invoice is generated by your registrar or you may forget, and then after expiry loose service, or even worse, have your domain name released!
Keeping your information up to date is paramount to getting renewal notices and invoices for your renewal. According to ICANN rules, it is the titleholder's (also known as the “registrant”) responsibility to do this, so if you do not receive any notices from the registry or registrar, it is only your fault if your domain name expires or is released.
Some registries will revoke your domain name if your email bounces from their email checker software.
You can transfer a domain name to another registrar after the holding period, and when you do your domain will be renewed and thus have its expiry date extended by however many years your renew for when you transfer.
You can also transfer a domain name to another person, and this may or may not invoke a renewal situation.
When you transfer a gTLD domain name there is a pending period intended to allow the registrar to make sure everything is in order before transferring to another registrar. This is usually a period of 7 days, so if you are renewing your gTLD domain name with a transfer, you should do it more than 7 days, and generally at least 10 days before expiry.
For ccTLD domain names like .ca domain names, this period does not exist, and once the receiving registrar transfers the domain name, the transfer to the new registrar is immediate.
Once your domain expires, you may lose service to the hosting and email or any other services associated with the domain name. This is the case with .com domain names and other gTLD domain names. This may not be the case with ccTLD names such as .ca names.
For many ccTLD names, such as .ca domain names and .be domain names, the domain name goes into an auto-renew grace period. This period lasts for up to 45 days for .ca domain names. During this period a registrar can either leave the domain name (usually if it has been paid for late), or delete the domain name and put the domain name into redemption.
The grace period for dot-com names is similar, but you lose service right after expiry.
Some registrars will not allow a transfer during this period as the receiving registrar may receive the benefit of the losing registrar paying for the grace renewal. You can therefor expect your domain name to go into redemption and lose service before you transfer your domain name.
Once a domain name goes through the grace period, it is the discretion of the registrar whether the domain name will be deleted and enter what is called redemption.
For ccTLD names like .ca domain names, redemption means loss of service.
For .com domain names and other gTLD names, the redemption period means you will have to pay upwards of $100USD or more to have your domain name “redeemed” or taken out of redemption.
Waiting for your domain name to be released after redemption is usually not a good idea as your domain name could be purchased by anyone, and this usually happens with popular TLD's like .com domain names. Some gTLD registries like the donuts registry that provides many popular new extensions like .realty, or .company can actually change the price of your domain name once it is released and make it a “premier” domain name and sell it for thousands of dollars instead of ten or twenty.
For .ca domain names, you can transfer your domain name to another registrar during this period, and the fees are minimal for getting your domain name redeemed. Some registrars will ask you to renew your domain name for a five year period since you were late and forgetful in the first place.
Once your domain name goes through the redemption period and is not redeemed, it is released to the public.
For gTLD domain names like .com domain names, your domain name will go to auction, and the highest bidder will get your domain name. If nobody bids on your domain name, then it will be made available again. It is rare that nobody bids on an expiring .com domain name, however.
For ccTLD domain names like .ca domain names, the domain name is put into a to-be-released or TBR list, and the domain name goes through a TBR process usually held on Wednesdays at noon EST. At this time, the domain name is released to the registrar that first requests it starting at noon. This is a first come first serve basis, and the cost of the registration to the registrar is the same as a normal domain name registration. The registrar may charge an extra cost to do this for a registrant, however, to cover the cost of extra software or the manual execution of the TBR process.
If a domain name falls through the auction or TBR process, then it will be again made available for anyone to register.
There are exceptions to this such as the province and city level domain names in Canada. In that case the domain name will never be available again.