Protecting Your Online Reputation (part three): capturing your domain names

By now, you’ve seen how many social media sites there are, and decided which ones to reserve for yourself.

Your next decision will involve spending some money to purchase domain names. There are about as many choices of domain name as there are social media sites, so unless you have the resources of Coca-Cola or Bank of America, you probably won’t be able to buy as many domains as you want. Again, pick the most important ones for you.

In today’s world, you have a physical identity and a digital identity. Your name, or the name of your business, can be a domain name. To protect your online reputation, you must own your name (or as many variations as you can afford to buy). If someone else owns it, then you have no control over it. Well, almost no control.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has established a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy to resolve disputes over the registration of internet domain names. When someone registers a domain name, he or she agrees that the name will not infringe upon the rights of any third party, and agrees to participate in an arbitration process if a third party claims infringement.

To succeed in the claim, the third party (you) must generally show three things: the disputed domain name is ‘identical or confusingly similar’ to a trademark or service mark that you own; that the existing registrant does not have any rights to the domain name; and that the registrant is using the domain name ‘in bad faith’. Notice that this policy applies to names that are trademarked or service marked. (A word to the wise: if this looks interesting, see an attorney.)

The ICANN policy gives you some rights to recapture domain names after the damage has been done, but you are much better off protecting your name before someone else can use it against you.

Choosing the domain names you want and seeing which ones are available will take you on another trip to www.knowem.com. Enter a name that you want to check. For example, when the name “”samplechamber” is entered, here’s what you see:

When you see the domains where your name is available, you can decide which ones to claim for yourself. You can register these domains at sites like GoDaddy.com, eNom, NetworkSolutions.com, 1&1.com, and many more.

After you decide which domains to buy, you also have a choice to register your domain with your own information or with domain privacy. The ICANN generally requires that the owner of a domain name be identified in the “WHOIS” directory with mailing address, phone number and email address. Sometimes spammers and identity thieves will use this information in ways ICANN did not expect. Several domain name registrars offer domain privacy, replacing the buyer’s information with the information of a forwarding service. Other registrars offer ‘who.is guard’ and ‘domain locking’. Check out the features offered by your domain registrar.

By owning your name online, you have taken another step to keep the bad guys from using it (or your company’s name, or your brand’s name) against you. Want to learn more about protecting your online reputation? Contact Pat Huston (pat@pathuston.com), Bob Gaynor (bob@pathuston.com), or go to www.pathuston.com.

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