How is this legal?! GoDaddy stole two domain names for another customer

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So I apologize if I don't abide by normal Warrior Forum customs but I just joined and it was to see what help I could get while providing this information, and my situation, with others.

Preface:

I am a web developer with an LLC and my hands in many other side projects/companies. I have a client that owes me a lot of money and we've since departed ways this month (why keep a client that doesn't pay, right?). Well, I figured that I'd receive his overdue invoices (and clean up this burnt bridge) in full once he wanted ownership of his domain names (two of them). He continued to ask for them and I said, basically, I'm not budging until you pay me at least 50% of what's due to me (hey, it's the holidays...I was trying to be nice). When I refused to do the transfer of the domains, I received an email from GoDaddy this morning.

The Email from GoDaddy this morning:

Subject: Change of Registrant Initiated (for one of aforementioned domains)


Weird... I didn't do anything with that domain so why am I receiving this?


Body of the GoDaddy Email:

"Dear (me),

This message is to confirm that a change of registrant has been initiated for the following domain name(s):

(domain name)

The email address for the new registrant of the domain is (old client's email).

GoDaddy has determined that the registrant has provided the necessary documentation to initiate a change of account. If for any reason this information is incorrect or you feel this change of registrant request was made in error, please contact us within 15 days at undochange@godaddy.com.

To retrieve your customer number or password hint or to reset your password, click here.
Sincerely,
GoDaddy
"


To save you all the time and back and forth, I called, emailed, and did everything possible to see what happened and what's going on. In the end (and I recorded the call), I was told, more in depth, basically what the emails states, "so and so provided documentation saying they own a business with the same name."

How is this legal? These domains weren't expired. They weren't open or for sale. They were in my account. This was the only chess piece I had in ensuring my work was paid for before they got what they wanted. I was completely bypassed, in every way, shape, and form by GoDaddy and this man stole two of my domains from me.

Am I overreacting? I just don't see how this is possible. So let's say I make a domain name, "www.bwellens.com" and then a company called Bwellens can steal my domain just because they have a business document saying they go by that name?!

This isn't a copyright or trademarked situation so how can they do this to me?!
#domain #godaddy #legal help #theft
  • Profile picture of the author Riggs
    He may have provided GoDaddy with forged/fabricated documentation. As the primary registrant (assuming you are), I expect you should be within your rights to request GoDaddy provide you with access to the information he supplied. Maybe the content will shed light on whether or not GoDaddy had any legitimate justification for initiating the registrant change.

    Personally, I can't see GoDaddy blindly acting in any way that might legally implicate their company.
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    • Profile picture of the author Blackwell
      First off, thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate that.

      Secondly, I agree with you. I didn't think they'd do anything to implicate themselves either.

      I didn't think about asking to see the information/documentation provided. That should, at least, be owed to me. Either way, he does own a business by the name of the domain but is that all it takes to take over ownership of the domain?

      If that 'twas the case ('tis the season), I can just start an LLC called Warrior Forum (if it's registered through GoDaddy), submit that information to GoDaddy, and they'll start the transfer to my account? Hardly seems plausible.
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  • Profile picture of the author cbpayne
    I have heard similar stories/complaints before. In every case we were never told the full story and when the full story came out, GoDaddy were well within their rights to do what they did.

    Are you willing to share the domain name in question?
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      once he wanted ownership of his domain names
      I would guess he proved the domains were involved with HIS business - and purchased as part of a service for his business. If the names were the same as his business and he could document hiring you as part of those domains being registered, that might do it.

      Basically you were playing hardball with the domains trying to force payment - and he won the ball game.

      Not saying you were wrong - but sometimes you lose.
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  • Profile picture of the author Patrician
    I would file a complaint with Small Claims Court to recover the money owed to you for your services. That way it won't matter if they somehow did this.

    With that said, no matter how you look at it GoDaddy has no right to do this with you being the registered OWNER of the domain name and I don't care if there were 5 businesses using YOUR domain name.

    I think if you have time and the desire to prove your point that you could get in touch with Who.IS or whoever the domain registrars have to answer to - GoDaddy is not God and they can't just step all over people because they don't agree or one of their agents felt one way or the other. They are taking your ex-customer at their word and completely violating your rights. I have seen how strict registrars are about security and privacy and this is just not done.

    For example we are domain resellers and using the same email address/domain as where the registrar sends all confirmations when we sell a domain. Yet they will not discuss even in general any aspect of someone else's registration without their 'phone pin'.

    So do what they said and use that email address to file your protest - I would definitely let them know you are contacting who.is or ICANN (or whoever the REGULATORY AGENCY it is) that would know THE LAW in this industry (you might ask GoDaddy who it is) -- Also, name them in the small claims action - and let them know you are doing that - Not sure about all states but I think the one I am in you can use small claims action for up to $5000.

    This is just wrong.
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    • Profile picture of the author seasoned
      Originally Posted by Patrician View Post

      I would file a complaint with Small Claims Court to recover the money owed to you for your services. That way it won't matter if they somehow did this.

      With that said, no matter how you look at it GoDaddy has no right to do this with you being the registered OWNER of the domain name and I don't care if there were 5 businesses using YOUR domain name.

      I think if you have time and the desire to prove your point that you could get in touch with Who.IS or whoever the domain registrars have to answer to - GoDaddy is not God and they can't just step all over people because they don't agree or one of their agents felt one way or the other. They are taking your ex-customer at their word and completely violating your rights. I have seen how strict registrars are about security and privacy and this is just not done.
      Networksolutions is the registrar for COM/NET names. They likely won't listen. They are licensed by ICANN who ALSO likely won't listen.

      For example we are domain resellers and using the same email address/domain as where the registrar sends all confirmations when we sell a domain. Yet they will not discuss even in general any aspect of someone else's registration without their 'phone pin'.
      There are, so far as I have determined, about 3 tiers of "registrars". The FIRST tier generally has *****ONE***** company! com and net are controlled by ONE company planet wide. They DID have others, but lost them. The second tier is ones like Godaddy. There may be HUNDREDS of them, WORLD WIDE, but the top few have practically all the market. It is EXPENSIVE, and DIFFICULT to get to that level. THEN, there the third tier ones. They are usually connected with a second tier company, like wildwest domains(AKA godaddy), ecom, tucows, srs, idomain, etc....

      YOU are likely one of the third tier. HECK, ECOM even allows 4th, fifth, and sixth tier registrars!

      So do what they said and use that email address to file your protest - I would definitely let them know you are contacting who.is or whoever the REGULATORY AGENCY it is that would know THE LAW in this industry (you might ask GoDaddy who it is) -- Also, name them in the small claims action - and let them know you are doing that - Not sure about all states but I think the one I am in you can use small claims action for up to $5000.

      This is just wrong.
      If I recall right, most small claims don't allow for punitive charges, etc... Of course, that is by state, and the minimums vary widely. $5000 is probably, even today, a LARGE amount for one of them. Don't threaten with "who is". Once they stop trying to figure out what you mean, they will just get a good laugh out of it.

      Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    First off, A lot of registrars ARE breaking the law! FEDERAL and INTERNATIONAL law says that they are to follow the UDRP!!!!!!!! THEY DON'T CARE! STILL, if he IS, and possibly if he ever WAS the registered ADMIN, HE GETS THEM! If you can't show you used them, or planned to, and he could show otherwise, it is a point in HIS favor. if he can show you acted in bad faith, as you DID, it is ANOTHER point in HIS favor. If the domain names pointed to HIS property, even LEASED, it is a point in HIS favor. ALL of this is specified or alluded to in the UDRP. He could also show a history to confirm bad faith.

    So I could see how Godaddy decided to do this, Although you could TECHNICALLY sue them, GOOD LUCK. The UDRP and likely even in this case, ACTUALLY calls for a binding arbitration.

    The binding arbitration is to be considered on:
    USE: HE WINS!
    FAITH: YOU LOSE!
    PAST HISTORY: YOU LOSE!
    RELATIONSHIP TO THE WINNER(Business, trademark, history, etc...): HE WINS!

    EVEN the idea of a package deal including your purchase of HIS domain names to be released WITH the package(as you say you planned to do), has precedent against it.

    BTW I am not a lawyer, but I have followed this part of law, etc...

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Good reason not to do business with Godaddy. They are the only registrar that I ever hear of this kind of crap happening.
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    • Profile picture of the author derekwong28
      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      Good reason not to do business with Godaddy. They are the only registrar that I ever hear of this kind of crap happening.
      This has happened to me before with Registerfly and guess what, they are now dead.

      The situation was almost exactly the same as the OP. The deal went through escrow and I thought everything was safe. It happened that the developer was owed funds by the owner and decided to sell his domain. For some reason, the developer had access to the control panel of tosdomains. The domain was then transferred to my account at Registerfly. Then suddenly I received notice from Registerfly that they have transferred the domain away to another account after receiving documents from the rightful owner.

      Luckily, I was able to stop the escrow payment which was in process of being dispersed. Therefore this was actually one situation when escrow was not totally safe.
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      • Profile picture of the author seasoned
        Originally Posted by derekwong28 View Post

        Luckily, I was able to stop the escrow payment which was in process of being dispersed. Therefore this was actually one situation when escrow was not totally safe.
        A lot of hype is levied about ESCROW being safe. The only time it is safe is when the items can fully be transferred to an escrow agents control. That is RARE with large(physically), or fixed property, or property always under control of ANOTHER! HOW would you do that with domain names? Even REALESTATE doesn't give you that option! THAT is why realestate escrows have you go to OTHER parties!

        They have you buy TITLE INSURANCE to help insure the transfer of the house.
        They have you have a third party backup the INCOME at the escrow agent.

        Luckily it is rare that the homes fall through, so title insurance isn't that bad, but it happens.
        Title insurance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        And banks don't generally pay YOU the money until THEY have cleared title.

        HECK, one scamster on "american greed"(A show about actual scam cases) got a lot of money by forging titles for boats, and getting a bank to loan them money on them. So it STILL isn't perfect. Maybe THEY should have gotten insurance. a title SHOULD be able to be traced back to the seller and then they could trace that back to the original construction, and see that the boat actually exists, but that is MUCH more work than a bank generally does to loan money.

        Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by derekwong28 View Post

        This has happened to me before with Registerfly and guess what, they are now dead.
        Registerfly was a scam operation. I never register domains with anyone but well established, reputable domain registrars, even if they cost more.
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    • Profile picture of the author Karen Blundell
      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      Good reason not to do business with Godaddy. They are the only registrar that I ever hear of this kind of crap happening.
      yep, agreed - transferred my last domain over in November to Namecheap - I will never do business with them again.
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
    Probably your only chance at regaining the domain name is if you produce a contract stating that the domain name is yours until the contract amount is paid in full.

    You can also file a complaint with ICANN. It usually takes a court order to transfer ownership of a domain - unless the domain was in your account but actually listed your client as registrant. Then you're pretty much screwed.
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  • Profile picture of the author garyv
    Actually Godaddy is legally bound to do what they did. Under current Cybersquatting laws, if a company legally owns that name for business purposes, then it's actually illegal for you to do any type of bargaining with it. Once Godaddy receives the proper documentation, then they have no other choice according to current laws but to hand over the domain name. - I dislike godaddy immensely, but what they did here - they were forced to do by law. Any registrar operating within the law in the U.S. would have to do the same.
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    • Profile picture of the author seasoned
      Originally Posted by garyv View Post

      Actually Godaddy is legally bound to do what they did. Under current Cybersquatting laws, if a company legally owns that name for business purposes, then it's actually illegal for you to do any type of bargaining with it. Once Godaddy receives the proper documentation, then they have no other choice according to current laws but to hand over the domain name. - I dislike godaddy immensely, but what they did here - they were forced to do by law. Any registrar operating within the law in the U.S. would have to do the same.
      What you said IS right, and I DID mention the points in my first email here. It IS in the UDRP. An ARBITRATOR is supposed to do the deciding with both parties.

      What godaddy did sounds like it was in line with the SPIRIT of the UDRP, but in violation of the LETTER!

      HERE is the UDRP from the MAIN licensor: Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy | ICANN

      OK, ir COULD be understood to maybe allow the registrar:

      Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy | ICANN

      BTW 4(a-c) talk about what the OP did here.

      Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
      Originally Posted by garyv View Post

      Actually Godaddy is legally bound to do what they did. Under current Cybersquatting laws, if a company legally owns that name for business purposes, then it's actually illegal for you to do any type of bargaining with it. Once Godaddy receives the proper documentation, then they have no other choice according to current laws but to hand over the domain name. - I dislike godaddy immensely, but what they did here - they were forced to do by law. Any registrar operating within the law in the U.S. would have to do the same.
      You might be misreading the cybersquatting laws (ACPA) and the UDRP. Neither direct the registrar to change the registrant of the domain name. Both outline remedies for those who think they've been wronged.

      GoDaddy had no right to do what they did, IMHIANALO.

      Of course, in this day and age, simple reading of laws isn't possible so I could be all wet.

      EDIT:

      The way I read the law, though, and the UDRP especially, is if this truly was the case:

      I was told, more in depth, basically what the emails states, "so and so provided documentation saying they own a business with the same name."
      then that's not enough to force a domain registrant change. Cybersquatting laws pertain only to trademarked names.

      But again, IANAL.
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      • Profile picture of the author garyv
        Originally Posted by SteveJohnson View Post

        You might be misreading the cybersquatting laws (ACPA) and the UDRP. Neither direct the registrar to change the registrant of the domain name. Both outline remedies for those who think they've been wronged.

        GoDaddy had no right to do what they did, IMHIANALO.

        Of course, in this day and age, simple reading of laws isn't possible so I could be all wet.

        EDIT:

        The way I read the law, though, and the UDRP especially, is if this truly was the case:



        then that's not enough to force a domain registrant change. Cybersquatting laws pertain only to trademarked names.

        But again, IANAL.
        http://www.traverselegal.com/PDF/int..._digiacomo.pdf
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          I'm not a legal eagle - but seems to me the point here is that domains were registered FOR the work done FOR the person who hired the web developer.

          Example: If the buyer has an itemized billing from the developer where the cost of domain registration is charged to that buyer....that could do it.
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          • Profile picture of the author seasoned
            Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

            I'm not a legal eagle - but seems to me the point here is that domains were registered FOR the work done FOR the person who hired the web developer.

            Example: If the buyer has an itemized billing from the developer where the cost of domain registration is charged to that buyer....that could do it.
            My original point. And what you describe is evidence of bad faith(holding the domain ransom), and IS a MAJOR determining factor of who gets the domain name. Any decent lawyer would have that trump EVERYTHING, including trademarks! If you have the name apple in your domain name, and are selling carmel apples, apple may LOSE against you. If you reveal that you created the contention on purpose, or don't care about the domain name, you LOSE! SQUATTING is a kind of bad faith.

            Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author derekwong28
    I feel that whatever contract there was, it is not Godaddy's or any other Registrar's role to determine whether the contract was valid and authentic or not. In the past, Godaddy was known to have kept out of such disputes, instead requiring a ruling from ICANN or a court judgement.

    I think the OP would be able to get opinions from more experienced people from DNforum or NamePros.
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  • Profile picture of the author elisaP
    I find the order of events seriously alarming! They transfer the domain THEN notify you only after they initiate the transfer?
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    • Profile picture of the author seasoned
      Originally Posted by elisaP View Post

      I find the order of events seriously alarming! They transfer the domain THEN notify you only after they initiate the transfer?
      YEAH! As I understood the UDRP, one party is supposed to file a complaint. They then notify the OTHER party. An arbitrator is selected, and they argue the merits. The arbitrators decision is LAW. Of course, that could take a while.

      Steve
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