Someone got Their Domain Hostage by their Web Dev, and The Web Dev will Redirect It to a Rival Website



u/xlamplighter
Our "web guy" owns our domain name, and is extorting us or else he will point it elsewhere – is there anyway to mitigate this issue?
The web guy they hired years ago bought our domain name and, for whatever reason, has been leasing it to us over the years. We are up for renewal and bought a sign with our url on it for our office – when he learned this, he increased the cost 4500% – what can we do to mitigate this issue? Are there any options?
EDIT: 1:15pm Hes now threatening to point it at a rival business, because they made him a offer that we have to "exceed" or else we lose everything. Please advise.
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war3rd
Lawyer. Why would you let him own the domain for your company, that was just asking for trouble… You may be able to sue him for the domain name, but it depends on your contract with him and how you structured the domain name and development deal. But you also may have shot yourself in the foot by not owning your own domain name.
I'd first have a lawyer sent him a pleasant letter asking for the domain name and get nasty from there if he doesn't either turn it over, or sell it to you for a reasonable rate. Again, I don't know your history, so you may or may not be able to obtain the domain name yourself. But he's obviously a jerk so do everything legally within your abilities, but take no prisoners. I actually register domain names for clients and hold them, but I never lease them and transfer them over to the client if asked. What he is doing is just scummy.

SwillFish
Just be careful. If the guy is psychopath, like it sounds like he could be, he could do a lot of damage to the company. It would be really easy for him to setup a new site bashing the company or redirecting traffic to a goatse image or a p0rn site or something.

war3rd
If he actively tries to hurt them, he can be sued quite easily. Extortion is illegal, and purposefully hurting their business is quite an egregious offense. it can be painful at first, and there will be legal costs, but he'll learn a valuable lesson in being a scheming prick.
[deleted]
you may be right, but when you're a small business, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to pursue someone with few or no assets (making a few assumptions here) doesn't make much sense.
CalBearFan
Not hundreds of thousands, plenty of lawyers out there that are both hungry and nasty. And far cheaper than the damage done by losing the domain name.
war3rd
Nor does losing your domain name. It's a trade off. Not an easy decision obviously, but they asked…

yellow_leadbetter
This. There's some law about having a company's name in your domain name. Especially if he's trying to use it to drive competition elsewhere. Also I'm sure there's some employee type law for this kind of stuff.

war3rd
Yes. Squatters generally get the domain name taken away from them and given to the original rights holder of the name (e.g. Starbucks would easily get starbucks.com if someone tried to squat the name). But it also depends on how the domain name reads and what it is being used for if not for cross purposes. But ultimately, you will unfortunately need to get a lawyer who specializes in these cases involved if he won't play fair. It stinks, but is unfortunately true.

IrritableGourmet
Talk to a lawyer. ICANN has rules regarding this situation and this person is probably breaking them.

oddmanout
Actually, just say "we're going to talk to a lawyer." If he's a real web guy, he'll know what he's doing is illegal. The last thing he wants to do is get lawyers involved. It's better and cheaper for EVERYONE if you don't get lawyers involved.

[deleted]
If he's a real web guy, he wouldn't do this in the first place.
Or perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part.
oddmanout
Douches exist in every industry. Even ours.
mikeyfixedit
Please explain how this is illegal?
oddmanout
because it's extortion. He's asking for money in exchange to not do something damaging to the company. In fact, he's already committed extortion as only the threat has to be made, he doesn't actually have to follow through.
IrritableGourmet
Not illegal, against ICANN rules. Domain names are all managed by ICANN, which is a private sector company. They have a whole series of rules governing who owns what domain name, who can register what domain name, etc. There are also guidelines for conflict mediation.
oddmanout
well there's that, but when he asked for money to not point it at the competitors, it became extortion. And that's illegal.

wryall
Except that these guys clearly have some type of leasing arrangement which wouldn't be covered by the ICANN rules. Nobody can help this guy because they don't know what type of contract he has with the company.

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Bofu2U
Define "he's been leasing it to us over the years"? As in, you actually agreed to "lease" it from him? If so, you're screwed unless you hold a trademark or something that pre-dates the registration.
Is his information on the whois information for the domain, or is yours? Check it at whois.sc or if it's GoDaddy just check it via http://who.GoDaddy.com/whois.aspx?domain=DOMAINNAMEHERE.COM&prog_id=GoDaddy

xlamplighter ✍️
The old office manager was clueless digitally, and just agreed to whatever the tech said. Over the last few years, they just paid him so things would run smoothly. It seems like hes hit some hard times, so were trying to do what we can to solve this without major disruption to our business. Our clients and partners all know our name, and our url is www."ourbusinessname".com , so registering another name would be an uphill battle.

Bofu2U
Right, but if you guys are on the domain whois it wouldn't be hard to recover. If you're not, yeah. Well, regardless, speak to a lawyer.
http://kellywarnerlaw.com/ is who we use for all of our stuff, they specialize in Internet Law.
xlamplighter ✍️
We are on the who.is for contact info, he's in it for nameservers, and it says its "leased" on the who.is . How would we recover it?
Bofu2U
Definitely give Kelly Warner a call, if you're in the WhoIs you're a lot better off than if you weren't. However, if it says leased that's a whole other level to look into.
Edit: Especially if he's trying to blackmail you. Call them (or any lawyer than can deal with this). Now.
xlamplighter ✍️
My mistake, it doesnt say "leased" it says "licensed to", but we are on the who.is
Thanks a lot for the advice, bofu2u

sacrot2
Lawyer up and you will be able to gain rights to that domain. Lots of companies have had issues with people buying domain names and hoarding them and wanting lots of money for them. You can and will get the rights to ownership over that domain unless he has a company with the same name that was started before yours.

milehightechie
Yup, domain squatters do this all day long. This is a particularly sneaky snake domainer though.
theSEOlife
That's the way I see it. This kind of thing happens quite a bit. Maybe not as blatant and underhanded, but still. Get a good lawyer. The guy will probably back down anyway.

duhblow7
What is his name? Say it is john smith, go register JohnSmithIsACrook.com (or go with the more traditional f*ckJohnSmith.com) and setup a little blog with a description of your ordeal with him. Then offer to trade him domain names. In my experience scumbags really respond to scumbag type moves. Beat him at his own game.

xlamplighter ✍️
I'm not going to outscumbag a scumbag. Were going the lawyer route, but our practice will take a hit for sure.

SquareWheel
This is correct. You'll damage the name of your company if you take the action above. Go with the lawyer, and I'd suggest setting up a temporary domain with your website you can point folks to for the interim.

[deleted]
It depends on whether it's a branded domain or a keyworded one. If it's the latter, you have far fewer – if any – options. But either way, have a lawyer send a letter.

xlamplighter ✍️
Branded domain – www."Ourbusinessname".com

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Dom9360
I experienced something like this indirectly. We has a lawfirm contact GoDaddy , in this case, and prove it was a client's business name. They had to fax over some things, including proof of business license and articles of incorporation. Matter was resolved within 2 days. No contact was made to domain "owner."
One last thing I would suggest is to get the business documentation in line and contact the registrar directly. In fact, I would have a law firm write up a simple cover letter so that you can provide the registrar the information. Contact the registrar over the phone first (if possible) and explain the situation. Then tell them you will fax over documents to get it changed over. One last question would be is the registrant owner you guys?
Edit: Added content.

PumpAndDump
This is exactly the approach I'd take.

Sanity_in_Moderation
As a young attorney who is sometimes hungry and occasionally mean, I can tell you what I would do.
Make sure the threats are documented in email.
Draw up the lawsuit, make it ugly and nasty.
BUT That's not the "mean" part What makes the difference between a lawyer and mean one is the following. To really hurt this guy read on.
Before you file the lawsuit or send him a letter, find out who does his data hosting. ALL of his data hosting. As soon as the lawsuit is filed, and before service of process, I would ask for a temporary restraining order denying him access to his server space in order to prevent him from doing what he has threatened to do. This can be done ex parte, meaning he wouldn't even be in the courtroom at this point. The elements of a TRO are as follows
Likelihood of success (later on in the trial) You've got this easy.
Irreparable harm to you if it's not issued. You also have this.
Harm to the defendant if it is issued. This one's tricky, but I would argue that you intend to move your data out from under his control anyway.
Public interest. Extortion is not in the public interest.
This would only work if you can document his actions with email and recorded conversations (state law varies on that point). The order would not be directed at asshat, but at the server company, who doesn't care and doesn't want to be involved. The goal is a court order commanding them to lock him out of his accounts. We're not asking for control your honor, only that he is prevented from destroying our business. It is entirely possible to write the order as to lock him out of his accounts. Not just yours. All of them. Then serve him. Then let him contest it. While he's fighting for control over all of his accounts he is effectively out of business.
Sue for damages. Sue for attorney fees. Sue for loss of reputation. Ask for order barring him from badmouthing you or interfering with your business in anyway. Ask for order commanding him to make me a sandwich.
kingvitaman
Unfortunately this is one of the oldest tricks in the book. There's got to be some legal precedence for this as it happens quite frequently. I'd say that it may be time to stop negotiating with him directly and go straight to a lawyer. This will most likely be a costly affair if he owns the domain, however, in some cases your business (and it's content) may also be able to claim a great degree of the "success" of the domain in court so in the long run it could be useful.
I actually used to have businesses asking me to buy their domains for them and I always told them no, that it had to be purchased on one of their credit cards because things can get pretty sketchy if A)someone doesn't want to pay to keep their domain, or B)a guy is a douchebag and uses his ownership to blackmail money.
CharliePinglass
Joining the choir here, but unlike other times when you might want to go it alone, this is exactly the time to get a lawyer involved (I say this as a lawyer myself). bofu2u is legit, so if you don't have a lawyer already that's familiar with domain disputes and related issues, I'd go with the firm he is recommending. In my experience, normal business lawyers aren't familiar with these kinds of issues and won't be able to handle them properly.
bigmur72
This is what happens when you hire someone who isn't a professional. Learn your lesson and find a real company. Not just some guy.
The only thing I would do is get a new sign and toss the old one. It'll be cheaper than dealing with this guy.
milehightechie
From the limited context, sounds kind of …er… shitty..of that guy to take advantage of you like that.
This is really a tricky subject, because if he owns the domain, there's not much you can do. It'll all boil down to what's in the lease contract (or any agreement you guys have). BUT then you come to the crux of what sort of Internet Protocol (IP) is on there, whose servers are being used, do you own the content on the site, etc.
A lawyer isn't a bad idea, especially depending on how much of a business impact we're talking about.
But no matter what, back up ALL your stuff, your web content, update File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access passwords to the web server, and get a full backup of the website. Keep us posted on what happens.
zeroquest
Best option is to pay what he's asking, then lawyer up and try to recover the money. Sorry, but you may have to pay what he's asking if you didn't purchase it under your companies name. Sucks, sorry.
mikeyfixedit
Sorry but if he bought this legally it's not extortion. He has the right to sell it for whatever he wants and to whom ever he wants. You made the mistake by not purchasing the domain name with company funds. If you owned Nike.com how much would you sell it for? Good luck trying to prove it an excessive price. Lawyer up

CharliePinglass
Not even close. Many states have trademark statutes that cover use in trade to establish a trademark, even without any formal filing. And if his business has a formal federal or state filing for their business name? Then whoever owns it is liable not just to turn the domain over but for additional damages from the infringement if any profits were derived. That's before you even get to contract based disputes, which likely exist given what's been described.

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