How to Avoid Losing Your Community's Internet Domain Name
Coutinho, Rayan F., Public Management
A majority of political subdivisions now have a presence on the World Wide Web in some form or another. Web development and hosting agreements are usually signed by community administrators who assume that all intellectual property automatically belongs to the community because the community paid for it. Some communities may be surprised to learn that their website domain name (for example, www.mycommunity.com) is not owned by them.
Our office recently was asked by a community to review an agreement related to the renewal of its Web development and hosting plan. Although it was a typical agreement, one provision caught our attention: the Web developer had registered the domain name with the registrar in the developer's name and was simply licensing the domain name for a fee to the community. What was troublesome was that the agreement prohibited the community from using the domain name upon termination of the agreement.
This arrangement has some disadvantages:
1. The community could potentially lose valuable intellectual property that it rightfully should own.
2. The community could incur substantial expenses in reprinting its letterheads and business cards as well as educating the public.
3. The developer, upon termination of the agreement, could post advertising or inappropriate material that could create an appearance of improper endorsement by the community of certain businesses or information.
A simple solution to avoid this situation is to register a domain name with .gov as the top-level domain name instead of .com or .org. The U.S. General Services Administration is the federal agency responsible for oversight of the .gov Internet domain name. …