Yes, it is possible for two or more people to jointly own and share a domain name (if they so choose to).
There are a few ways to structure shared domain ownership depending on the needs and preferences of the co-owners.
Some key factors to consider when sharing domain ownership include:
- How will management responsibilities be divided?
- How will costs be shared?
- What happens if one owner wants to sell their share or leave the partnership?
- How will disputes be resolved?
Clearly defining these factors in a legal agreement is advised before proceeding with shared domain registration.
But before we proceed, note:
One single domain name cannot be individually registered to two different people.
How to Share Ownership of a Domain
There are three main ways two or more people can structure shared domain ownership:
1. Register the domain under a joint partnership or company name
This involves forming a legal entity like an LLC or corporation to be the official registrant of the domain. The partners would be co-owners of that entity and share management of the domain through the business.
- Clean separation between personal and company assets
- Shared liability protection
- Clear structure for sharing costs and responsibilities
- More complex setup
- Annual fees and paperwork to maintain the entity
2. List multiple registrants on the domain account
Most domain registrars allow adding additional account users who can manage different aspects of the domain.
For example, one user could handle the technical DNS settings while the other focuses on billing and renewals.
- Simple to setup
- Direct access for each co-owner to make changes
- Less legal protection
- Unclear division of ownership
3. Register the domain under one person’s account with a legal agreement
The domain can be registered to a single person’s account, but a legal agreement like a partnership contract is created to grant the other co-owners rights.
- Inexpensive and straightforward setup
- Imbalanced control since account holder has full domain authority
- The legal agreement may not hold much weight
Who Owns the Rights to a Domain Name?
The registrant listed in the WHOIS records for a domain is considered the legal owner. This person holds the rights to:
- Renew or transfer the domain registration
- Update name server and DNS settings
- Grant access to other users on the account
- Sell the domain to a new owner
If the domain is registered to a business entity like an LLC, then that entity holds the domain rights. The owners of the company share the rights indirectly through their ownership stake.
For jointly owned domains, the legal agreement between co-owners will specify the extent of each person’s rights.
But the registrant maintains full control over the domain itself unless ownership is officially transferred.
How to Prove Domain Ownership
Domain registrars have established various ways to verify that the person making changes or transfers is the true owner, such as:
- Authorization code – The registrar can send a unique code to the email on file to authorize updates.
- Domain lock – Preventing unauthorized transfers proves the current registrant has control.
- Email confirmation – Clicking a confirmation link in an email can verify consent for transfers or changes.
- Legal paperwork – Official company documents or ownership agreements may be required for large disputes.
If multiple people own a domain, having documentation like contracts and shared access granted on the registrar account provides evidence you are a valid co-owner.
Registering a Domain on Behalf of Someone Else
While anyone can pay to register a domain, officially it should be in the name of the person or organization that will make use of it.
However, you are allowed to register a domain on someone else’s behalf, for example as a gift or for a client.
There are a few options to handle the registration:
- Transfer it to them immediately – As soon as the registration is complete, use the registrar’s transfer function to change the registrant name to the new owner.
- Add them to the account – Give shared access to the recipient right away even if the domain stays in your name initially.
- Provide paperwork – A contract or sales receipt firmly establishes their ownership rights.
- List them as the billing contact – This doesn’t prove full ownership but does link their name to the domain account.
To avoid domain ownership disputes, it’s recommended to transfer the registration out of your name as soon as possible unless you have a formal agreement permitting you to retain control.
- Shared domain ownership is possible through entities, account access, or contracts.
- The official domain registrant maintains the core ownership rights.
- Authorization codes, locks, confirmations, and paperwork help prove domain ownership.
- You can register domains on someone else’s behalf by immediately transferring it or granting account access.
Clearly establishing domain ownership and management responsibilities upfront is crucial for smooth co-ownership.
Seeking professional legal guidance when structuring a shared domain agreement can help protect all parties involved.