A Few Thoughts About Domain Name Ethics

I want to flesh out some thoughts about ethical domain name acquisitions after an article I wrote generated some comments and a couple of emails asking about it. In the article I wrote last week, I wrote the following about ethics:

“I would never intentionally buy or register a brand name with the idea of selling the domain name to a specific company. That is legally and possibly ethically wrong, and it is also financially risky.”

When I buy domain names, I never want to be embarrassed about owning them when someone inquires to buy. I try to buy domain names with large appeal rather than specific domain names only one company or one person would ever want to buy. I feel like it is likely unethical to buy a domain name that only one other person or business would ever want to own (with that being the sole reason for buying it). This might change if I was going to use a particular domain name for a website – like a gripe site I suppose, but I don’t see that happening.

I will share some  examples to make what I am saying a bit  more clear.

I would love to own descriptive domain names like Dentist.com or Dental.com. Those domain names have mass appeal to a wide variety of prospective buyers throughout the world. Even second tier domain names like DentalCenter.com or BostonDentist.com have generic value and could be desired by many parties.

I would not, however, want to buy or own a specific domain name like TheodoreSchwartzenwalderDMD.com because I saw a local dentist named Theodore Schwartzenwalder (made up name) had not bought his domain name and I wanted to register it to sell to him. I think this is unethical. Likewise, buying a generic but very specific domain name is a grey area. Let’s say there is one dentist in a very small town. I wouldn’t want to own RandomTinyTownDentist.com knowing that there is only one dentist who might want this domain name. This is a grey area (ethically) to me.

In both of the cases I mentioned, I would be uncomfortable trying to sell the domain names, although I am sure others might argue that the second example  is generic. It might be generic enough legally, but I wouldn’t be comfortable owning it and trying to sell it.

People need to keep in mind that ethics tends to be a personal set of principles. While many people may share the same feeling about things that are ethical or unethical, people from different backgrounds may have a different opinion. Additionally, there are some things that would be both unethical and illegal, and the later aspect could cause problems that are more costly than the first part.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. I hve got simmpl.com , nd there is a company by sme nme in netherlands. is it unethical.
    did not know that while registring domain. registred it considering 1 word domain.

    • Not sure.

      I will say that I have bought names at auction because they look like they could be used by more than one entity, and it turns out there is just one business by that name. I don’t like doing that, and I know it can happen.

  2. There is a lot of trends in naming that may take time to catch on. There may only be one company with that name because they were early on in the trend. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be more companies with that name at some point in time.

    I don’t understand how it’s fine to sell the name if there are a hundred companies but not fine if there is only one. What’s the difference? How would both scenarios not be unethical to some degree.

    Personally I think if you find a name that another company would want then you are doing them a great service by offering the name to them for a reasonable price. Most companies I believe would thank you and not scorn you for this.

    • Agreed. If I see an matching .com for a company, I often will send an email to the business owner, operations or marketing person at the company alerting them the domain is in expired auction. In a few cases, I was able to bid on behalf of the company, secure the name, and the company paid me a finder’s fee. So, I agree with your comments about “Most companies I believe would thank you and not scorn you for this.”

  3. If you arent committed enough to conduct trademark research, study UDRP cases, and apply it to domain speculation; you are not ready to invest wisely. Example, as a speculator; study how Halifax.com was bought for $175k and taken away via wipo 3 months later!

  4. Every successful domainer has a target in mind when they purchase a domain. It may be a target business demographic, an industry or a handful of specific companies or individuals. We are all looking for a motivated end user to purchase our domain at 5X to 100X what we paid for it. Some are saying that if the target market is very limited they find that to be unethical. I respect that position as long as they understand it’s a very personal and subjective line to draw and is not based in any clear logic or fact. The basic formula for domain success (buy wholesale and sell retail to a target) is a universal process that we are all engaged in.

  5. Thank you for this article. I am not in the business of domain investing and only recently learned that it is a thing – and it’s nice to know that The whole business model isn’t just a predatory racket.

    I was creeped out when last year I discovered that somebody had registered my teenage daughter’s full name and Instagram handle when she was only 15 and starting to get a lot done f people following her art. I was surprised that it was even legal, especially when it involves a minor. I had intended to register the domain to protect her but was too late.

    • Is she a well-known artist? Could the person have bought it because they know someone with the same name?

      I would also find that strange to have my child’s exact match .com domain name registered by someone else if they bought it because of my child.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts

Rookie Mistake: Reading Expiry Lists at Breakfast

Every morning, as early as I am awake, I look through domain name expiry lists to see what is coming up for auction. I'll...

GoDaddy Auctions Running NameFind Auctions

GoDaddy is running a featured auction via its GoDaddy Auctions platform with domain names from its NameFind portfolio. While I would argue the domain...

Spaceship Hits 1 Million DUM – Only 13% of New Registrations are .com

Earlier this morning, Richard Kirkendall shared that Spaceship hit the 1 million Domains Under Management (DUM) mark. Richard is the Founder of Namecheap and...

Converse.CO UDRP Decision Turns on Price Inference

In general, I thought UDRP panels have gotten past the issue of pricing as it relates to generic / descriptive one word domain names....

Ebbs and Flows of Domain Investing

My domain investment portfolio has grown from around 500 domain names to around 2,000 domain names in the last several years. Even at that...