Dean Peters maintains the healyourchurchwebsite.com, committed to ” teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design” and “constantly challenging churches to have a better web presence.” Dean provided some advice on obtaining domain names today and he makes some points of both secular and sacred significance.
1. Register the variants of your “guessable” name. As Dean points out, $35 for a domain name is less expensive than $1200 for a UDRP proceeding. This is true in any denomination. There are various variants. There are alternate names, nick-names, mis-spellings and plausible alternate TLD versions (as in firstbaptist.com, .net, .org, .info and, perhaps, .biz (insert your views on religion here)). I would draw the line at implausible variants.
2. Religious names muddies the waters. The domain name [denominational]church.org reasonably might be understood to refer to a specific entity (perhaps the national governing body of that sect) or to the sect itself or to the doctrine of the sect. This ambiguity gives rise to both good-faith and bad-faith disputes. The UDRP only resolves disputes which involve names used as trademarks (which can be the case in many situations – trademark use does not have to be for-profit), but it is not intended to resolve complex fact patterns. And no UDRP panelist (and no civil judge for that matter) will resolve a case which poses a question such as: “ownership of the disputed property will go to the true adherents of the [denominational] church.”
3. The domain name system, given its flat structure, does not serve as a good directory for local institutions. You can add 50 TLDs tomorrow and will not accomodate all the entities who might reasonably be located at firstbaptist.org or holycross.org or templebethshalom.org. See my previous rants.