Change in Domain Transfer
In July 2004, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) changed to procedure for moving a domain from one registrar to another. Many people, including me, were under the impression that this changed the owner of the domain. It doesn’t — it can change the registrar for the domain.
The old policy stated that both registrars (the registrar losing the domain and the registrar gaining the domain) had to be in agreement before the domain could be transferred. Apparently, some registrars were sending fake renewal notices to domain owners, causing them to inadvertently change registrars. In order to curb this practice, ICANN created a new policy.
After November 12, 2004, the gaining registrar must obtain express authorization from the Registered Name Holder or the Administrative Contact. The losing registrar does not have to give consent. If they do not respond within five calendar days, the transfer is approved.
WebReference has a good article covering this subject and it is easier to understand than the ICANN document.
What is really interesting is that a major domain — panix.com — was moved from one registrar to another without their knowledge. You can read their overview of the incident, but basically, the panix.com domain was moved to a registrar in Australia, the DNS records were moved to the United Kingdom and panix.com email servers were re-directed to Canada.
As you read above, this is not supposed to be able to happen. At this point, no one really knows what has happened. When I find out more, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if you are a domain owner or the administrative contact, please read communications you receive from your registrar — don’t let your domain be hijacked!