A couple of weeks ago, I published what was the conclusion of several weeks of investigating a dispute that culminated in the locking of 25 valuable domain names owned by investor and entrepreneur Brent Oxley.
What followed was an incredibly vocal reaction from domain name investors, with a NamePros thread garnering over 70,000 views and more than 1,200 comments.
After publishing, GoDaddy, the registrar that locked the domain names in line with its policy, stated that it was reviewing the company’s policies and seeking outside counsel from the Internet Commerce Association to see how GoDaddy “can better serve our customers while protecting everyone’s legal rights.”
GoDaddy has now completed an internal review, and GoDaddy’s VP of Aftermarket, Paul Nicks, released this statement:
All, I’d like to provide the community with another update on the recent situation. I appreciate all the opinions and engagement from the community.
As we reviewed our policies and procedures, our goal was to do what’s right for our domain investors and to protect the industry from domain theft. Your domain names need to be accessible and sellable, we get it. To be clear, this isn’t just about Brent’s issue, it’s about the long-term health of the aftermarket. The aftermarket has changed in the last 20 years, and our long-standing policy needed to address these changes.
Frankly, we needed to evolve with the times. After many discussions with outside experts, lawyers, and trade groups, we believe we have found the right balance. The new solution allows domain investing businesses to proceed while having robust anti-theft measures.
Moving forward, when we are notified of a legal dispute between two parties, we will not lock domains by default as we had previously done. We will review each notification and reserve the right to impose a 30-day interim hold, in part to help protect against improper domain flight, until a court order is obtained by the complainant. If a court order has not been received within 30 days of implementing a hold, then we will remove the hold.
While we can’t guarantee we can stop all abuse of our system, we will use best efforts and multiple layers of review to root out potential bad actors.
As this rolls out, please let me know if you hear of any issue the new policy is raising. We’ll continue to listen to your feedback and review our policies to ensure they do what’s right for the domain investor community, while still maintaining antitheft practices.
GoDaddy’s policy change was welcomed as a positive move, with the Internet Commerce Association tweeting:
GoDaddy’s new domain locking policy is a welcome improvement in domain name registrant rights. The ICA thanks GoDaddy for listening to and acting upon its concerns on behalf of domain name registrants. https://t.co/0h6PlZG1fW https://t.co/j1VsIuXWPy
— Internet Commerce (@ICADomains) March 17, 2021
While this change of policy isn’t just about Oxley’s domains, it does mean that GoDaddy has now opted to remove locks on all 25 of Oxley’s domain names, including Create.com, which houses Oxley’s new hosting company.
Oxley has now moved most of the 25 domain names to Namecheap. These domain names include Piano.com, Message.com, Hybrid.com, Create.com, Dust.com, and more.
Both Litigations Continue
The locking of the domain names came after domainer Puneet Agarwal filed a suit in India in November 2019 against GoDaddy India and Brent Oxley with Agarwal alleging that he is owed commission by Oxley.
Oxley subsequently filed a lawsuit against Puneet Agarwal in Texas in July 2020 to get the domain names unlocked.
As of writing, both the Indian litigation and Oxley’s Texas lawsuit are ongoing.
In India, a hearing on March 15, 2021, resulted in a case status of “Awaiting Services [sic] of notices/ summons,” with the next hearing date scheduled for May 3, 2021. The “Awaiting Services [sic] of notices/ summons,” status has remained the same since the lawsuit was filed in November 2019, according to publicly available case details.
In Texas, Oxley has now filed a “request for entry of default” against Agarwal (PDF).
According to USLegal.com, an entry of default is defined as:
Entry of default refers to the process where the person making a claim in a case makes a request before a court of law stating that the party against whom they have made a claim have failed to furnish any meaningful response to the claimant’s pleadings within the time allowed for that.