March 18, 2021: Brent Oxley’s domain names have now been unlocked.
With purchases such as Give.com for $500,000, Broker.com for $375,000, and Texas.com for $1,007,500, Oxley has spent millions of dollars over the past few years accumulating this collection. According to his website, the portfolio is worth more than $25 million.
Oxley has now, however, lost access to a proportion of his portfolio after GoDaddy locked 25 domain names as a result of a lawsuit filed by an Indian domainer.
Create.com, one of the most valuable domains Oxley has lost access to, is home to his new hosting company. Create.com’s launch was a much-anticipated return to the hosting industry for Oxley, where he made his mark founding HostGator.
Oxley confirmed, though, that his new hosting business wouldn’t be affected by the locking of Create.com since the domain is only used for sales and has nothing to do with the hosting servers that keep his customer’s sites online.
The Indian Litigation
The locking of Oxley’s domains came about as a result of a civil suit filed in November 2019 by Puneet Agarwal in an Indian court.
A translated copy of the suit is available to read here, but in short, Agarwal attests that he made a contractual agreement with Oxley to sell and acquire domain names for Oxley in return for a commission. The original suit mentions emails but no binding contractual document.
The PDF linked to above shows total costs of 820 Rupees in connection to filing this claim. That’s the equivalent of roughly $11.28.
Upon approaching Agarwal before publishing, Agarwal declined to comment or offer any insight into the alleged contract.
Why were Oxley’s domains locked as a result of this filing? That’s because Agarwal claims he played a part in helping Oxley acquire the following domains:
Piano.com, Flute.com, Memo.com, Admirer.com, Darm.com, Devote.com, Demolish.com, Emir.com, Vtok.com, Vandalize.com, LoanTap.com, Advise.com, Message.com, Distribute.com, Detect.com, Jewel.com, Dust.com, Bonjour.com, and Viaje.com.
According to the court documents, Agarwal also negotiated the purchase of seven domain names now owned by Oxley and should have received a commission if not for Oxley’s supposed breach of contract.
Those domains are CIA.com, Drone.com, Item.com, Valentine.com, Bride.com, Hybrid.com, and Athlete.com.
When reached for comment, Oxley denied the existence of any contract. Oxley still owns all of the domain names mentioned aside from Memo.com. Every domain name is registered with GoDaddy, except Vandalize.com.
As part of a fact-finding mission for this article, I reached out to brokers listed as facilitating deals for some of the domains listed to ask about Agarwal’s involvement. The brokers involved denied that Agarwal had any participation in the respective deals.
What About Create.com?
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that Create.com wasn’t mentioned in either list above. Create.com was, according to Oxley, only locked in February 2021 after Agarwal sent an email to Oxley’s lawyer.
The email that Oxley showed me states that Agarwal “won’t be responsible” if “Create.com goes offline.” Agarwal goes on to say, “your client is doing an illegal thing by running a business on a disputed domain name.”
Create.com was acquired in 2015, but Oxley states his relationship with Agarwal started when Agarwal contacted him in 2018.
Oxley’s Texas Lawsuit
Oxley filed suit (PDF) in July 2020 in a Texas court to get an order to get his 25 domain names unlocked, a case that is ongoing. The court recently denied an injunction filed by Oxley, with the judge requesting a Hague Convention application instead.
A document filed to the court by case manager Byron Thomas (PDF) shows Agarwal sent an email to Thomas requesting that the court should “order Brent Oxley to pay me compensation of 11 million USD as per my losses from his cheating, fraud, willfull [sic] deception, and the loss of 7000 domains owned by me with 50‐50% partnership with Brent Oxley.”
Upon contacting Oxley for comment, he provided me with a screenshot of an Escrow.com transaction purportedly created by Agarwal.
In the transaction (#7813820), titled “Mutual settlement of fight,” Agarwal offers to withdraw his case against Oxley and allow the registrar to unlock Oxley’s domain names.
In exchange for this, Agarwal is asking for $5 million, according to the screenshot provided.
Oxley also sent screenshots of hundreds of emails and instant messages allegedly sent by Agarwal to Oxley.
In one string of 99 messages allegedly sent by Agarwal, numerous threats are made to Oxley, including “Ur [sic] ranch will burn one day,” “Ur [sic] car will catch fire,” “I will also take help from black magic,” and “I will pray to devil god to fulfill it.”
In another string, messages include “Ur [sic] children will pay for ur [sic] bad karma,” “All ur [sic] money will be no use to them,” and “U [sic] will cry blood tears.”
I did reach out to Mr. Agarwal for comment on the article, but he declined.
Oxley Moves to Namecheap
In May 2020, I noticed that Oxley moved the majority of his domain name portfolio to Namecheap. In fact, every valuable domain Oxley owns was moved to Namecheap. The only other domain left at GoDaddy, aside from the locked names, was Create.com, which was locked in February 2021.
I understand that after Oxley moved his domains to Namecheap, Agarwal contacted Namecheap asking for Oxley’s names to be locked, a request that Namecheap declined. I contacted Namecheap for comment. I was told:
“Namecheap always puts our customers first, protecting their right, freedoms and valuable digital assets such as domain names. We have a proven track record of doing the right thing by our customers that includes fighting for their rights in court when deemed necessary. We do not lock or disable customer domains on a whim without the correct legal requirement.”
The 25 domain names have been locked by GoDaddy, Oxley’s registrar for these domains. The company’s universal terms of service agreement states that GoDaddy has the right to lock domain names for any reason, including to comply with court orders, which is typical for a domain registrar service agreement. Here, for example, is Google Domains’ terms of service. I reached out to GoDaddy for comment before the publication of this article, but I received no response.
Oxley, in an email to me, disputed the existence of any court order.
A quick look at India’s Ecourts filing (PDF) for Agarwal’s lawsuit shows a status of “Awaiting Services [sic] of notices/summons,” which seems to suggest Oxley hasn’t been served with a summons to appear.
For balance, when asked directly about the status of the case, Agarwal did tell me, “[the] lawsuit has not been stalled in India.”
An affidavit filed by Oxley’s Indian Advocate (PDF) also attests that Oxley has yet to be served, despite the case being open for more than a year.
What Will Happen to Oxley’s Domains?
As of writing, 25 of Oxley’s domain names remain locked. I’m told that the domain names will be renewed if necessary, so they will not be expiring.
Beyond that, what is the fate of Oxley’s names? It seems that the domain names will remain locked until the outcome of the Indian lawsuit is decided upon unless Oxley’s Texas lawsuit is successful before then.
According to one source, the average civil suit in India has a duration of between three and six years.
In the meantime, Agarwal has successfully halted Oxley’s use of a proportion of his valuable domain portfolio. With Oxley reporting in his court case that he has received over $5 million in offers on the locked domains, the standstill on his domaining activity has cost him dearly.