Last week, I wrote an article sharing my opinion that a domain name should not be locked by GoDaddy in a legal dispute unless a court order is received – with very few exceptions. This came to my attention after reading about GoDaddy’s decision to lock domain names owned by Brent Oxley in response to litigation that was filed.
At several points during the discussion on NamePros, GoDaddy VP Paul Nicks commented that GoDaddy was working with outside groups to make a determination about whether or not its legal locking policy needs to be updated or revised. Yesterday afternoon, Paul shared another update to let people know the decision was reversed and the company has updated its policy:
“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.”
The decision was applauded by the Internet Commerce Association in a tweet (notably, the ICA is an independent domain industry trade organization and GoDaddy is one of 4 Platinum members):
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
I also think this is the right call. During the course of litigation, the litigant will still have the ability to seek a court order to lock domain names if warranted. The court will look at the case and make that determination – not GoDaddy.
While this change was made solely by GoDaddy, I hope other registrars look at their own policies to ensure they are fair to all parties.