SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that’s been working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives that supporters claim will stop people from stealing content like movies, music and books online. Opponents claim the bill, should it become law, will give the government nearly unfettered control over what can be viewed online.
The bill would make it surprisingly easy to get court orders to shut down any website suspected of participating in copyright infringement in any way, even if that happens to be indirectly. Internet service providers would be required to block access to sites that host or link to other sites suspected of copyright infringement, and online search engines could be blocked from showing results that include blocked websites, regardless of whether or not they are hosted in the United States
Those accused of unauthorized streaming of copyright-protected content would face felony charges. For more on what’s SOPA, see our previous coverage on it here.
The Bad: GoDaddy the only Domain Registrar to Support SOPA, Customers start boycotting it by transferring out their domains
Major Internet companies formed a united front in their opposition to the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. The House Judiciary Committee has released a list of 142 companies that support SOPA. GoDaddy appears to be the only domain registrar, or Internet company for that matter, on the list. Indeed, even traditionally strong copyright supporters like the Business Software Alliance have been having second thoughts about the legislation. In a op-ed published in Politico shortly after SOPA was introduced in the House, GoDaddy applauded the bill and called opponents “myopic.”
GoDaddy’s initial support for SOPA has spurred many of its customers to transfer their domains to other hosting companies despite the fact that the company ultimately reversed its stance and issued a statement saying it no longer supports the bill. (See below for more on this).
In response to outcry from the public and angry customers, Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman had stated,
Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation — but we can clearly do better. It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.
Now furious Internet users at reddit (owned by Advance Publications, which also owns Condé Nast) have organized a boycott of the registrar.
Data from DailyChanges shows that Go Daddy’s domain losses are already up over 72,000 for the past five days, and that’s likely to keep climbing, especially with Redditors ready to push for massive transfers on December 29. The Boycott GoDaddy website is asking domain owners to pledge to drop Go Daddy, too.
“I just finished writing GoDaddy a letter stating why I’m moving my small businesses 51 domains away from them, as well as my personal domains,” wrote redditor selfprodigy on Thursday morning. He proposed that December 29 be declared “move your domain day,” with GoDaddy customers switching to competing registrars. The post has accumulated more than 1,500 comments, most of them supporting the idea.
The anti-SOPA rally got bigger after Ycombinator’s Paul Graham disclosed that SOPA-friendly companies would be blacklisted from the YC Demo Day, followed by Cheezburger (as in I Can Has Cheeseburger, FAIL Blog, Know Your Meme, etc.) CEO Ben Huh announcing that they will be moving their array of over 1,000 domains away from GoDaddy unless the registrar recants their support of the act.
The Good (Well, sort of) : GoDaddy No Longer Supports SOPA
GoDaddy’s support of SOPA sparked an impromptu user exodus last week as customers started boycotting it and transferring their domains away to competing registrars, which was further encouraged by competitors giving out coupons for transfer-ins to them, with already tens of thousands of domains being transferred in the fall out. Sensing a communications disaster the new CEO Warren Adelman then reversed the company’s official position on SOPA.
GoDaddy has just recanted their support of SOPA, issuing a press release. This comes just hours after they were seemingly cementing their position, shrugging off the boycotts as something that had yet to cause “any impact to [their] business”.
Here’s GoDaddy’s official statement changing stands:
Looks to Internet Community & Fellow Tech Leaders to Develop Legislation We All Support
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Dec. 23, 2011) — Go Daddy is no longer supporting SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” currently working its way through U.S. Congress.
“Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation — but we can clearly do better,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s newly appointed CEO, said. “It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”
Go Daddy and its General Counsel, Christine Jones, have worked with federal lawmakers for months to help craft revisions to legislation first introduced some three years ago. Jones has fought to express the concerns of the entire Internet community and to improve the bill by proposing changes to key defined terms, limitations on DNS filtering to ensure the integrity of the Internet, more significant consequences for frivolous claims, and specific provisions to protect free speech.
“As a company that is all about innovation, with our own technology and in support of our customers, Go Daddy is rooted in the idea of First Amendment Rights and believes 100 percent that the Internet is a key engine for our new economy,” said Adelman.
In changing its position, Go Daddy remains steadfast in its promise to support security and stability of the Internet. In an effort to eliminate any confusion about its reversal on SOPA though, Jones has removed blog postings that had outlined areas of the bill Go Daddy did support.
“Go Daddy has always fought to preserve the intellectual property rights of third parties, and will continue to do so in the future,” Jones said.
Despite the ambiguous reversal, the ramifications of the continuing PR disaster are huge, and “Dump GoDaddy Day” is still slated for the 29th” Perhaps that’s why GoDaddy reps are calling customers in order to make sure they understand the company’s new, reversed position?
For its part, Go Daddy’s public statement that it no longer supports SOPA doesn’t seem to go far enough for opponents of the bill, especially since Mr. Adelman said his company would consider supporting future versions of the bill. The fact that Go Daddy helped craft the bill’s current wording hasn’t helped the company’s case, either.
The statements made by GoDaddy and its new CEO are far from strong, but they may solidify with time. “Not supporting” is not the same as opposing, and on an issue like this the internet, by their own admission the source of their reversal, will demand opposition. They can’t avoid the fact that they were a strong, on-the-record supporter of the bill, however, and that may be something of an albatross for them for some time. While this quick reversal in the face of a widespread outcry may possibly be nothing but a business decision, it is still a business decision that could be a useful one in the opposition of SOPA and similar legislation.
The Ugly: GoDaddy accused of “thwarting” domain transfers in violation of ICANN rules
If thing’s weren’t bad enough for GoDaddy, competitor NameCheap accused it of blocking domain transfers this week. The problem has reared its head due to the ongoing SOPA-related boycott of the company’s services, and appears to be related to GoDaddy’s decision earlier this year to throttle Whois queries.
NameCheap, one of the registrars that has been offering discounts to GoDaddy customers outraged by its recently recanted support of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, blogged:
As many customers have recently complained of transfer issues, we suspect that this competitor [Go Daddy] is thwarting efforts to transfer domains away from them.
Specifically, GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process. This practice is against ICANN rules.
We at Namecheap believe that this action speaks volumes about the impact that informed customers are having on GoDaddy’s business.
It’s a shame that GoDaddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at GoDaddy, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Part of transferring a domain from GoDaddy to NameCheap involves checking the identity of the registrant against Whois records.
Judging by a number of complaints made by Reddit readers, it appears that NameCheap and other registrars are attempting to automatically query Go Daddy’s Whois database on port 43 at sufficient volume to trigger whatever throttling algorithm Go Daddy has in place to prevent the “harvesting” of contact data.
The registrar giant claimed then that it was trying to protect its customers by preventing the inappropriate use of their contact data.
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