If you haven’t heard, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is being pushed quickly through Congress, and the ultimate effect of it could be devastating to web hosts, small website owners, and the internet in general.
Under the premise of protecting intellectual property and trademarks, the new bill would empower swift takedowns of websites suspected of hosting, promoting, or even linking to anything that infringes on someone else’s content. Unfortunately, that could include all the spam comments we get for fake Uggs, knock-off jerseys, and illicit movie downloads. Once a site is suspected of infringement, the DOJ or copyright holders would be authorized to acquire a quick injunction against them including but not limited to: banning online advertisers and payment systems from doing business with the site, preventing search engines like Google from even linking to a site, and requiring ISPs and to block access to such sites through their DNS systems.
At the extreme end, website owners could be convicted of a felony charge that results in as much as five years in prison and a $150,000 fine. And here I thought the post-Napster judgments were excessive!
Godaddy picks sides: poorly
One notable exemption in the proposed law protects domain registrars from any liability. Some have concluded that this might even leave them with first crack at acquiring those domains who have been knocked offline. In that case, registrars like Godaddy could get paid up front for registering and hosting a domain, then take over ownership of the desirable dot coms as soon as the prior owner heads to jail.
For that reason and others we can only guess at, Godaddy publicly announced their support for SOPA – even though it would leave their own customers at risk for a legal nightmare.
Of course, the internet was outraged at this betrayal, and various campaigns have kicked off on Reddit and other social sites that would be particularly at risk in a post-SOPA environment. An official day of exodus was planned for today, December 29, 2011, but some reports show that the boycott started early. In just two days after the exodus was organized, it was claimed that as many as 37,000 domains moved away from Godaddy registration. Scallywagandvandabond.com is claiming that the number was up to 72,000 on December 26th.
Notably, some very large brands are taking their cash from the world’s biggest registrar and one of the biggest hosts in the internet biz. Wikipedia announced it would be transfering its domain names and hosting elsewhere, as did Imgur – and those two sites alone could spend as much on hosting resources as the next 100,000 combined.
Backing down – sort of
When the boycott started gaining steam, it didn’t take long for Godaddy to react – even in the middle of a Christmas holiday season. Their new CEO, Warren Adelman, offered a limp conciliation in retracting their once fervent support:
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
And while this weak reversal was posted on their online blog, no such opposition has been recorded in their congressional statements. In effect, they are saying one thing to their customers and another to the legislators who will have final say on the contents of the proposed law.
Hardly the only problem with Godaddy
Regardless of your opinions of Godaddy, this is hardly the only reason to avoid doing business with them. I’ve never really met a happy customer, and some of the accusations are downright evil. Many have searched domain names through their service only to come back later, ready to register, and discover that the TLD had already been purchased and transferred to Godaddy.
Their hosting has never had particularly a good reputation, but they do manage to bring in volume by selling sex appeal and advertising during highly watched events like the SuperBowl. Just think about that: your business with Godaddy has to pay for hosting, registration services, and some of the most expensive commercial air-time available. How is that a good deal?
Politically, the ex-CEO and founder of Godaddy can’t help but make enemies with his out-there opinions. He ticked off environmentalists for bragging about a hunting trip in Africa that bagged an endangered elephant. A few years before that, he condoned the torture of suspected terrorists, although they quickly backed down from that stance as well – just as soon as it proved unpopular.
12/29/11 – Goodbye Godaddy!
If you’ve got domains registered or hosted with Godaddy, today would be a great day to send them – and everyone else supporting SOPA – a clear message about the future of the web, and just how important free speech is!