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GoDaddy Drops Support for SOPA, Sort Of

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GoDaddy is often in the doghouse of public opinion. Whether it’s making leering television ads, promoting its chairman and founder shooting elephants in Africa, or supporting points of view antithetical to the nature of a free and open Internet, the company doesn’t seem to back down. Or does it?

GoDaddy was criticized last month after Gizmodo published a list of firms that were on record as supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The list comes from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, which was shepherding the bill into law. SOPA would give unprecedented powers to copyright holders to demand that seemingly infringing Web sites be shut down without any process to determine whether the request is valid. (That list appears to also include firms that don’t support SOPA.)

In its original form, SOPA would kill a targeted site, block any payments made to it by ad networks or charge processors, and remove the site from search engines. All of these measures would be backed by extreme penalties. Most sensible people — including a host of Internet gurus — say this could enable censorship of the nature perpetuated by totalitarian governments, like China. If enacted, SOPA would have huge repercussions for all Web site operators of all sizes, including the millions hosted by GoDaddy. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are among the many Internet firms that oppose SOPA, while record labels, film studios, and publishers are on the list of supporters.

GoDaddy’s founder, Bob Parsons, filed a statement back in November with Congress that outlined the company’s broad support for a number of previous measures as well as SOPA that break the Internet and block free speech in the narrow interest of defending the limited rights of copyright holders to protect their work against unauthorized distribution:

...our company strongly supported the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, the Protect Our Children Act of 2008, and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP). GoDaddy has always supported both government and private industry efforts to identify and disable all types of illegal activity on the Internet. It is for these reasons that I’m still struggling with why some Internet companies oppose PROTECT IP and SOPA.

After receiving a combination of withering scorn and the threat of mass domain name transfers, including the 1,000 operated by the Cheezburger Network, GoDaddy appeared to back down, and pulled its support for SOPA. (It’s unclear how many domain names were transferred, of course, and whether the firm was motivated by public opinion or the potential for customer defection.)

Read GoDaddy’s statement, but I don’t precisely accept this change of heart. First, while GoDaddy claims to repudiate SOPA, that is only in its current form, which now has seemingly no chance of advancing into law. Second, the firm doesn’t repudiate its backing of previous flawed efforts, many of which are now in law. Third, it holds out support for the bill in the future: “Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.” Who is this “Internet community?” It’s a rather nebulous concept, easily defined in whatever way GoDaddy chooses. GoDaddy’s CEO (who took on the job a week ago) told Gizmodo that GoDaddy would be willing to resume its support of SOPA if there were a “consensus” among “internet leadership,” but wouldn’t say what such a consensus would even resemble.

Finally, GoDaddy wants to revise history. This specious note in its press release is risible:

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, [General Counsel Christine] Jones has removed blog postings that had outlined areas of the bill Go Daddy did support.

I left GoDaddy hosting years ago when it failed to perform seemingly minor technical tasks in a competent fashion, once denying that a top-level domain registrar had the authority to vouch for me owning a domain in that hierarchy. But if I had an account with them, I would leave now. The firm opposes the very nature of the beast that bore them.

If you’d like advice on transferring your domain name registration and other hosting from GoDaddy (or any firm), you can read a long piece I wrote for Macworld that has all the details.

 

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Comments about GoDaddy Drops Support for SOPA, Sort Of
(Comments are closed.)

Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 13:39
I was stung by @cjoh's tweet. https://twitter.com/#!/cjoh/status/150045110367825920

> I like how misogyny and elephant shootings weren't good enough for internet people. No, its SOPA that's got people really pissed at GoDaddy.

For the record, I used GoDaddy *despite* their sleazy advertising. This is America, and they're hardly the first (although the disjunct between their abstract business and their earthy marketing is particularly gaping).

I didn't switch when Parsons was 'outed' shooting elephants. It sounded then like he was an ass, but that was no surprise. I don't know if he did anything unethical -- likely, but perhaps just very tacky. The coverage at the time was all so histrionic I felt had no real information on how badly Parsons behaved.

I have detested GoDaddy for years because of their (obviously effective) upsell marketing. When I started registering domains there (when they were **so much better & cheaper than VeriSlime**), the site UI was okay. Soon thereafter it became a nightmare slog to do anything, wading through pages of interstitial BUY UPGRADE GETMORE buttons. As soon as I had a reasonable alternative I stopped registering domains at GoDaddy.

Alas I still don't have a great registrar. EasyDNS is excellent but costly for plain registrations. I don't like the other registrars I use, but neither of them has any *disadvantages* compared to GoDaddy -- I just hoped to find a *good* registrar. Perhaps someday.

Clearly it's time to get off the pot. I am now waiting for GoDaddy's 5-day cooldown period to lapse before they will transfer my one remaining domain out. I'll be glad to be shut of them.
Paul Ellis  2011-12-23 14:15
'...block free speech in the narrow interest of defending limited rights of copyright holders to protect their work against unauthorized distribution.'

Could I draw your attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27: '(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.'

...and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Article 9: '(1) Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form.'

These can hardly be described as 'limited rights of copyright holders'.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 14:22
The limited rights I refer to aren't about restricting the rights you're citing. Copyright holders should and do have many tools to defend and enforce their rights. In fact, I defend one part of the DMCA: the safe harbor combined with a takedown letter. Used correctly, it's a great tool, and I've been party to its used. It's also misused in broader contexts than it was intended, and should be more constrained.

But in the context of media devices, computers, and the broader Internet, a subset of large corporations that own substantial rights have pushed for legislation in the entire developing world (some of it through secret back-room cartels) that sweep everyone into the net.

There are many purposes to which content is legally and legitimately turned without the permission of the owners: notably for academic purposes, critique, and citation. It is also reasonable to argue that the purchaser of a piece of media may have the right to use that media on any device under his or her control. Such rights were curtailed by the DMCA through technological means. If you defeat the technology, you commit a criminal act.

I am not advocating piracy in any form. I am not advocating that copyright holders have limited rights for restricting piracy, either. Rather that all the tools that are proposed encompass a vast array of activity unrelated to rights-based holdings. The rightsholders involved in SOPA would rather the Internet become fragile and liable to censorship without recourse than to keep it open with the potential of activities that have to be tracked down.

Copyright holders already have lots of tools at their disposal. SOPA would restrict freedom, while pirated files would merely move outside the U.S. Americans would adopt workarounds (we're clever that way), and many legitimate operations run by foreign companies and U.S. firms alike would move outside the U.S. to forestall the potential of being shut down without recourse (see MegaUpload).

We are a nation of laws. SOPA is extrajudicial and gives governmental-scale powers that should be used in a limited fashion with due process to private firms and individuals.

Free speech is threatened by SOPA.
Paul Ellis  2011-12-23 15:33
'SOPA is extrajudicial and gives governmental-scale powers that should be used in a limited fashion with due process to private firms and individuals.'

This is a deep and complex argument, and this is probably not the best forum in which to pursue it, but right now in the UK proposals have been made for legislation to enable the commercial use of so-called 'orphan works' and to impose 'extended collective licensing' of people's copyright property, amounting to a transfer of individuals' rights and property to public and private corporate bodies on a scale not seen since the Enclosures in Britain in the 16th Century.

In so doing, it will also give 'governmental-scale powers that should be used in a limited fashion with due process to private firms and individuals.'

One has to be careful what one wishes for.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 15:36
This is probably a great forum in which to pursue it. Should we write letters by fountain pen, otherwise?

The government should also have limited powers to intervene over copyright issues in many different respects.

Copyright is a limited grant by the state, even though there are moral and legal rights that accrue to the creator.
Paul Ellis  2011-12-23 15:44
'This is probably a great forum in which to pursue it.'

I was thinking more in terms of not boring your readership.

'The government should also have limited powers to intervene over copyright issues in many different respects.'

It has: 'It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.' -Berne Convention Article 9 (ii), which includes the '3-step test'.

'Copyright is a limited grant by the state, even though there are moral and legal rights that accrue to the creator.'

The point is the definition of those limits. Berne has been and is attacked by 'mission creep' from all directions. In almost all instances, it seems to me, the ordinary individual loses out.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 15:59
Orphan works are a funny category. They're only orphaned in some definitions. I love the idea that works that are both out of print and the rightsholders for which cannot be found wouldn't be lost for decades or more to come before they slip into the public domain.

The flip side is that Google's original proposal (and then the settlement that was rejected by the judge with the authors' and publishers' organizations) would have been an egregious taking.
Paul Ellis  2011-12-23 16:09
Quite so.

I'm a photographer; it's trivially easy to strip the metadata from my images and anonymous them. Daily, Facebook and the BBC do this to images in their thousands. Only recently has Google Image Search revealed the true extent of orphaning (and infringing use) of photographs.

Most photographic orphans are illegal copies. I know exactly where my images are, but someone who stumbles upon an illegal orphaned copy might well not be able to find me. So is my image an orphan, or not? Ultimately, the orphan status of any work is defined by the power and efficacy of the search tools used in a 'diligent search' to find its rights-holder.

'Diligent search' can be costly and time-consuming, which is why the UK's Cultural Heritage Sector wants to be able to license to itself commercial use of the IP in works its possession, EVEN WHEN IT KNOWS WHO THE RIGHTS-HOLDER IS, just to save itself time, trouble and money.

Now THAT's egregious.

More, a lot more, at stop43.org.uk.
Nello Lucchesi  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2011-12-23 17:11
Glenn: What registrar do recommend?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 17:15
There are fortunately a whole bunch of good ones.

I have a long and happy relationship with easyDNS, a high-end hosting firm that charges accordingly. They have a worldwide infrastructure that's robust and has dealt well with targeted attacks. Their control panel and options are sophisticated. I use easyDNS for the domains that I absolutely need to stay up all the time with no worries. Fees run from $25 or $35 per year for the basics, with higher rates for more advanced options.

But I found for smaller projects, it was hard to justify the annual hosting fees that easyDNS rightly charges for its level of service. I turned to Dynadot for noodling, as I can pay closer to $10 per year for a domain. Dynadot has been terrific, but I know much less about them and don't have the decade-long track record that I have with easyDNS. I've never had a problem with Dynadot.
Nello Lucchesi  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2011-12-23 22:03
Historically, I've registered domains with goDaddy because they've been the cheapest registrar. (I've then hosted the domains elsewhere depending on the host's pricing for the particular bundle of services I needed.

In other words, historically I've unbundled registration and hosting.

Considering registration alone, is it fair to say that goDaddy is among the cheapest registrars for .com and ,org domains?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-23 22:26
I haven't done the price check on that, but the difference even for a lot of domains isn't that much. Most of the cost is the fee charged by the TLD (like .com), which is about $7.50 right now.
can you comment on the dynadot's web hosting? price seems very low to the basic option,
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-24 19:36
I haven't used their hosting, so I don't know how well it works.
Nello Lucchesi  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2011-12-23 22:37
Never mind. I see that dynadot's pricing is quite competitive.
Alec Kinnear  2012-01-04 13:52
Dynadot is a great registrar with minimal upsell. The new website and their new relationship with SEDO worry me but Dynadot is the easiest to use of the registrars I've used (about a dozen).

GoDaddy is one of the worst companies on the internet.