Go Daddy Becomes Example in SOPA Backlash

Go Daddy is backpedaling over its support of the "Stop Online Piracy Act," or SOPA, that's working its way through Congress. It may be too little, too late. But is Go Daddy being unfairly boycotted for its involvement in the bill just because it's perhaps the most visible and largest domain registrar?

SOPA, also known as HR 3261, essentially gives U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders more room to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.

The original bill would pave the way for the Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against Web sites that infringe on copyrights. SOPA opponents say the bill amounts to Internet censorship and tramples First Amendment rights.

As part of the firestorm, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales tweeted that Go Daddy's position on SOPA was not acceptable. News reports indicate that more than 70,000 domain names moved away from Go Daddy last week in response to its support of SOPA. And with a Reddit user working to organize Dump Go Daddy Day on Dec. 29, the bleeding could grow worse.

Changing Tunes

Go Daddy issued a formal statement on Dec. 23 hoping to stem the tide of defectors. Go Daddy admits that it initially supported the bill. In fact, Go Daddy and its general counsel, Christine Jones, said they worked with federal lawmakers for months to help craft revisions to legislation first introduced some three years ago.

"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," said Warren Adelman, Go Daddy's newly appointed CEO. "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 said 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.

Stuck in the Middle

Now Go Daddy competitors are getting in on the battle, perhaps sensing an opportunity to capture some of the momentum from the bad PR. Namecheap is accusing Go Daddy of blocking name transfers to its servers.

"Go Daddy appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process. This practice is against ICANN rules," the company wrote on its blog. "We at Namecheap believe that this action speaks volumes about the impact that informed customers are having on Go Daddy's business.

"It's a shame that Go Daddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at Go Daddy, desperate times call for desperate measures."

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, sees this as a sign of how competitive the name registrar landscape has grown. Go Daddy, because of its advertising, is the most visible domain name registrar and is now being targeted, in part, because of its popularity.

"It's very easy to transfer a domain name to a new supplier," Kerravala said. "So far as SOPA, the DOJ needs to figure out what they want to enforce and what they don't. Technically it is a violation of First Amendment rights, but they can't go unmonitored completely."