Updated 12:12 pm Thursday, December 29
The bills’ progress has been temporarily halted in Congress until January 2012, but nonetheless, opposition to the House’s much-criticized Stop Online Piracy Act and its counterpart in the Senate, the PROTECT-IP Act, is growing as opponents seek to punish those businesses and lawmakers that have publicly expressed support of the bill.
The first targets: Controversial domain registrar GoDaddy.com, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
GoDaddy.com has already experienced massive blowback from irate, anti-SOPA customers over the past week, with upwards of 120,000 domains being transferred away from GoDaddy.com’s hosting services to those of other competitors after a user of the popular social news website Reddit on December 22 posted a thread about transferring 51 domains away from the service and invited likeminded Web users to follow suit on or before Thursday, December 29.
Prominent SOPA critics, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Ben Huh, founder and CEO of Cheezburger (the company that monetized the LOLCats meme and other similar Internet ephemera) and web-sharing service Imgur have all joined the GoDaddy boycott as well, pledging to move all of their thousands of Web addresses to registrars that have come out against the legislation.
Those registrars opposed to SOPA and PIPA include Namecheap, Name and Hover, and all of them have been or are offering discounts to accept GoDaddy defectors on Thursday.
The damage to GoDaddy is undoubtedly mitigated by the fact that the company continues to add new domains at a clip almost, but not quite enough to offset the total number of transfers away.
Still, there’s no denying the company has been floored by the negative response it’s received for its initial support of the piracy legislation currently worming its way through Congress (a response perhaps exacerbated by the fact that GoDaddy helped craft the legislation and would be exempt from takedown notices and liability for failure to takedown as the legislation is currently written, which critics have been quick to point out).
GoDaddy not only dropped its support for SOPA and PIPA, but has been reportedly having representatives call and plead with customers not to switch because of its waffling political position on the bill.
Meanwhile, the company’s new CEO Warren Adelman hasn’t officially opposed the piracy legislation, telling Gizmodo it wasn’t “ready in its current form,” but that the company may offer its support to a revised version. GoDaddy’s competitors and customers have also accused the company of making the process of transferring domains away from the company unreasonably, punitively difficult by implementing various technical roadblocks, but GoDaddy has attempted to rebut these allegations.
In any case, these are striking reactions, given the fact that GoDaddy, one of the largest domain registrar companies in the world, is by all accounts, one company that should be used to dealing with irate customers — having courted criticism in the past over former CEO Bob Parsons’ flashy African elephant hunting safari and its provocative, banned, arguably sexist advertisements featuring nearly-nude women.
Meanwhile, apparently responding to suggestions by Cato Institute policy scholar Julian Sanchez and voracious SOPA critic and Techdirt blogger Mike Masnick, Reddit users have launched efforts to dig up dirt on, and ruin the political careers of, SOPA and PIPA supporters in Congress.
Reddit appears to have coalesced around two initial targets: PIPA supporter Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and SOPA supporter and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), both of whom are up for re-election in 2012.
We’ve reached out to GoDaddy and the lawmakers’ offices for more information on how they are dealing with the planned protests and will update when we receive a response.
A contentious markup hearing on SOPA in the House Judiciary Committee was adjourned December 16 and is due to resume no earlier than January 17, 2012 while the PROTECT IP Act, which had been blocked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is due to be debated on and voted on by the full Senate on January 24, 2012. Both bills need to clear their respective Congressional chambers and be merged into a final piece of legislation before it can be passed into law, but with more avowed supporters in Congress than opponents, it appears at this time as though passage - though hated by the Internet - is likely.
Broadly speaking, SOPA and PIPA would give the U.S. government expanded powers — through the Attorney General — to order the U.S. websites to sever ties with, and refuse to serve up the webpages of foreign domains accused of piracy by copyright holders (namely Hollywood, the recording industry and the pharmaceutical industry — the principal private supporters of the current legislation). An alternative piece of legislation, the OPEN Act, was published in draft form online by anti-SOPA/PIPA lawmakers Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in an effort to conceive a new approach to fighting online piracy with the input of the online community from the onset. That act was introduced as an amendment in the House and voted down.
Late update: Rep. Paul Ryan’s office has clarified his stance on SOPA, saying in Twitter and Facebook posts that Ryan is not a cosponsor of the legislation, nor does he support it. Noticeably, though the statement doesn’t say Ryan is against it, only that he is apparently taking a “wait and see” approach.
A statement issued by Rep. Paul Ryan’s press secretary Kevin Seifert, posted on Facebook, reads as follows:
“Contrary to false reports, Congressman Paul Ryan is not a cosponsor of H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. He remains committed to advancing policies that protect free speech and foster innovation online and will continue to follow the House Judiciary Committee’s deliberations on this issue carefully.”
We’ve reached out to the Reddit users behind “Operation Pull Ryan” on how this changes their plans and will update when we receive a response.