GoDaddy received a considerable amount of backlash after it announced its support of the 2012 SOPA bill. Once a campaign began to boycott the company's services, GoDaddy reversed its position.
GoDaddy received a considerable amount of backlash after it announced its support of the 2012 SOPA bill. Once a campaign began to boycott the company's services, GoDaddy reversed its position. Reuters/Murad Sezer

One day after GoDaddy officially backed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Bill in 2012, the world's largest website registration company has pulled its support of the controversial bill on Friday after many threatened to boycott's services.

We've listened to our customers. GoDaddy is no longer supporting the SOPA legislation, the company said on its website.

SOPA is designed to stymie Internet piracy by allowing copyright holders to effectively shut down any websites or online services found with infringing material. If passed, the U.S. government could blacklist any website it believes is in violation of a copyright, which could range from posts in a Web forum to links in an e-mail.

Until the company reversed its position, GoDaddy was the only Internet company supporting SOPA out of the bill's 142 backers.

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, GoDaddy'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.

On Dec. 22, GoDaddy's executive VP, general counsel and corporate secretary Christine Jones released a statement describing why the company supported SOPA's passing.

It's a welcome step in the right direction, and we at applaud the leadership in the House Judiciary Committee, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet and the Senate Judiciary Committee, for taking decisive, bicameral and bipartisan action, Jones said.

Now that GoDaddy has pulled its support, it joins other tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Yahoo, eBay, AOL and LinkedIn, to name a few, which believe the bill is a danger to Internet freedom and e-commerce. Those companies, excluding Apple and Microsoft, previously raised their concerns a joint letter to Congress dated Nov. 15.

We support the bills' stated goals--providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign 'rogue' websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action and technology mandates that would require monitoring of Web sites, the letter said.

Social blogging service Tumblr summed it up best:

As written, [Congress] would betray more than a decade of U.S. policy and advocacy of Internet freedom by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.

GoDaddy originally supported SOPA for protecting the intellectual property of hard-working Americans, U.S. business and the American public from the harm that necessarily flows from the purchase of counterfeit products. Yet, GoDaddy quickly reversed its stance when boycotters accused the company of supporting a bill that violates civil liberties, such as freedom of speech.

As a company that is all about innovation, with our own technology and in support of our customers, GoDaddy is rooted in the idea of First Amendment Rights and believes 100 percent that the Internet is a key engine for our new economy, Adelman said.

GoDaddy's original statement said Internet policy should try to strike a balance between the global free flow of information and the enforcement of law. GoDaddy believes a safe Internet is a flourishing Internet, but Jones has since qualified her original statements, which called for the Congress to intervene if companies could not figure out a viable solution to piracy.

In changing its position, GoDaddy remains steadfast in its promise to support security and stability on the Internet, GoDaddy said in its press release. 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 GoDaddy did support.

Originally, Jones argued, We certainly shouldn't be suppressing free speech, but the Internet should not function as the Wild West either. We need to be focused on developing codes of conduct that reflect compromise. To do this, everyone in the Internet ecosystem needs to be committed to taking voluntary action. And everyone must understand that if we are unwilling to act responsibly, that Congress has a duty to step in.

The main issue with SOPA is that it undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which provides safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.

Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCA's safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industry's growth and success, the joint letter to Congress said. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign 'rogue' sites, we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss and share information lawfully online.

Even though GoDaddy changed its position, it defended Jones in its press release:

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, the company said.

GoDaddy originally backed SOPA for the sake of preserving, protecting and creating American jobs, and protecting American consumers from the dangers that they face online. While GoDaddy surely still stands behind all of these ideals, the backlash from the Internet spurred the company to change its mind. Internet forum Reddit began a campaign urging anyone using GoDaddy to transfer their domains to another registrar.

GoDaddy has always fought to preserve the intellectual property rights of third parties, and will continue to do so in the future, Jones said.

Web restrictions, as a result of SOPA, would cause the Internet's growth to slow dramatically, which would be toxic to the global economy. A McKinsey Global Institute report said the Internet accounts for 3.4 percent of gross domestic product in the 13 countries it studied, an amount the size of Spain or Canada in terms of GDP. The United States is the largest player in the Internet ecosystem; more than 30 percent of global Internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income comes from the U.S.

The House Judiciary Committee said the House and Senate will address the SOPA bill in late January 2012.