Internet domain registrar GoDaddy has bowed to pressure and declared its opposition to the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
The company has been under pressure since it took the controversial decision to support SOPA and many of its customers decided to move away. GoDaddy’s reversal is being seen as a cynical business move to stop the mass exodus.
After announcing its SOPA support, the registrar saw an estimated 72,000 registration withdrawals. In a statement GoDaddy CEO Warren Adelman withdrew support but did not rule out another U-turn in the future.
A mass exodus planned for Thursday failed to emerge – in fact, the site ended the day 20,748 domains up. At best this was a hollow victory for the Reddit users that tried to fuel the “Dump GoDaddy Day” but the major goal of forcing a reversal in the SOPA support was achieved.
There is an underlying context behind these twists and turns. Since May, 2010, GoDaddy has been engaged in a legal battle with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organisation behind the Oscar awards. AMPAS has accused GoDaddy of facilitating trademark infringement by cybersquatters.
GoDaddy has failed to get the case dismissed and AMPAS has been arguing that GoDaddy’s chairman and founder Bob Parsons should submit to a seven-hour deposition to explain the company’s policies.
The Academy is objecting to the practice of allowing customers to buy a “famous name” domain and just sit on the property – the owner simply “parks” the page and collects a portion of revenue from GoDaddy’s advertising partners on a pay-per-click basis. AMPAS alleges that its integrity has been breached by Websites with names such as 2011oscars.com, academyawardz.com, and oscarsliveblogging.com.
GoDaddy is also contending similar allegations that it aids and abets other trademark infringements – such as the $100 million (£64.5m) lawsuit relating to an unauthorised “Michael Jackson” online casino.
By supporting SOPA, GoDaddy possibly thought it would deflect some of the wrath of the movie and music world.
GoDaddy has now been removed from an official list of SOPA supporters but still has work to do to persuade those that have left already to come back.
“We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed,” Adelman said. “Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stakeholders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.”
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