GoDaddy Under Fire for Supporting SOPA as Users Threaten Boycott

Domain resellers and owners are calling for a boycott of GoDaddy to protest the company's support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act.

GoDaddy is getting some heat for supporting a controversial anti-piracy bill being debated in Washington, D.C. A thread on Reddit, a popular social news-sharing site, calling for people to transfer their domains away from GoDaddy to some other registrar has spurred customers into calling for a boycott.

A small business owner with the username "selfprodigy" on Reddit condemned the online registrar giant for supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act in a thread posted on Reddit Dec. 22. Selfprodigy claimed to have already transferred 51 domains to a competing registrar and encouraged others to do the same.

Many users have heeded the call, and one CEO is threatening to join the boycott and take his business elsewhere if GoDaddy doesn't retract its support.

"We will move our 1,000 domains off @godaddy unless you drop support of SOPA. We love you guys, but #SOPA-is-cancer to the Free Web," Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger, the company with popular meme sites such as I Can Has Cheezeburger, FAIL Blog and Know Your Meme, wrote on Twitter.

Stop Online Piracy Act is an anti-piracy bill that is currently undergoing markup in the House Judiciary Committee. While the bill's sponsor and committee chairman Lamar Smith had originally said he planned to go through markup and finish before Congress broke for the holidays, he agreed to delay debate to sometime in January, and possibly hear from technical experts about some of the more controversial provisions. If the bill gets approved in committee, it will move to the full House of Representatives for debate and vote.

"As much as some would like to paint a bleak picture, this debate is not about Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley," GoDaddy said in its statement to the House of Representatives back in October. The company claimed the bill would protect American consumers from "the dangers that they face online." It was too easy for people to conduct illegal activity online, such as selling fake drugs and distributing copyrighted products, GoDaddy said.

SOPA is widely supported by media conglomerates, music industry groups, pharmaceutical companies and major software vendors. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) originally was a strong supporter of the bill that would give copyright owners broad powers to go after and shut down infringing Websites. The BSA has since then softened its stance but still remains a supporter.

Major technology firms, civil liberties groups and security experts are bitterly opposed to the bill, claiming it was a form of censorship, bypassed due process and would interfere with how the Internet works. The provisions that would allow Internet service providers to modify Domain Name System values for Websites would interfere with widespread adoption of DNSSEC, a protocol designed to prevent DNS from being tampered maliciously, experts have argued.

"This bill cannot reasonably be equated with censorship. This bill promotes action pursuant to pre-existing criminal and civil laws," the company said. GoDaddy has complied with court orders recently that allowed brand owners to shut down counterfeit sites using tactics similar to what is being proposed in SOPA.

Competing domain registrar Name Cheap disagreed with GoDaddy's view of SOPA.

"While we at Namecheap firmly believe in intellectual rights, SOPA is like detonating a nuclear bomb on the Internet when only a surgical strike is necessary," said Richard Kirkendall, Name Cheap's CEO.

While the original threat proposed Dec. 29 as "Move Your Domain Away from GoDaddy Day," several users on Reddit and Twitter said they've already moved their domains. One of the most commonly mentioned registrars on the thread, Name Cheap, has even offered two discount codes, special pricing and a free year for former GoDaddy customers. Others, such as and HostGator, have also offered coupons.

GoDaddy has more than 50 million domains registered and is one of the largest registrars. Name Cheap told eWEEK that 15,000 domains were transferred on Dec. 22 alone. "The demand is still high today," a company spokesperson said Dec. 23.

It is not yet clear how much, if any, impact this boycott will have on GoDaddy.