Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh is threatening to remove the company’s 1,000 domain names off of GoDaddy after the huge Internet registrar came out in support of the Stop Online Privacy Act. The measure, house resolution 3261, would allow copyright holders to shut down Web sites that were accused of copyright infringement. But opponents say it essentially amounts to Internet censorship.
Huh — whose comedy network of sites such as I Can Has Cheezburger and Fail Blog attracts 20 million visitors per months — is certainly in the latter camp.
Huh is not alone in his disdain of the legislation. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt last month called SOPA “draconian,” suggesting that any measure that would force ISPs to remove URLs from the Web is nothing more than censorship.
Yesterday, Paul Graham, the influential angel investor and operator of Y Combinator, said he would no longer invite supporters of SOPA to the tech incubator’s Demo Day.
SOPA is designed to protect copyright holders from those who steal music or movies or other digital content. But many of the critics argue that the measure doesn’t adequately address the issue.
“It’s a blunderbuss rather than a more narrowly tailored response, and its stiff penalties would pose a significant risk to legitimate websites and services,” wrote Harvard law professor Larry Tribe yesterday. “It would undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”
The list of those supporting SOPA was just released. In addition to GoDaddy, the list includes ESPN, Viacom, VISA, Major League Baseball, Pfizer, Revlon and many others.
But many Internet companies — like Cheezburger — are lining up against it. Those include eBay, LinkedIn, AOL, Zynga, etc.
UPDATE: Not sure if Ben Huh’s threats paid off, but GoDaddy has reversed course. Here’s a statement:
Go Daddy is no longer supporting SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” currently working its way through U.S. Congress.
“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,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s newly appointed CEO, said. “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 and its General Counsel, Christine Jones, have worked with federal lawmakers for months to help craft revisions to legislation first introduced some three years ago. 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.
“As a company that is all about innovation, with our own technology and in support of our customers, Go Daddy is rooted in the idea of First Amendment Rights and believes 100 percent that the Internet is a key engine for our new economy,” said Adelman.
In changing its position, Go Daddy remains steadfast in its promise to support security and stability of the Internet. 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 Go Daddy did support.
“Go Daddy has always fought to preserve the intellectual property rights of third parties, and will continue to do so in the future,” Jones said.