As GoDaddy Deals With SOPA Fallout, Hollywood Wants To Punish GoDaddy For Enabling Infringement

from the as-the-godaddy-turns dept

We’ve always been a bit baffled by GoDaddy’s original support of COICA/PIPA/SOPA. As we noted in the fall, under the original definitions in SOPA, GoDaddy itself was almost certainly a rogue site. If you do searches on various trademarks, its recommendation engine certainly appeared to facilitate infringement by suggesting possible domains that would likely be infringing. What I actually forgot was that GoDaddy was already being sued over this very issue (which, you would think would make its legal team hyper-aware of this issue), and (even better) that lawsuit is coming from Hollywood, its main partner in pushing SOPA/PIPA through Congress.

Yes, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), better known as the folks behind the Academy Awards (the Oscars), launched a lawsuit against GoDaddy back in May of 2010 over this very issue. And, just last week, as GoDaddy was coming to terms with the complaints from the public, AMPAS was in court trying to force GoDaddy founder and ex-CEO Bob Parsons to give a deposition about the company’s practices.

The article linked above, by Eriq Gardner at THResq, notes that many people believe that the completely mixed messages come from Parsons’… unique style of managing the company:

… in advance of a February cut-off date for discovery, AMPAS wishes to depose Parsons, whose ?fingerprints are all over GoDaddy?s domain name monetization programs,? according to the brief.

And in the process, perhaps get some answers about why Parsons has seemingly been two-faced on the piracy front.

One example given is a post that Parsons wrote for his personal blog. In it, Parsons takes issue with the practice known as ?kiting,? where registrars take advantage of a 5-day grace period to put up mini-Web sites loaded with search engine bait. Later, on his blog, Parsons discussed a trademark lawsuit against Dotster ? ?a registrar who hasn?t exactly been a stranger to domain kiting,? he said ? for registering many misspellings of trademarked names, and associating them with search engine pages.

?This is exactly AMPAS?s complaint in this case,? says the plaintiff. ?That its marks are famous and well-known; that GoDaddy monetizes domain names incorporating AMPAS?s trademarks ? having received 60 cease/desist letters from AMPAS ? yet continues to park domain names incorporating AMPAS?s marks.?

Now, as I stated when AMPAS filed the lawsuit, this case seems pretty ridiculous, and it seems pointless to blame GoDaddy for the actions of its users registering these domains — even if (as the lawsuit contends), GoDaddy makes money from people parking these domains. We called it “absurd” at the time… and we stand by it.

But it’s even more absurd in the context of SOPA/PIPA. You would think that, being subject to such absurd lawsuits over enabling infringement (oh, and don’t forget the other similar lawsuit against GoDaddy from the Michael Jackson estate…), the company would be extra sensitive to laws that would put it at greater risk. It really calls into question what people are thinking over there, even if they have “backed down” from their support of the bills.

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Companies: ampas, godaddy

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Comments on “As GoDaddy Deals With SOPA Fallout, Hollywood Wants To Punish GoDaddy For Enabling Infringement”

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Machin Shin says:

Re: Damned from supporting SOPA yeah

You seem to be missing the point. It is not a case of damned if you do damned if you don’t. It is more a case of those who try to be on both sides of a fight will ALWAYS get burned.

They were fighting Hollywood and were I guess trying to go with the “Can’t beat them join them” idea. The problem is that changing sides like that caused them to loose the support of everyone who is against SOPA. So now they back down but that still has them facing Hollywood. Whats worse is now that they have a history of flipping sides they will be attacked by both.

They never should have tried snuggling up to Hollywood. Now they have to pay the price for their mistakes.

MonkeyFracasJr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Once again

I have to agree with Richard.

The people using domains that are similar to trademarked domain names are not typically selling product in nature that may be sold by the trademarked domain holders, it is unlikely that consumers would mistake the ‘similar’ domains and content as that of the trademarked ones. (Those that are trying to actually mimic trademarked domains and content that are clearly in the ‘wrong’ for trademark infringement.) If the trademarked domain holders are upset that someone is using a similar domain name for OTHER purposes then they should have purchased any domains they felt were “too similar” in order to “protect” their “rights.”

(yes, I put those words in quotes because I probably do not agree with some rights-holder’s interperetations of them.)

Anonymous Coward says:

This is one of those stories that makes me shake my head, because it shows how screwed up Mike’s view of the world is.

The real world isn’t “all good or all bad”, there is plenty of action going on in both directs, plenty of good and bad in everything. What GoDaddy does in allowing trademark infringers to monetize domains is truly a questionable concept. The monetization of parked domains is important to Godaddy, a business that essentially lets a sucker take a risk on a domain, and GD makes 50% of the profits for little cost. Getting pushed out of that market, or ending up liable for the sort of domains making the money would be a real issue for them.

Their support for SOPA doesn’t give them a free pass on other issues with the MPAA. Wake up Mike, the real world isn’t black and white.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

OH, look at you, hiding behind your cowardly mask, attacking someone in public! Haver you grown out of your little boy-shoes yet?

GoDaddy have a known history of maintaining the domains of spammers, scammer and malware distributors, and reselling domains two and three times. This is for one thing and one thing alone: profits at the expense of others.

GoDaddy tried to get an explicit exemption out of Sopa, dso that they could continue their business whilst exterminating the competition in legal costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Wow, you go a long way to make a point, and the point fails.

Nothing is black and white. Not even SOPA (no matter how hard Mike tries to push it).

Suing the fans? Honestly, if they are more interested in boosting their own personal social worth by pirating and making all their friends happy, they aren’t really fans, are they? I haven’t seen very many cases of super fans getting sued – unless they did something truly stupid.

Try again… this one failed!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:the point fails.

Honestly, this “social worth” you talk about isn’t a point at all, other then a foot-hold to attack someone over an issue, piracy, that some as Hollywood could have changed their business models years ago — but have not and it seems they never will to try and do something other then sue and screw up the Internet.

Good for the super fans ! “I haven’t seen very many cases”, well I guess that closes that ? Wrong, because haven’t been caught doesn’t mean a thing ! This is just why SOPA has been drafted to address those that haven’t been caught, not YET !
Honestly, do you really believe in “super fans” to then make a point about who gets sued ?

Point: Fails !

Rich Kulawiec says:

Ah, but this isn't absurd

I can’t believe I’m about to take the side of anyone or anything connected with Hollywood…but they have a pretty good point here.

GoDaddy (among other registrars) sells domains in quantity to abusers of various descriptions — spammers, phishers, scammers, forgers, etc. Abusers buy them in quantity because they burn through them. Thus it makes economic sense for them to register them 500 at a time…a process made easier by bulk registration tools.

Let’s suppose that the abuser-of-the-day has decided to try to use a combination of spamming and phishing techniques to hoodwink victims. And let’s suppose they’ve targeted eBay users. We find that they’ve registered domains like (and I’m just making these up, although they’re similar to ones I’ve seen and might even be ones I’ve seen):,,,, and so on. If those actually get used in spam/phish attempts, then they’ll get noticed, get blacklisted, get reported, maybe kicked off their host/DNS provider/registrar, etc.

And then the same abuser will be back to buy 500 more. Which is great news for the registrar, because it makes the cash register ring.

Now if the registrar was actually serious about putting a stop to this nonsense, there are a bunch of simple, easy, cheap things they could do, starting with “flag any newly-registered domain containing the string ‘ebay’ for human review before finalizing it”. Of course that human would have to have the minimal clue level required to realize that the real eBay is unlikely to have registered a new domain using an email address at Hotmail and a PO Box in Brazil.

Slightly more sophisticated measures would correlate registrant info and lead quickly to the conclusion that when the same person tries to set up,, and the like, on the same day, it’s very very very unlikely that any of this is actually real. (Note that it’s equally easy for a slightly clueful human to distinguish these from protest or satire sites like The folks engaged in that don’t buy 500 domains at a time.)

Much more sophisticated measures are feasible, by the way: those of us who do anti-spam research use them, and we’re not making hundreds of millions of dollars like GoDaddy is. So surely they could afford to hire someone with a little Perl and regular expression savvy to set up some minimal screening. I’m not suggesting that they become the domain name police, but at least not selling more domains to the same people who’ve already proven they’re abusers would be one small step forward.

Of course…it would decrease revenue, which is why it won’t ever happen.

Danny (profile) says:

An idea...

You know what would be fin? An OWS style protest outside of the Oscars this year.

It would drive AMPAS crazy as they are all about image control and news media picking up on the protest and interviewing many people about how Hollywood is anti Internet, anti (fill in the blank) would confound their own tightly managed image control. So they likely would lean on the local police to impinge on the protests, and that would make them anti First Amendemnt. It would all make for very effective street theater; and it might help some in Congress to see there is popular movement not aligned with Hollywood.

Anonymous Coward says:

Prior to the uproar about GoDaddy, i had a few domains with them. After i read what could happen with the SOPA act i transferred my domains. Low price domains is having a special if you transfer, you just need to use the Promo code: SOPA . It’s cheap and customer support was there to help me with the transfer, cheaper prices than the rest as well! Happy to help!

here’s the website in case you need it!

HalloweenBlogs (profile) says:

Why GoDaddy Wasn't Worried re SOPA

The reason why GoDaddy wasn’t worried about SOPA was because they had spent months helping write the bill, and an amendment had been submitted exempting them from its provisions. So they got to set up the competition for this onerous bill, as well as their customers, and then got themselves exempted from having to obey the same law. Nice, huh?

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