There's been a lot of talk in the past few days about the companies supporting SOPA. As we've noted, it's pretty damn difficult to find too many individuals who like SOPA (or PROTECT IP), but there are a fair number of companies who might find it advantageous to be able to cause all sorts of problems for foreign competition. There are a few lists floating around of SOPA supporters, but Andrew Couts has put together a big list of 439 organizations
culled both from the Judiciary Committee's website and the letter sent by the US Chamber of Commerce in support of the law.
We'd noted that there was some backlash
towards companies supporting SOPA, but as more and more people recognize how bad these laws are, it's getting more attention. Add to that the awesome power of Reddit... and the whole thing has kicked into overdrive.
Enemy number one on the list appears to be GoDaddy, with Redditor's organizing a day (Dec. 29th) for GoDaddy customers to transfer their domains away from the registrar
. We've discussed GoDaddy's bizarre support for the law in the past -- including the fact that, under the original definitions of SOPA, GoDaddy itself qualified as a "rogue site"
since it recommended people buy domains violating the trademarks of lots of big companies. Of course, it's also notable that GoDaddy recently hired a top lawyer... whose previous job was in "IP enforcement" for the federal government.
GoDaddy doesn't quite seem to know how to deal with the rising backlash on Reddit, and has (somewhat bizarrely) reissued two previous statements
about SOPA. The first was what it wrote when the bill first came out, and the second was its filing for the original (November 15th) Judiciary Committee hearings on SOPA. Neither of these statements address the concerns of the folks on Reddit and appear to be very much a "talk to the hand!" response to the Reddit community. I would suggest that this may not have been the keenest strategic move on the part of GoDaddy. And it's not just small domain holders. Ben Huh, CEO of the infamous (and awesome) Cheezburger network of sites is promising to move all 1,000+ of his domains
off of GoDaddy unless it changes its position on SOPA.
Others on the list of supporters are starting to feel the wrath of Reddit for supporting SOPA as well. 3M, who has been a strong supporter
is discovering that their customers are not pleased:
Others are starting to feel similar pressure. It wouldn't surprise me to see some of the companies start backing down. In fact, we're already hearing that some of the companies on the list (especially the law firms) have no idea how they got on the list in the first place. Some of the law firms may have clients who support the law, but that's a big difference from actually supporting the law themselves.
On top of that, the backlash is coming out in other ways as well. Paul Graham, the founder/head of YCombinator (where Reddit was first incubated) has announced that he will bar employees from any of those companies
from attending YCombinator's famed Demo Days. For those in the Silicon Valley/entrepreneurship/startup world, you know that YCombinator Demo Days are a big deal
. It's where all sorts of amazing new stuff gets launched, and big deals are made. Barring SOPA supporters from that event can really hurt those companies. Graham made himself clear:
Several of those companies send people to Demo Day, and when I saw the list I thought: we should stop inviting them. So yes, we’ll remove anyone from those companies from the Demo Day invite list.
He's apparently told the people in charge of Demo Day invites not to allow anyone from those lists. "I don’t know exactly which companies had people on the list. But I know which will now: none of them." He furthermore told TechCrunch that he'll recommend YCombinator startups not take investment money from any of those companies too: "If these companies are so clueless about technology that they think SOPA is a good idea, how could they be good investors?"
Either way, what's becoming clear is that even if some companies support the law, it's not because it's good for their customers. It's precisely the opposite. It's because it'll be useful as a protectionist law to stomp out competition or to protect against having to adapt to innovation. In the past, consumers might not have paid attention, but thanks to efforts like what Reddit and others (Tumblr, Wikipedia, etc.) are doing, it seems like those consumers are starting to speak up and make themselves heard. And the end result is going to be bad for business for the companies supporting SOPA.