No matter what happens to SOPA, GoDaddy's troubles are just beginning

Is it tragic or ironic when an elephant hunter helps his company shoot itself in the foot

Despite a public announcement the company he had just taken over as CEO would abandon its support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which GoDaddy execs admitted having helped write, Warren Adelman appears to have done little to change the company's pro-SOPA stance, and nothing to change the minds of SOPA opponents who organized a large-scale boycott.

Adelman, who took over the CEO's job representing new investors Dec. 22, issued a public announcement the next day that GoDaddy would support SOPA only when the "Internet community" supported the legislation.

Adelman admitted to TechCrunch two days later he'd done nothing to reverse GoDaddy's work and testimony in Congress supporting SOPA, made any personnel or overt policy changes in response to the reversal.

SOPA opponents pilloried the world's largest domain name registrar, urging those doing business with GoDaddy to switch to other services by today, Dec. 29.

Approximately 37,000 customers left GoDaddy by Dec. 24, a number that grew to more than 70,000 by today, according to Time.

That's small potatoes compared to the 50 million domain names GoDaddy claims to hold. The bad publicity, relentless hounding by users at Reddit.com and increasingly dire suspicion that GoDaddy did not abandon a bill it allegedly helped write are slapping layer after layer of mud on its reputation.

Observers including ITWorld blogger and colleague Chris Nerney have wondered not whether GoDaddy deserves the pillorying, but why it has been singled out while other supporters are getting a pass by comparison.

Time Warner, Wal-Mart, Sony Music Entertainment and CBS are all on the list of SOPA supporters and on the list of companies SOPA opponents want to boycott.

That's unlikely, though. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and National Football League are all on the list, too. The NBA might see some dropoff in support this season, but that's more likely to be due to the lockout that delayed the start of the season for three months.

The NFL, though? How many people will swear off the Super Bowl due to the already-smothering attitude of the NFL (and MLB and NBA, for that matter) toward re-use of their video content.

Nervous Tattoo, Inc. might be small enough to take a hit from boycotters, but what about Pfizer, Oakley, Nintendo, Rite Aid, Timberland Dow Chemical and Xerox?

As Nerney suggests, it's much easier for customers to walk away from a service company like GoDaddy than from a pharmaceutical manufacturer three steps removed from direct contact with a customer (distributor, physician, pharmacy).

GoDaddy has its share of haters, both for its business policies and for the radical conservative politics of its founder and former CEO, elephant-hunter Bob Parsons.

Now it's even taking flak from its friends – in this case the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is suing it for allegedly playing along with cybersquatters who parked domain names the AMPAS claims copyright over. The domains were parked under a GoDaddy program that lets squatters profit by allowing GoDaddy to post advertising on the inactive pages and share in the ad revenue.

Meanwhile CNET reports that members of the NetCoalition trade association – Google, Amazon, Facebook and others – are talking about posting anti-SOPA messages on their home pages the day before SOPA comes up for debate in the Senate Jan. 24.

Such an aggressive effort at opposition could lose web companies its friends in Congress without ensuring SOPA would be voted down.

The Reddit crew's relentless harrying of GoDaddy and opposition to all things SOPA have made what could have been an abstruse technical or legal issue one with far more popular appeal than it had in October and November.

Along with the notoriety has come almost universal opposition, at least among copyright-using individuals (voters) rather than big companies that hold the copyrights.

An Associated Press poll shows 68 percent of Americans called 2011 a poor year, while a Gallup poll released Dec. 19 shows all but 11 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a poor job – the lowest annual average in Gallup history.

That means members of Congress will be unusually conscious of and sensitive to strong opposition to anything from a large chunk of their constituents. That doesn't bode well for the future of SOPA in its present form, no matter how strong the political and financial support is from big companies that provide the bulk of campaign funds.

All that promises to make the enforcement and regulation of copyright ugly and drastically changeable during the first months of 2012.

I personally think no member of Congress can fail to see the amount of personal enmity that would accompany a pro-SOPA vote that would restrict the entertainment options and raise the costs of constituents who are already struggling to pay bills and find work.

Under those conditions, with a vocal, (semi-)organized opposition, I wouldn't count on SOPA passing in its current form if I were Disney or Time Warner, or even Nervous Tattoo.

If I were GoDaddy, I'd be worried no matter how the SOPA fight turned out.

The world's largest domain name registrar made a lot of enemies on both sides of this fight during the past few months.

Its waffling during the past week and threat of reversal haven't made it any new friends among either the pro- or anti-SOPA factions, and it's not doing anything to make new friends, either.

No matter what happens to SOPA, most of what happens to GoDaddy during the next few months won't be pleasant.

The only consolation to the fiercely independent Bob Parsons could be that, however vigorous the opposition or how serious the problems, the only source GoDaddy will be able to find for its troubles will be itself.

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