GoDaddy's Support For Bill Draws Customers' Ire

Two bills to stop online piracy are being hashed out in Congress. Supporters call online piracy theft of intellectual property, while opponents say the bills amount to censorship. Declan McCullagh, the chief political correspondent for CNET, says some customers are boycotting domain registar GoDaddy for its initial support of one of the bills.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Two bills to stop online piracy are being hashed out in Congress. In the House, there's a bill called SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. In the Senate, there's the Protect Intellectual Property Act, people call that PIPA. Supporters say online piracy is theft of intellectual property, opponents of this legislation say the bills amount to censorship. The latest scene to unfold in this saga involves a boycott of a major Internet player.

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for C-NET.

Good morning, Mr. McCullagh.

DECLAN MCCULLAGH: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: Now, there is a boycott planned, today, of Go Daddy, a company that sells domain names - dot-coms, dot-orgs. Explain to me why the opponents of this legislation think boycotting Go Daddy makes sense.

MCCULLAGH: Go Daddy is one of the most prominent supporters of this legislation, which is backed by Hollywood. And they testified in front of Congress in support of the Senate version. They sent out a statement endorsing the House bill. So this is a way to teach them a lesson.

And it worked, in part. Go Daddy said that they no longer support the Senate bill or the House bill. But they haven't gone further and basically apologized completely. And so that's why the boycott is still taking place today.

WERTHEIMER: The people who want this kind of legislation passed - Hollywood, the recording industry, people who have intellectual property to protect. What about the opponents? What's their position?

MCCULLAGH: The opponents are Facebook, Google, eBay, Yahoo, Twitter, civil liberties groups and human rights groups. It's not just Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. It's also copyright versus free speech.

WERTHEIMER: And sort of the freewheeling culture of the Internet - the idea that you can do anything, say anything, post anything - people are concerned that that might somehow be restricted?

MCCULLAGH: Well, it's probably been restricted over the last decade. But these Senate and House bills go further and they try to levy a sort of Internet death penalty against pirate websites. And the problem is what happens when you have legitimate websites that might have some copyright violations on a minority of their Web pages. When you levy the Internet death penalty against an entire website or collections of websites just because of a few bad pages, that's where you run into these free speech concerns.

WERTHEIMER: Now, why is it that the folks that are in favor of SOPA favor something like an Internet death penalty?

MCCULLAGH: Well, you have sites like ThePirateBay.org, which Hollywood has been trying to get taken down or rendered inaccessible. They mounted a world-wide campaign against it, trying to get ISPs in a lot of European countries to block access to it. And this is their U.S. attempt to say to Internet Service Providers, you will not allow connections to ThePirateBay.org.

WERTHEIMER: What is next for these bills?

MCCULLAGH: Well, both are moving pretty quickly. The Senate majority leader scheduled a floor vote for January 24th. And the House, the supporters of the legislation have the votes and the committee, it's just that they ran out of time, last week, before the House adjourned for the holiday recess. And that'll resume next month. And so that's the next step, to see whether opponents can rally the troops and actually get enough opposition in place before the votes.

And one wild card is whether companies like Google, eBay, Twitter and so on, will actually ask their users to call their senators or members of Congress before a floor vote. Imagine if companies that have a billion users combined did that. It would be something we just haven't seen before.

WERTHEIMER: Declan McCullagh, thank you very much.

MCCULLAGH: Any time.

WERTHEIMER: Delcan McCullagh is chief political correspondent for C-NET. He joined us from San Francisco.

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