Frequently controversial domain name seller Go Daddy recently came under fire for publicly supporting the United States House of Representatives legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Go Daddy appears to have reversed course and is listening to customer concerns. Several other companies are still listed as supporting SOPA.
Assuming you might have been willing to boycott one company for its support of SOPA, you should really be prepared to boycott all of them or you are simply watering down your stance — lest you care to stand as a hypocrite. If you take the stance that boycotting one company is enough, then why single any one of them out when many more support SOPA? Or, why stop at just one? There are plenty more companies you could boycott with the same degree of effectiveness.
I want to make it clear that, here at LockerGnome, we strongly oppose SOPA. The legislation will be more than detrimental to the way we use the Internet — both as content creators and as general consumers. It will impact how we do everything from reading Reddit, to how we consume the news, to how we shop, to how we socialize online. We believe a SOPAesque resolution may also impact our ability to continue to exist as a business. Supporting SOPA or opposing SOPA is your choice, of course. But if you choose to oppose SOPA, be aware that this legislation is being propelled by both your congressmen and over 140 private companies that publicly support the legislation. Many of these SOPA-loving companies you likely already support and would continue to support in the future, SOPA or not.
Contacting your appropriate politicians is likely to carry more weight than attempting to permanently alter your spending patterns. Whether you are for or against SOPA, contact your legislators and share your views.
What is SOPA, anyway?
Copyright holders are currently armed with the DMCA as a means of dealing with online copyright infringement. In most cases, a DMCA claim is made against a specific page on a website — not the entire site (unless the entire site is seen to be violating copyright). For user-generated content sites like YouTube, the site itself is indemnified for the actions of its users as long as it complies when a valid takedown notice is provided.
Along with SOPA, the US Senate is working on similar legislation known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA). If enacted, SOPA and PIPA will allow content creators to file claims of copyright infringement against data uploaded by third-party users and hold the hosting sites directly accountable. New laws will grant government and private parties unprecedented power to force ISPs and search engines to redirect or dump users’ attempts to reach certain websites’ URLs against which there is a claim.
As we understand it, if this new legislation passes in its current form, any website accused of containing copyright-infringing content (such as a song, article, photo, or video clip) could be blocked by ISPs, de-indexed from search engines, and even prevented from doing business online. All of this can (and will) happen without due process with the burden of proof lying upon the accused to prove their innocence while their site has been effectively removed from the Internet. At the very least, the Internet would change from what we know it as today.
If this legislation passes the House, Senate, and the President’s veto powers, a “new” Internet could arise upon which, the EFF explains, will rely on “alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored US version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the reliability and universality of the DNS evaporates.” This is obviously far from ideal for anyone who uses the Internet in any capacity.
So who is behind SOPA?
The bill was introduced by Texas Representative Lamar Smith and 12 co-sponsors. The House Judiciary Committee is circulating a document that lists 142 companies and organizations it claims to be publicly supporting the act, though some are attempting to get off the list (as Go Daddy did earlier today). Many of the companies on the list have ties to the music, film, and book publishing industries. This isn’t surprising, since these are the largest companies with a vested interest in protecting copyright. However, you may be surprised to find other companies with less obvious relationships to digital copyright licensing and piracy on the list — such as beauty and accessory brands. Yes, even pharmaceutical companies are supporting SOPA.
Below is the full list of companies the House Judicial Committee lists as SOPA supporters:
Who should you boycott?
We don’t necessarily advocate a boycott as the best solution to making your voice heard. But, simply boycotting one company while continuing to buy from others is hypocritical — and one action doesn’t send a complete message. While you have valid concerns with Go Daddy’s initial support of SOPA, you may have unwittingly (or, worse yet, willfully) ignored the far-reaching economic impact of other SOPA supporters.
Sports leagues support SOPA
Major League Baseball and the National Football League both support SOPA. This means that, every time you watch a sporting event, buy a game ticket, or wear apparel from teams within these organizations, you indirectly lend your support to SOPA. Some of the LockerGnome staff have been season ticketholders of NFL and MLB teams for years, so keep in mind that this advice isn’t coming from sports-hating geeks. In fact, you could consider watching NBA and NHL games instead — unless the games are on SOPA-supporting ESPN, of course.
Pharmaceutical companies support SOPA
Pfizer is among the 140 companies listed as supporting SOPA. So, every time you get a little ahem “lift” from Viagra, you’re showing your support for SOPA. Pfizer also makes Advil, Chapstick, several birth control products, and dozens of other medications required for health and wellness. Thankfully, there are alternatives to many of these medications if you oppose SOPA and choose to boycott this pharmaceutical giant.
Beauty products support SOPA
Ladies, check your makeup bags and vanities; you may be supporting SOPA every morning. L’Oreal and Revlon are two companies listed as publicly supporting SOPA. L’Oreal is known for its cosmetics, beauty items, and perfume. Popular L’Oreal products include the Garnier line of hair color, shampoos, styling products, high-tech skincare, sun care products, as well as the Maybelline line of cosmetics. Your salon may also color your hair with its professional line of hair products. Additionally, Revlon’s line of products include “age-defying face products, hair color, fragrances, skincare, and beauty care products,” according to the Revlon website. If you currently use any of these products, never would there be a better time to try an alternative… if you oppose SOPA, and if you think boycotting is the most intelligent choice.
You don’t wear makeup? What about diamonds? They may (or may not) be this girl’s best friend. But, if you oppose SOPA, a breakfast at Tiffany’s is definitely out of the question with Tiffany & Co. also on the list.
Family entertainment supports SOPA
Before you buy those tickets to Disneyland for spring break, consider whether you want to support SOPA. While you’re at it, think twice before you allow your kids to watch Toy Story, or before you watch anything on the various ESPN channels, which are also owned by Disney. Geek favorite, TRON, should not be forgotten, either. Along with Disney and ESPN, ABC is also supporting SOPA.
Okay, geeks… who were your childhood comic book heroes? Did you idolize the X-Men, Iron Man, Spider-Man, or Captain America? You may be shocked to find that they are supporting SOPA, with Marvel Entertainment being listed among SOPA supporters.
Again, we’re not suggesting that you need to boycott any of these companies to effectively oppose SOPA. But if you intend to boycott, you should be comprehensive. Or, you should be prepared to carry the ‘hypocrite’ label. You simply can’t choose, in any universe ruled by logic, to admonish one company when other companies you engage are equally as complicit.
Who should you contact to oppose SOPA?
Obviously, refusing to buy products or services from the 140 companies publicly supporting SOPA may not be enough to convince your congressmen to oppose the legislation. To take action, consider telling your local representatives exactly what you think. A simple email may not suffice.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a brief (and powerful) summary of the harm that SOPA will cause should the legislation be enacted next year. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article also includes a widget that empowers users to take action by contacting their local senators and representatives by simply entering their ZIP code. The EFF has drafted a persuasive letter that will be sent to your congresspeople, and that will send automatically after you fill in your personal information. Here’s how it reads:
“I am a constituent and I urge you to reject the Internet Blacklist Bills (PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House). I am deeply concerned by the danger these bills pose to Internet security, free speech online, and innovation. The Internet Blacklist Legislation is dangerous and short-sighted, and I urge you to join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress, such as Representatives Lofgren, Eshoo, and Issa, in opposing it.”
You have the option to edit the letter as you see fit (including the subject line). If you are incredibly short on time, using the form letter the EFF has composed (after filling in your info) will be a fantastic way to make your voice heard and prevent the damaging effect SOPA will have on the way both consumers and businesses use the Internet. Of course, if you’d rather contact your representatives yourself… you’re more than welcome to do so.
It’s all or nothing. If you don’t support one company because it supports SOPA, then you shouldn’t support any company because it supports SOPA. You can make it a witch hunt, but you can’t just kill one witch out of hundreds and call it a day.
Photo credit: Marching To The Capitol by Peter Griffin