Tomorrow the House of Representative is holding a hearing on the “Stop Online Privacy Act” also known as the E-Parasite-Bill.
In addition to some witness that have been called to testify, some companies have been invited to provide written statement on the bill.
One of those companies is Godaddy.com which we told a week ago supported the bill although they would seem to have potential liability under it.
Here is the statement Godaddy filed with the House:
First, let me thank Chairman Smith for the opportunity to provide a written statement in support of the Stop Online Piracy Act and on the critical issue of combating illegal activity on the Internet. I would also like to extend my appreciation to Ranking Member Conyers, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Watt, as well as the other bi-partisan co-sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) for all of your efforts in addressing this important issue. This bill is the result of previous hearings, and months of meetings and discussions with all interested parties. I know that this Committee took into consideration the concerns of all parties during this process, and I applaud your efforts. Go Daddy looks forward to continuing to work with this Committee to fine-tune this critically important piece of legislation in the coming weeks.
Go Daddy devotes considerable time and resources to working to preserve the integrity and safety of the Internet by quickly closing down websites and domain names engaged in illegal activities. We not only work with federal, state, and local law enforcement, but also strive to have the most robust notice and take-down practices in the industry. A vast number of our customers earn their livelihood from the successful businesses they have been able to establish and grow online, and their ability to continue to do so is of paramount importance to us.
Go Daddy is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that the Internet is a safe and trustworthy way to communicate and conduct business. We are grateful that this Committee agrees that it’s time for increased enforcement action because U.S. businesses are hurting, and those of us in the Internet ecosystem are in a unique position to help.
It is ironic that some companies that initially opposed the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) are now saying that it is working just fine, and that its notice and takedown procedures are sufficient to protect the rights of intellectual property holders. Although we believe that the DMCA works well in some contexts, its remedies are limited in that it does not include mechanisms for addressing trademark infringement, or for bringing enforcement actions against illegal foreign-based sites. It seems to me to be inherently obvious that we need new legislation to combat the problem at hand. The solutions outlined in SOPA clearly present a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. We can and should all work together in the coming weeks to address any remaining issues that might exist. And then this Congress should move swiftly for its passage.
Background on Go Daddy
Go Daddy currently has over 50 million domain names under management, and is the number one domain name registrar in the world. We are also the largest worldwide mass-market hosting provider – currently providing hosting services for millions of websites. Our 50+ additional products and services, including cloud-based services, website security (SSL certificates), website development, and online business tools, are all focused toward helping our customers establish a trusted presence on the Internet. We employ nearly 4,000 Americans – mostly in Arizona, Iowa, and Colorado, and we’re expanding. All this to say that we have serious equities at play here, and the risks are just as real for us as they are for others. We have legitimate businesses, American jobs, and loyal customers at stake. But, we’re still standing up and shouting from the rooftops that this is a problem that needs to be addressed by a comprehensive and thoughtful solution.
Our Enforcement Efforts
Go Daddy has made it a high priority to use its position as the world’s largest registrar and hosting provider to make the Internet a better and safer place. As such, we have a large 24/7.
Abuse Department whose mission is to preserve the integrity and safety of Go Daddy’s network by investigating and shutting down websites and domain names engaged in illegal activities. We work with law enforcement agencies at all levels and routinely assist in a wide variety of criminal and civil investigations. We are also quick to respond to public complaints of spam, phishing, pharming, and online fraud, and work closely with numerous anti-fraud and security groups. We also continue to lead the charge to stop the proliferation of rogue online pharmacies and websites selling counterfeit medications. In 2010 alone we worked with the Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate and take down over 36,000 such websites. We founded and co-chair the Board of Directors of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, an alliance of private industry actors working together to eviscerate the online sale of counterfeit and otherwise illegal prescription drugs. We are responsive to copyright and trademarks holders alike – regardless of a clear mandate to do so. We take each instance of illegal activity very seriously and devote high priority to ensuring that websites containing any kind of illegal content are removed from our network. We are on pace to address over a million complaints of illegal content in 2011, and a non-trivial number of those complaints have or will result in a domain name redirection and/or a website suspension. We do this in support of American businesses and U.S consumers, and because it’s the right thing to do.
Our Support for SOPA
Go Daddy has a long history of supporting federal legislation directed toward combating illegal conduct on the Internet. For example, our company strongly supported the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, the Protect Our Children Act of 2008, and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP). Go Daddy has always supported both government and private industry efforts to identify and disable all types of illegal activity on the Internet. It is for these reasons that I’m still struggling with why some Internet companies oppose PROTECT IP and SOPA. There is no question that we need these added tools to counteract illegal foreign sites that are falling outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement. And there is clearly more that we could all be doing to adequately address the problems that exist.
This Debate is about Jobs and the Rule of Law in the United States
As much as some would like to paint a bleak picture, this debate is not about Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. This debate is about preserving, protecting, and creating American jobs, and protecting American consumers from the dangers that they face on-line. Americans should have ready access to purchase legitimate American products. But, this debate is also about how the Internet ecosystem can work together to make the Internet a safer place, while still allowing for job growth in multiple sectors.
The statistics speak for themselves. Whether we’re talking about copyright or trademark, software or American-made apparel, U.S. businesses are getting robbed and U.S. consumers are getting duped. You can still search for “drugs without a prescription” and yield natural search results for scores of illegal on-line pharmacies. We still see legitimate ads being placed on illegal sites dedicated to offering infringing movies or music. And thousands of sites still offer counterfeit products, many of which affect the health and safety of consumers. These sites are easy to locate, and you can still use your credit card to obtain these products. This problem is not going to just go away on its own.
There are currently believed to be between 60,000 – 90,000 illegal online drug sellers in operation and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy estimates that well over 90% of all online pharmacies operate unlawfully. There are numerous incidents of U.S. citizens becoming sick or dying after purchasing prescription medication on-line. The U.S. military has unintentionally procured counterfeit products that could easily have put our troops in grave danger had they gone undetected. But the debate in recent weeks has not been about these statistics, the impact on U.S. businesses, or the dangers to American consumers or our troops. It’s been about who could be found liable and who has to do the work to shut these sites down.
We won’t get very far by resorting to the pointing of fingers.
When the PROTECT IP Act was introduced, a number of tech engineers marched to the Hill and exclaimed that Senator Leahy was about to break their Internet. The theory was that allowing the Attorney General to seek a court order compelling an ISP to filter so that infringing sites’ URLs would not resolve, would force people to use alternative DNS. And by using alternative DNS, the users would subject themselves to malware and perhaps worse. This would wreak havoc on the DNS system and jeopardize DNSSEC. But, it’s hard to imagine that the limited times per year that the Attorney General seeks this remedy for a site dedicated to infringement will result in a mass exodus away from DNS as we know it. I have to believe that the average person doesn’t want to commit a crime. The people who seek to use alternative DNS to do so may just get what’s coming to them. I don’t wish malware on anyone, but we all know that criminals will always find a way.
The House bill also provides that if other methods are employed to disable access, ISPs won’t be required to filter at all. If they don’t have the technological capability to filter, and it would be an economic burden to add such capability, then they don’t have to take action. So, it does not seem to me that this legislation will cause a mass exodus away from the current DNS system.
I told this Committee when I last testified on this issue that filtering would not be as effective in fighting infringement as blocking at the Registrar level, and it won’t. But, it’s not going to break the Internet.
First Amendment Claims
The opposition has also argued that this bill amounts to censorship and that it will undermine our ability to oppose censorship by oppressive nations. This bill cannot reasonably be equated with censorship. This bill promotes action pursuant to preexisting criminal and civil laws. Not only is there no First Amendment concern, but the notion that we should turn a blind eye to criminal conduct because other countries may take oppressive steps in response is an affront to the very fabric of this nation – that we abide by a set rule of laws, regardless of what actions other countries choose to take or not take. Noted First Amendment expert, Floyd Abrams, testified before the House Judiciary Committee with me last time, and recently reiterated in a letter to this Committee, that nothing in the legislation would impose a prior restraint on free speech. I vote for upholding our rule of law over doing nothing because we are scared of reprisal from oppressive or undemocratic nations.
Definition of Infringing Sites/ Litigation Risk
Some have gone so far as to argue that rights-holders will be able to sue if there is one page of infringing material amidst “millions” of legitimate pages. This assertion runs contrary to the intent of Congress, the plain language of both the Senate and House bills, and is not a fair reading of either piece of legislation. The Senate’s standard for action is a site “dedicated” to infringement. SOPA’s standard is similar. It is unfathomable to me how one page amidst a million could possibly qualify under any such standard. It is not at all clear to me that this section should trouble Internet companies. I don’t believe that YouTube is going to be in danger of being starved of revenue because of one infringing page on their site. If they are afraid of that action, and agree that the page is illegal, then by all means – take the page down and be done with it.
Room for Improvement
I’m finding that most of the concerns on the substance out there are unfounded. The notion that the solutions that have been put forth will break the Internet, or that certain legal businesses will go off-line because of new mandates is utterly unconvincing to me. SOPA goes a long way toward fixing the existing problems. But, like any piece of legislation, there is always room for some improvement. Most importantly, we need to make certain that we are not putting at risk the legitimate social networking sites, search engines, on-line retailers, and cloud computing services that host or direct to the content of others. And the “no duty to monitor” provisions should apply to the whole Internet ecosystem. Legitimate U.S. businesses should not have to “police the Internet.” We need to make sure that there is an adequate appeals mechanism built in, and we should consider allowing punitive damages for frivolous claims. But these are relatively easy fixes or clarifications and many of them could be accomplished quite easily if we were all collaborating.
The purpose of this legislation is to target foreign sites that are stealing U.S. property. No one is arguing that the purpose is invalid or unjust. If the mechanisms by which we get there need to be tweaked, then let’s have that discussion. Let’s stop with the hyperbole and get down to the brass tacks. We need to find a way to preserve American ingenuity. Starting from a place of common ground will allow us to have the conversation about how best to achieve those goals. SOPA is a needed tool to get the ball moving. As President Clinton has said, there’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what’s right about America. So, let’s get to it – together.