SOPA debate puts GoDaddy in hot water over domain transfers

December 27, 2011

Go Daddy has been accused of blocking domain transfers in the wake of its Stop Online Piracy Act revolt , theverge.com reports .

Users of domain registrar Namecheap who've been trying to transfer domains in from GoDaddy in the wake of its SOPA revolt in the past couple days have been running into a bit of a speed bump: Namecheap alleges in customer service emails that GoDaddy is blocking its WHOIS requests, which means it needs to "manually insert WHOIS details into the form." In a follow-up blog post today, Namecheap also says that GoDaddy "appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information" in violation of ICANN rules, taking the opportunity to sling a little mud in GoDaddy's direction:

It's a shame that GoDaddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at GoDaddy, desperate times call for desperate measures.

It turns out that GoDaddy's move isn't new, though — it's been happening for a long time, long before SOPA entered the vernacular. Without knowing of the registrar in question (Namecheap), GoDaddy had this to say:

...it sounds like what you are describing is a standard practice used by GoDaddy, and many other registrars, to rate limit WHOIS queries to combat WHOIS abuse... It doesn't sound right that we would be non-responsive to a request to increase port 43 access from a registrar who was initiating transfer requests and reached the daily limit of WHOIS queries, even if it came in over the Christmas weekend.

From the outside, we don't know how aggressively Namecheap has been pinging GoDaddy's services — but it sounds like it's at least plausible that it was automatically shut down or throttled per a preexisting policy, which would suggest that it could be a misunderstanding on Namecheap's part.

Coincidentally, Namecheap is openly opposed to SOPA — the very legislation that got GoDaddy into hot water with many of its customers over the past week.

Right before Christmas, the world’s largest domain name registrar had been catching some heat from customers who disagreed with the company’s position on the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act Post blogger Hayley Tsukayama reported .

In a blog post Thursday, Go Daddy outlined its views on the piracy legislation by publishing statements from its general counsel and corporate secretary, Christine Jones, who has been brought in to testify at several hearings on the subject.

“We certainly shouldn’t be suppressing free speech, but the Internet should not function as the Wild West either,” Jones wrote. “We need to be focused on developing codes of conduct that reflect compromise. To do this, everyone in the Internet ecosystem needs to be committed to taking voluntary action. And everyone must understand that if we are unwilling to act responsibly, that Congress has a duty to step in.”

The company has been directing those opposing the measure to read its position on SOPA through its official Twitter account. Those who use Go Daddy’s Web hosting services, including some heavy hitters, have been threatening to take their business elsewhere because of the company’s views.

But the backlash that Go Daddy received prompted the company to pull its SOPA support, Tsukayama reported .

In a company statement, the domain registrar said that it has removed previous postings about its position to “eliminate confusion.”

“In changing its position, Go Daddy remains steadfast in its promise to support the security and stability of the Internet,” the company said in a statement. “In an effort to eliminate any confusion about its reversal on SOPA though, [chief counsel] Jones has removed blog postings that had outlined areas of the bill Go Daddy did support.”

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