SOPA & GoDaddy Explained
For non-tech nerds
By Jeff Balke
When I tried to explain the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act and the involvement of domain name registrar GoDaddy in a staff meeting, my words were met with collective blank stares, as if I were speaking a different language. It is a look I often get from Web-design clients when I talk about "content development" or "dynamic code."
Before your eyes glaze over like those of my clients and colleagues at the Houston Press, I figured I should put together a simple, non-nerd-friendly explanation of why people are so pissed at GoDaddy and what it has to do with SOPA...and what that even is.
First, what is the Stop Online Piracy Act?
Simply put, SOPA is a bill currently passing through the bowels of Congress (H.R. 3261) introduced by Lamar Smith (R-TX) that would expand the role of law enforcement in protecting the rights of copyright holders. On the surface, that doesn't sound like a terrible thing, but when you dig a little deeper, the problem becomes clear.
SOPA would empower people who own copyrights — film companies, record labels and television networks, in particular — not only to go after people who individually steal their content, but to go after anyone who aids them. In this case, that includes the hosting companies that unwittingly host the content, Internet service providers (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) who unknowingly provide access, search engines like Google for linking to them, advertising services for running ads on their sites and online banking services like PayPal for allowing them to do business through them.
If they cooperate, however, they get immunity.
In essence, SOPA turns the Internet into a police state where every company is constantly searching for potential legal issues. Not only is it inefficient, but it creates the very real probability that things that aren't illegal will be shut down simply to protect the overseers from liability.
Now, what is GoDaddy?
GoDaddy is a domain name registrar. Domain names like HoustonPress.com cannot be purchased. All domain names are public property, but they can be essentially leased on a yearly basis. Registrars like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Register.com and others allow individuals and companies to lease domain names through them.
And why are they involved with SOPA?
GoDaddy set itself apart as one of the very few online services to show support for SOPA. Most of the major online players — Google, Ebay, AOL, Twitter, Facebook — are in opposition, as are thousands upon thousands of nerds, and they are the last ones GoDaddy wanted to piss off.
When Web users heard of GoDaddy's stance, they immediately began transferring domains from GoDaddy to other registrars. At last count, more than 70,000 customers had moved their domains, costing GoDaddy a serious chunk of change when you consider the average domain owner spends at least $10 per year on a domain and many of them have multiple domain names under a single account. Do the math.
GoDaddy reversed itself and withdrew its support, but geeks weren't buying it and continued the mass exodus. As Zed in Men in Black said, "It's like the last one out gets stuck with the check."
What does this mean to you?
If you don't own domain names, it probably means a little less to you, but as someone who visits the Internet, you need to pay attention. This law is being pushed through Congress by monied lobbyists who represent some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry as a way of propping up flagging sales. Yes, their losses are — at least in the case of the music industry — largely due to piracy, but forcing the very companies that provide unfettered access to the Web to act as its moral and ethical guardians would force them to put the kind of clamps on it none of us want.
Imagine if every blog that occasionally used photos it found from a Google search — FYI, it happens a lot — was shut down simply out of fear they might be in violation of federal law. The chilling effect could be incalculable.
No one is clear on what the outcome will be at this point. The bill is still bouncing around Washington and could go either way. But, nerd or not, everyone has a vested interest in both protecting legitimate copyrights and keeping the Internet open and free from restriction. SOPA is not the answer.
An East Texas Funeral Catfight
By John Nova Lomax
Even in the best of times, the holidays can be a time of extreme stress. Add in the death of a parent, and you have the proverbial tinderbox of flammable emotions.
One such firestorm came to a head recently in Kilgore, where local police say two sisters got into a catfight at their mother's funeral over the fate of some family jewels.
According to an arrest affidavit reported by KLTV, 45-year-old Kimberley Lynn Briggs grabbed big sister Debra Gail Goff by the hair, punched her several times and tossed her to the floor of the chapel of Kilgore's Rader Funeral Home during their late mother's visitation. According to the affidavit, the women were arguing over the whereabouts of their mom's jewelry.
The affidavit goes on to say that Briggs admitted whaling on her 54-year-old sister. She has been charged with assault/family violence causing injury and has made her $1,000 bail. According to Gregg County records, this is her first arrest.
The Latest in Odd Court-Record Names
By John Nova Lomax
Every so often we furnish you with a list of some of the strangest, funniest and most awesome names we find in our daily trollings of Harris County records. Usually, we do this roughly once a quarter, but this month has been fertile, so much so that we are now bringing you a new installment of a dozen a mere four weeks after our last go-round.
Jose Akeem Horton: I love the multicultural aspects of this name, its H-Town pride and the fact that you can peg the guy's date of birth to some time between 1982 (when Akeem Olajuwon first made his presence felt) to around 1990, when Dream added the "H" to "Akeem." (Horton was born in 1984, right after Olajuwon led the Houston Cougars to their third straight Final Four.)
Schvolva Tichvodka Hayes: Wow, just wow. Sort of naughty, sort of suggestive, sort of boozy, very alt-Russian and all the way weird.
Pepper D'Shawn Canada: Pepper and Canada: They go together like hockey and Honduras.
Markquelas Quetras: Reminds of South Pacific isles and Aussie airlines.
Twalure Lynnioes Spears: I sort of get "Twalure," but I have no idea about that middle name.
Mega Matahari: Sounds like an early Nintendo game involving outer space spies or something like that. And it's super-cool.
Adrena D. Turnipseed: Names don't get much more down-home and country than that.
Vi-Lasha Ru-Sheame Wallace: Not a big fan of the dash name, but this one is interesting.
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Julia Lynn Phlegm: Was this person cursed? Did she lose a bet? Couldn't someone have changed the spelling to "Flem" somewhere along the line? Really...Phlegm? It sounds bad. It's hard to spell. It refers to a disgusting substance. I just don't get it.
Nautilus Shepard: Sounds like a track star — an Olympic 110-meter hurdles gold medalist. Awesome name.
Cleopatrick Charles: Two words: Pimp 'In.
D'Mornay Freddi Joe James: Another one you can peg to a moment in time: roughly the same time-frame as Jose Akeem Horton. We would guess Mr. James was born sometime between the release of Risky Business in 1983 and 1993, when Rebecca DeMornay's star began to wane. (1988 is his date of birth, a quick peek reveals.)