Not expecting the GoDaddy treatment…


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by ViaMoi

I was bemused by the backlash against GoDaddy from opponents of SOPA. Sure, heartened to see some pushback for the company’s short-sighted and hypocritical stance, but surely this was a company that had failed ethical tests long ago? Better late than never, I suppose… though Paulina Borsook’s decade-old book comes to my mind every time I see someone trumpeting their sudden decision to boycott.

But even if it is simple self-interest, the GoDaddy boycott contrasts with the relative apathy about SOPA amongst educators. It is well-understood by solid, well-meaning, mainstream organizations that the effects of the Act could be disastrous, and those solid, well-meaning, mainstream concerns have been waved away by ignorant lawmakers just as they always are…

Yet among the official supporters of SOPA are pretty much all the major players in academic and educational publishing: Elsevier, Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Macmillan, Scholastic, et al

So, are there examples of universities re-assessing their purchases from corporations that are actively lobbying against their interests? Hell, are there any individual professors taking a stand, taking textbooks off of syllabi? If there are, I haven’t heard of any. (I did see this call to boycott Elsevier, though it comes from outside academia.)

And lest we think of DIY DIO-powered open educational production as an alternative…

SOPA would also expand the definition of copyright infringement to include hosting a single link to a site that is alleged to contain infringing material. Thus, if an author’s blog, or a book discussion group, attracts a single post that contains a single link that goes to a site that someone accuses of copyright infringement, that site becomes one with the alleged infringer, and faces all the same sanctions—without any proof required, or due process.

And…

Many OER platforms are nonprofit, operating with Creative Commons licenses and allowing global users to upload content on the honor system. The scope and size of OER platforms makes it difficult to monitor them in real time. Under SOPA, if any copyright-infringing material is discovered on an OER, the organization “could potentially have their domain name blocked by the goverment”—even if platform staff are unaware that it’s been uploaded. And because OERs are by definition open to anyone, entire sites could become “unavailable due to the behavior of a tiny minority of confused or malicious users.”

Come on, feel the FUD! I suspect that to the academic publishers named above, the resulting chilling effect is a feature, not a bug.

And as ever, as a Canadian I can watch this process, and know I will be affected, but I don’t have a vote, or a member of Congress to call… Ain’t global corporate dominion grand?

8 thoughts on “Not expecting the GoDaddy treatment…

  1. Re. “So, are there examples of universities re-assessing their purchases from corporations that are actively lobbying against their interests? Hell, are there any individual professors taking a stand, taking textbooks off of syllabi?”

    I think we’ve chatted about this before. While I agree with the sentiments expressed, I fear the counter-arguments have not been noticed, or even heard – some kind of tactical fumble?

    I’m guessing many professors hearing about SOPA for the first time would actually think the legislation *is* in their best interests – i.e. somehow protecting *their* IP.

    Maybe it’s time for an Occupy aimed at something strategic in a campus context to highlight the emerging, but largely unnoticed rub.

  2. David, I feel like I am on the losing end of a lot of arguments lately, so I have to take that poke about a “tactical fumble”… Obviously, people taking my position need to do a better job of articulating and forwarding arguments.

    The “new copyright environment” at UBC has been a real eye-opener for me. It has been heartening to see that some parts of the community have clearly received a wake-up call and are ready for real change. Others, well…

    This particular post was aimed less at a broad campus community than at the educational technologists in my Twitter feed — many of them trumpeting their refusal to use GoDaddy, many fewer taking notice of the support for SOPA from educational publishers.

    But your points are well taken.

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