WordPress has mushroomed in size over the last couple of years, and its estimated that 22 in every 100 new domains registered in the States are running wordpress. And it’s not only small bloggers and internet marketers running the software – they claim that 14.7% of the top million websites are using their free open source software (up on 8.5% in 2010).
So it’s far from insignificant that today WordPress published a note that will be read by millions of users, urging them to come out against the Protect IP / SOPA legislation currently being discussed in the US Congress. Not only users, but publishers, small business owners, and people who have a stake – however small – in the internet.
The bills have heavy backing from ‘traditional’ business including most of Hollywood partnered up with corporations like Pfizer, Revlon, Ford Motor Cars (at least one of whose corporate sites is powered by WordPress), who claim that its provisions will effectively protect copyright holders from online theft and thus protect jobs and business (in America).
Leaders in the internet/technology field including Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Ebay, Twitter, LinkedIn and AOL have all come out against the legislation in its current form, as have organisations including Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch; they claim that the legislation threatens freedom of speech, will interfere fundamentally with the architecture of the web, and crucially that it will be ineffectual in preventing piracy.
The stakes were ratcheted up last month when one of America’s largest domain registration / hosting companies GoDaddy stated that it supported the legislation. Sooner than you could say ‘viral’ indignant users across sites like reddit, twitter, and facebook were threatening to move their business from GoDaddy; a moveyourdomainday was proposed for the 29th of December, and an estimated 37,000 domains/hosting accounts were moved from GoDaddy in protest (although stats suggest now that the publicity generated from the whole controversy may have brought roughly the same amount of new business its way); the upshot was that GoDaddy made an embarassing u-turn and declared publicly
“We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed. GoDaddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities.”
It’s uncertain what effect WordPress’s public urge to oppose the Protect IP / SOPA bills – which will have appeared in most user’s dashboard when logging on – will have. It’s interesting precisely because it reaches directly people who create content; that’s important for two reasons: 1) this legislation directly affects them, though they might not have been well informed about it, and 2) they in turn have their own public (it’s been estimated that as much as 12% of the total web is powered by wordpress – that’s the sort of reach we’re talking about).