Why Rackspace Opposes the “Stop Online Piracy Act”

The bill now before Congress would do more harm than good.  We’re working to get it amended, so it can target online thieves without hurting innocent users of the Internet.

By Lanham Napier
CEO, Rackspace

To read our latest on this issue, click here.

Part of the professional code of physicians is that, when they’re treating a patient’s ailment, they should “first, do no harm.”  I wish more members of Congress would follow that rule.  Instead, in the name of policing the online theft of intellectual property, key lawmakers are pushing a cure that’s worse than the disease.

I refer to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), now awaiting a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee.  The authors of the bill say their goal is to crack down on websites that traffic in stolen movies, music, software, and other intellectual property.  That’s a goal that we at Rackspace share.  But we’ve studied the SOPA bill closely and conferred with experts in our company and elsewhere in the technology industry, and we believe that it would not achieve its stated purpose.  Foreign IP thieves, in particular, could find ways to evade the law.

Meanwhile, SOPA would require that Rackspace and other Internet service providers censor their customers with little in the way of due process, trumping the protections present in the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  What’s more, the SOPA bill would seriously disrupt the Domain Name Service that is crucial to the smooth operation of the web.

The SOPA bill, as it stands, is a deeply flawed piece of legislation.  It is bad for anyone who uses the Internet, including Rackspace, the more than 160,000 business customers that we serve, and the tens of millions of retail customers that they serve.  It is bad for job creation and innovation.

We at Rackspace oppose SOPA in its current form. 

We have been working diligently with members of Congress and their staffs in an attempt to amend the bill.  Last week, I traveled to Washington to meet with key members of Congress and their aides, urging them to slow down, take the time to understand the basics of the industry that they propose to regulate, and get this legislation right.  We’re continuing to work with those lawmakers over the holidays.

In the meantime, I have asked Rackspace employees to contact their representatives and tell them of the harm that the SOPA bill, as written, would do to our customers and employees, and more broadly to the Internet and the economy.  I urge everyone reading this post to do the same.  If you’d like to learn more about the SOPA bill, I suggest you read the articles at the links listed below.  And please let me know your thoughts on this vital issue.

SOPA – Wikipedia
Why Do We Have to Break the DNS? – Dyn
SOPA Could Destroy the Internet as We Know It – Mythbuster Adam Savage on Popular Mechanics
Adam Savage on Popular Mechanics


Lanham Napier was the CEO of Rackspace from 2006 to February 2014, and now serves as a consultant to the company's leaders. As CEO, he avidly promoted the workplace culture that drives the company’s famed Fanatical Support®. This passion for empowering customers has made Rackspace the acknowledged leader of the open cloud.


  1. Can you give an example of how a customer (hosted on U.S. soil) would be censored? Like an actual scenario where an innocent person might be silenced by SOPA.

    Also what do your customers think? Seems to me most of your customers produce original content and wouldn’t be the target of any DNS action. So wouldn’t MOST of your customers benefit from SOPA? Websites producing original content would end up receiving more traffic and the money would follow.

    If you want to talk about job creation, SOPA would actually CREATE more jobs and opportunity. I’m sure you know this. Currently, massive websites like Facebook (that fear SOPA) employ relatively few people. Just imagine if Facebook’s 800 million users realized it’s time to register a domain name and take responsibility for what they publish–a lot of them would sign up for Rackspace accounts. That’s a no-brainer.

    That’s just one way SOPA would create a ton of jobs, and not just for Rackspace and web developers. With SOPA, we would see more “Editor” jobs because producing and editing original content would be profitable again. More people would produce high-quality, original content because serving boatloads of user-generated content would be slightly less appealing. So massive user-generated content websites destroy jobs because they disincentivize originality and diversity.

    It’s true massive user-generated websites fear SOPA. Is it really because they don’t want to hire more people to ensure they’re not stealing content? This isn’t really about altruism or the integrity of the Internet or free speech. Even the “technical experts” know this, according to this blog post–nobody is really getting silenced by SOPA–if the copyright violators can find a loophole, so can the next Gandhi-in-the-making.

    I’m sure you have our best interest in mind. Let’s make the best decision for the ENTIRE Internet, not just a few big user-generated content sites that have the most to lose.

  2. PJ, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been part of a startup or not, but budgets are so tight that hiring someone just to police content isn’t feasible. It’s laughable. SOPA in its current form would kill a ton of startups before they ever got off the ground. I’m not sure what pamphlets you’ve been reading, but your logic defies real world logic.

  3. @PJ,

    heres one of innumerable scenarios:

    1)Collateral damage: You post a piece of content to a user hosting service that you must communicate to someone on the other side of the country for one reason or other. At the same time, a rights holder makes an unverified claim that the service you are using is infringing upon their copy rights. the site is then removed from DNS, before your client or whomever gets to observe your content. as a result, your end remains unfufilled, and your client has the impression that your content may violate the law. double whammy that.

    2) Fragmentation of the Internet: You log on to your bank account from home one day to check your balance.
    you are not aware however that your teenage child has changed your dns server settings to get around a ICE/SOPA blockade, and now your phishing protection is completely inadequate. as a result the site you are on, with the url and look of your bank site, is actually an unnamed site in Nigeria, and you have just fed teh phishers your bank account info.

    3) Illegitimate takedowns: a known rights holder makes a sopa complaint regarding user generated content that they feel is bad PR and portrays them in a bad light. since unlike the DMCA rights holders are not liable for fraudulent claims, your content and site disappear with no due process. see the UMG vs MegaUpload contraversy from earlier this month for evidence that this is happening currently without the enhanced means that SOPA provides, and the DMCA is almost powerless to stop the powerful media conglomerations.

    and many more, coming soon to a site near you.

    The biggest problem with sopa is it makes law enforcement painless for the plaintiff. That should never ever ever be the case. a high burden of proof is required to offset the ability of a plaintiff to make an unsubstantiated allegation and use it to harm a defendant. SOPA reduces the burden of proof to almost nihl, and allows rights holders to exact harsh punishments on others with no due process, no right to confront your accusers, and no means to achieve redress. the IP industries have long been complaining that its too hard for them to hurt people. personally I don’t find that a compelling argument in the slightest. some things are hard to do by design, as a means of mitigation. the content industries just plain don’t want to have their power to punish folks limited by little things like constitutional rights or mechanisms of “justice”.


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