The Last Word on Vibram and SOPA
Wednesday we posted a couple of emails from Vibram stating they were dropping their support for SOPA. Unfortunately, those emails sent conflicting messages as to how much involvement (if any) they had with the bill. After I published that post I reached out to Vibram to find out exactly what their position was. Luckily, the wait wasn’t long, because they reached out to us, probably before anyone at Vibram got a chance to read my email.
Brian, Dan, and I had a conference call this morning with a representative from Vibram to help set the record straight. Here’s the straight dope on their position regarding SOPA:
Vibram was indirectly linked to the bill through involvement with the Outdoor Industry Association
As the first email stated, they were tied to this bill through their involvement with the Outdoor Industry Association. The OIA is a trade organization for manufacturers, retailers, and the like of outdoor goods (e. g. shoes and recreational equipment), and as such works to represent these companies’ interests when it comes to legislation.
Vibram initially joined the OIA to help combat the foreign counterfeiting of FiveFingers, which as we all know are heavily copied (Justin at Birthdayshoes keeps a list of sites selling knockoffs that numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands).
Vibram was originally unaware of the bill when added to the list of supporters
Vibram was aware that the OIA was looking to support legislation regarding foreign counterfeiters peddling their goods in the US [through the internet], but was not aware of any current bills in the works. As soon as they found out they were listed as supporters, they contacted OIA and asked to be removed from the list.
According to Vibram’s representative, they wholeheartedly support legislation protecting their intellectual property rights (and I agree), but they will not support any bills potentially limiting anyone’s freedom of speech. They attribute much of their success to their online communities and don’t want to see any laws passed that could potentially affect them [us].
OIA’s stance on SOPA
It would seem that the OIA is the start of this whole mess, as I’ve found another company has originally been listed as supporting SOPA without any prior knowledge of involvement. Turns out, Petzl America, makers of climbing safety gear, found itself in a similar situation. From Petzl America’s site:
In February, 2011, Petzl did sign on to a letter circulated by the Outdoor Industry Association supporting government action against intellectual property theft via “rogue websites.” That letter made no mention of any specific legislation, and support for it was spurred by Petzl’s own encounter with the problem of counterfeit life-safety products.
You can read Petzl’s entire message here.
I’ve currently reached out to the Outdoor Industry Association in regards to their stance.
A big thanks to Vibram for reaching out to help clear the air, and for their open lines of communication with MyFiveFingers.com. This is the best approach to protecting your brand online!