No More SOPA: mobile app scans barcodes to tell you which products are made by SOPA supporters

No More SOPA is an Android app that lets you scan the barcodes of the products on the shelves at stores to determine (more or less) whether the manufacturer has backed SOPA. Unfortunately, manufacturing is so concentrated, and manufacturers' associations are so Internet-hostile, you might have to hunt quite a while for a SOPA-free alternative. But if one product in a hotly contested category saw a decisive lift in sales thanks to its manufacturer's good sense, others might defect.

Chris Thompson, one of the students who created No More SOPA, says he hopes the program could help solidify the widespread anger around SOPA, which aims to block access to foreign copyright-infringing websites, into well-defined boycotts of the companies who have pushed the bill, from Adidas to Xerox to Walmart to Dow Chemical. “These companies think they’ll make more money with SOPA than without it,” says 20-year old Thompson. “If they realize they’re costing themselves more consumers than they’ll gain, they’ll be less inclined to go forward with that support.”

Thompson says he recently scanned a Simply Orange bottle of orange juice he had bought, for instance, and the app detected that the juice had ties to SOPA: Coca-Cola, which owns the brand, has a joint venture with Nestle, which also owns a stake in L’Oreal, a company that’s lobbied for SOPA. He’s since switched to Tropicana.

Android Barcode Scanner App Detects If A Product's Maker Supports SOPA


  1. I’m not sure how effective an advocate I’ll be for internet freedom if I’m drunk and have a caffeine-withdrawal headache.

  2. Nice. I wish there were a lot more apps like these, for different issues. Of course, that would make shopping REALLY complicated, at least for the first few weeks.

    1. Agreed – but you won’t get it. Leaving aside any questions of whether Apple has its own preferences on this particular issue, they have a rule against approving political and activist apps. Their walled-garden approach to deciding when and how they will let you use the device they want to be your constant digital companion and your guide to and window on the world is a real problem.

  3. Oh noes!  Molson was bought out by Coors, a major supporter of the Republican party!  I guess you need another app to sort out companies that support other political philosophies you don’t agree with, amirite?

    [Seriously, I recall the university pub gave up on Molson after the buyout, during the Bush years.]

  4. All the weekend warrior hipsters will be glad to know that American Spirits are not SOPA-affiliated. Phew.

    1. WHY did they have to co-opt my favorite brand of smokes?  Good frackin’ grief… kids these days, get off my lawn, etc. etc.

  5. While I don’t question the intentions of the programmer I think a smartphone app scanning barcodes to check the anti-anti-piracy bona fides of a particular brand illustrates better than anything else I’ve seen in a while impossiblity of social change in today’s late capitalist society. It’s a consumer boycot in which a microscopically small sliver of the mobile phone-owning public will participate (even then probably just once or twice to try out the app, until the novelty wears off), in lieu of non-existent serious political opposition to SOPA, which is a proxy issue for opposition to the enclosure movement taking places in the digital commons, which is in itself a part-issue of the privatization of every other part of the commons.

    1. How can you have a boycott without a list of targeted companies? And once you have a list, and there are devices that can check products against it, why shouldn’t they be used?

      I agree that penetration will be low (10,000-50,000 installed is impressive in its way, but even if every one of those is using it assiduously that’s not a significant piece of the market), but it’s a good effort, a good symbol – and it’s a sign of the future. Why go out of your way to criticize the first stages for being so young, small, and unformed?

      1. I’m against consumer boycotts in general. Government boycotts, i.e. “you won’t be allowed to do business in our country if you don’t meet these standards”, totally for that. Consumer boycotts and outrage only work if the company is causing tangible harm like hosing sulphuric acid directly on children playing on a playground, or making a crappy product like New Coke or the iPhone 4. But for causes that to consumers seem far removed from their lives, especially when a large group of companies is involved, not a chance. Moreover, I’d even go so far as to say that to have an Android app for a tech cause communicates to many people that’s it’s something that only hacker types and pirates care about, not people who are functionally illiterate when it comes to IT and who only every now and then download something through a site like the Pirate Bay.

  6. It would be nice if this app could be extended (or merged with other apps) to give a larger variety of information with which to make informed consumer decisions: SOPA, free trade, fair trade, environmental record, country of origin, political funding, etc… would make it easier to use your buying power positively rather than being beholden to your pet causes. Certainly would take a lot of data management (and there would be worries about accuracy) but it would make for a strong tool to direct your consumption.

    1. What’s the point of ethical consumerism anyway? It’s an arms race between NGO’s who want the strictest adherence to all sorts of standards on the one hand and amoral corporations designing labelling schemes that will give them the most moral bragging rights for the lowest investment. Rather than such an app teaching you about the “objective” ethical record of the company you’re buying from the complexity of all these schemes would forces consumers using such an app to constantly make difficult ethical decisions that they shouldn’t have to make anyway.

      1. You are very negative and cynical. I also am typically very cynical, especially when it comes to the idea of government ever changing in positive ways. However this is a new world. It is the industrial revolution all over again, and we have to adapt. At the very least, be impressed that 20-somethings are worried enough about their future and the direction of this nation to try and stop things from getting too out of hand. At some point even the French realized that revolution was the only solution. Maythe 99% don’t have to wait that long to make changes that can adapt us to the new world without completely losing our stake in everything that is important or worth value.

  7. Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Mark Twain

  8. I prefer to boycott SOPA directly by not buying (and for the most part not consuming) any media made by the assholes that are really behind it. Not now and not ever.

  9. “Coca-Cola, which owns the brand, has a joint venture with Nestle, which also owns a stake in L’Oreal, a company that’s lobbied for SOPA”

    I’ve read that sentence three times, and I’m still not sure what it means. Does coca-cola support SOPA? Or just someone they happen to do business with?

  10. I really don’t see the point of this. SOPA is happening right now, so starting some sort of embargo, even if everyone who heard about the app signed on and told their friends, would have no effect whatsoever. My old university banned Nestle and Coke for years and for reasons more people are going to get behind. I don’t have the data on me right now, but I’m pretty sure both companies are doing fine. Even if it did affect their bottom line, I’d be willing to bet that they wouldn’t say “this is clearly due to that mobile app. We must choose our friends more carefully. No more SOPA, and let’s sell that stake in L’Oreal for supporting them in the first place!”

  11. I see some merit in what the app builder is trying to do here — show big companies who think they have our dollars in their pocket before we even walk in the store that we can make informed decisions when we have all the information we need to make them.

    Not only that think of the changes that large companies have made recently that no one 10 years ago would have dreamed of happening — i.e., bank charges and the “white Coke cans”. 

    Seriously, public outrage over the “confusion” of the color of a soda can caused mass hysteria with Coke execs, but stripping the rights and freedoms from the constitution doesn’t? 

    It is, ultimately, all about money. Show companies that they will lose thousands of customers and tons of money, and you’ll see change. Threaten to take away the same, and good luck (or as one person noted, boycotts from relatively small segments of the market, which mean nothing to these larger international companies).

    In this world doing “the right thing” means nothing. Doing what is best for business, sadly, is the call of the day.

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