As the public debate over the merits and drawbacks of the SOPA bill continues, consumers and privacy advocates already are looking for ways to get around the provisions in the proposed anti-piracy law that they see as unreasonable and oppressive. In one example, a developer has published an extension for Firefox that helps users circumvent SOPA’s domain blacklisting.
The DeSopa add-on for Firefox is designed for the express purpose of helping users get to domains that the provisions in SOPA might be used to block. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is ostensibly meant to protect content creators and rights holders by cracking down on sites that host content that infringes on copyrights. However, many people have criticized the bill, saying that it is overly broad and could result in harsh sanctions on sites that have such content, whether it’s one song or photo or an entire site full of it. The bill also includes language that experts say could enable the government to block sites in other countries that host such content.
There also have been concerns raised about the security and network-stability implications because of the way that the proposed system would work. The EFF and others have said that the bill would stifle technological innovation and could force some sites offline. The DeSopa Firefox add-on is meant to help users get around these restrictions by not using the domain to resolve URLs, but rather using IP addresses.
“This program is a proof of concept that SOPA will not help prevent piracy. The program, implemented as a Firefox extension, simply contacts offshore domain name resolution services to obtain the IP address for any desired website, and accesses those websites directly via IP. Similar offshore resolution services will eventually maintain their own cache of websites, without blacklisting, in order to meet the demand created by SOPA,” the designer of DeSopa, Tamer Rizk, wrote in the release notes for the add-on.
“If SOPA is implemented, thousands of similar and more innovative programs and services will sprout up to provide access to the websites that people frequent. SOPA is a mistake. It does not even technically help solve the underlying problem, as this software illustrates. What it will do is give undue leverage to predatory organizations, cripple innocent third party websites, severely dampen digital innovation and negatively impact the integrity and security of the Internet. “
House of Representatives members spent two days last week in markup hearings for SOPA, eventually deciding nothing and pushing off any decisions on amendments to the bill until next year. There is a similar bill in play in the Senate, known as PIPA (Protect IP Act), and a group of Internet pioneers and security experts has weighed in on the bills’ flaws and problems in a letter sent to Congress last week.