Internet Pioneers, Security Experts Send Letter to Congress Blasting SOPA

A group of engineers, networking specialists, security experts and other specialists deeply involved with the Internet’s development and growth have sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing the highly controversial SOPA and PIPA bills and imploring them not to pass the legislation, which they say would stifle innovation and “threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government.”

Letter for SOPAA group of engineers, networking specialists, security experts and other specialists deeply involved with the Internet’s development and growth have sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing the highly controversial SOPA and PIPA bills and imploring them not to pass the legislation, which they say would stifle innovation and “threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government.”

The letter is short and to the point, explaining that, under the provisions currently found in the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act in the Senate, the United States would be not only actively hampering technological innovation, but also opening up a host of other problems lawmakers likely hadn’t considered.

“If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences. In exchange for this, such legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ right and ability to communicate and express themselves online,” the letter says.

The letter is signed by a long list of Internet pioneers and other respected figures, including Steve Bellovin, Paul Vixie, Vint Cerf, Jon Callas, Tony Li, Robert W. Taylor, Esther Dyson and Fred Baker, among many others. Both SOPA and PIPA have been criticized heavily by technologists, privacy advocates and security experts who say that not only would the proposed bills make it difficult for companies to create innovative new technologies, but they also would likely not even accomplish the goals their authors’ had in mind, namely preventing copyright infringement and content piracy.

Worse, the authors say, it could also create unforeseen security and other problems on the Internet.

“The current bills — SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly — also threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government. When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control. We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance as a design requirement for new Internet innovations. This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish,” they wrote in the letter.

SOPA has gone through a number of iterations, with changes made at every step, but opponents say that some of the changes have made the bill worse, not better. A fresh round of changes made in the last few days has not done much to change that.

“The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) enable online censorship on a massive scale and threaten to break the Internet, all in the name of intellectual property enforcement. These bills could encompass any foreign site accessible from the U.S. They give the U.S. government and individuals the ability to leverage Internet intermediaries to ‘blacklist’ sites accused of copyright infringement. Such actions are inconsistent with OECD principles aimed at ‘limiting intermediary liability’. Finally, the DNS blocking contemplated by these bills would undermine the usability of the DNSSEC security measures that are meant to authenticate domains and deter tampering with the DNS system. The reliability and integrity of the DNS is an important part of OECD’s aim of promoting Internet security, to which the United States is supposed to be committed,” Katitza Rodriguez of the EFF wrote in an analysis of the bill on Wednesday.

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Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    Listen to what the Geeks of the world are telling you, this is what we do. 

  • Matt on

    The letter is elegant, eloquent, exact and to the point. Considering the signers, I would have expected no less.

  • mike mastela on

    Congress is inclined to shoot from the hip without understanding or taking the time to learn the consequesnces of their actions and these two piece of legislation illustrate that perfectly.  The arrogance of assuming you know the best solution for a complex problem is something as simple as what they've proposed shows how little knowledge they actually have on the subject unless censorship is their ultimate goal which, based onthe philosophical leanings of this Congress, is what they are ultimately seeking.

  • mike mastela on

    Congress is inclined to shoot from the hip without understanding or taking the time to learn the consequesnces of their actions and these two piece of legislation illustrate that perfectly.  The arrogance of assuming you know the best solution for a complex problem is something as simple as what they've proposed shows how little knowledge they actually have on the subject unless censorship is their ultimate goal which, based onthe philosophical leanings of this Congress, is what they are ultimately seeking.

  • Jan van Niekerk on

    A funny thought occurs to me: imagine for a moment that those politicians actually listened to the people that they represent. What a strange sight it would be! Ha ha!
  • Anonymous on

    Now that Internet extends to every known civilization in our universe, only enforce copywrite laws on the few remaining middle class Americans. Along with music complaints, RIAA also threatens websites who offer instructional guitar tabs that represent someone else's "interpretation" of how to play songs on the guitar. That tapping sound you hear is your elected politicians chipping away at our freedom while exempting themselves from the same laws.

  • Anonymous on

    It appears we are in the wake of moving into a militant state like Chiina and Iran, in which our elected officials are concerned about their censorship. Total hypocrisy. I wonder how many members of congress watched a boot leg or for that matter the FBI. No they don,t do that, they are perfect.
  • Anonymous on

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • Samgoober on

    Mike wrote: "Congress is inclined to shoot from the hip without understanding or taking the time to learn the consequesnces of their actions and these two piece of legislation illustrate that perfectly.  The arrogance of assuming you know the best solution for a complex problem is something as simple as what they've proposed shows how little knowledge they actually have on the subject unless censorship is their ultimate goal which, based onthe philosophical leanings of this Congress, is what they are ultimately seeking."

    One has to look only as far as the health care law to see you are exactly right.

    (Sorry for the duplicate post - I didn't realize this wouldn't post my message directly under the post to which I was replying. The way it was laid out, the context was incorrect.)

    Sam 

  • RS Orlando, Fl on

    Don't worry; it won't last long... It's a very bitter pill to swallow and it smells to high hell. 

    What is "Truth"? If you know the answer to this, you know who's battle this is and our part in it is as a spectator only. If not, hang on! It's about to get VERY rough. 

  • Anonymous on

    Blogging may help you feel better but if you want to do something take the time to  make your complaints to your congressman and senator.

  • Anonymous New Orleans, Louisiana on

    If the representatives in Washington would pay as much attention and importance to the tax payers money as they do big corporation's and Hollywood, we wouldn't be in a National Debt Crisis, a poor economy and maybe citizens could afford their crappola! I'm just sayin, come on!

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