SOPAThe ongoing controversy surrounding the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills in Congress has produced a lot of things: misunderstanding of what the bills would do; silly rhetoric from trade groups supposedly defending content creators; confusion on Capitol Hill; and a clear demonstration of how insulated and uninformed many citizens are. But perhaps the worst thing to come out of all of this is the almost comical picture it paints of Congress and its complete lack of understanding of the Internet and its role in society, business and freedom.

The two bills are nominally meant to curb online piracy by giving the Department of Justice broad powers to take actions against virtually any site that it deems to be infringing on the rights of one or more copyright holder. This could apply to a huge swath of sites that house any sort of user-generated content, as well as a wide array of other sites. The enforcement mechanisms in the bill would enable authorities to effectively knock these sites offline and force other companies, such as payment processors and ISPs to stop doing business with them.

All of this is to be done in the name of protecting the rights of content creators whose works are pirated and either resold or given away without any recompense for the artists. No one disputes that musicians, writers, filmmakers and others who create original works deserve to be paid for their efforts. Without their work, the world would be a dull, lifeless place and no one would have anything to listen to on the treadmill at the gym.

But the real problem is that neither SOPA nor PIPA would solve the problems that these creators have. The business models in the publishing, music and movie industries are in large part broken and no law passed in the U.S. is going to have any real effect on whether people–in the U.S. or abroad–steal movies, music and books. That ship has sailed and it’s not returning to port anytime soon. The network of underground sites that traffic in pirated movies and music wouldn’t disappear, it would simply adapt.

But that’s not something that the lawmakers in Washington understand. The depth of their lack of understanding of how the Internet works is simply breathtaking. It appears that they may be working from a diagram of the Web drawn on a cocktail napkin by a lobbyist sometime in 1993.

The clearest example is the provision in SOPA that would require ISPs to prevent the domain name of an allegedly infringing site from resolving to its proper IP address.

“A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address,” the section of SOPA reads.

That section has drawn criticism from security and networking experts who have rightly pointed out that it will likely have a host of unintended consequences, none of them good. In a letter sent to Congress in December, a large group of Internet pioneers and other experts said that SOPA and PIPA, its sister bill in the Senate, would have deleterious effects on the Web and its security and stability.

“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 an analysis of the issue, Katitza Rodriguez of the EFF went further.

“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,” Rodriguez wrote.

Rep. Lamarr Smith, the main sponsor of SOPA, said recently that he will consider removing the DNS-blocking provision in the bill pending further examination of its implications. That’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t come close to solving all of the problems with SOPA and PIPA. The fact still remains that the logic behind the bills doesn’t hold and that foreign sites that may be hosting copyright-infringing content are unlikely to pay one bit of attention to it.

Nor should any of us have to.

Categories: Government, Web Security

Comments (5)

  1. Mad B

    These bills were only concieved to protect the creaking business models of the media industry.. which are under constant attack by the creators of content due to not being paid what they deserve. the real pirates are big media..  

    Media not wanting to change their business model is the problem.    

    with the way things work now and have for years. we can do without the middle man. and the artists will get what they deserve.. unlike big media still paying artists their small pitance of royalties even though the costs for media deployment in digital format is alot cheaper than printing CD’s, DVD’s with packaging, distribution and marketing etc.. do the world a favor packaged media is a waste of resources. Artists today are fighting to get royalties increased and are even owed back royalties, which  media is screwing them out of royalties owed to them due to digital sales which are not being reported to the Artists. 

    they would also like you to think piracy will lead to artists not making music anymore.. which is bullshit. real artists will continue to make real music.. unlike this marketed cookie cutter shit they push on us nowadays. no talent, heavily marketed crap distrubuted in low quality mp3’s.. there are exceptions to this of course)  If your paying for music in digital format shouldn’t you be entitled to high quality or lossless format..   if they want to compete with piracy they have to give the people what they want. availabilty, quality and price.  if a song, movie, album etc is purchased, you as the purchaser should be able to use it on which ever of your devices you see fit. 

    The more big Media try to control what we get and what we can do with it. There current model even punishes legit owners of media. no benefit to actually buying a legit copy of something, not being able to skip through warnings and threats. previews and other crap they are trying to pedal.  when i watch a movie i just want to watch a movie.

    Their actions push people towards piracy.  Big Media is their own worst enemy.   Piracy of media solves all those problems they create.  My opinons only count for the enjoyment of culture and the non profiting from other peoples creations.  Piracy for profit i strongly disagree with. 

    hmm end rant. anyone feel free to complain about my grammer and spelling go right ahead.. 🙂

    I know this is off topic but…  

  2. David

    Imagine going to the library. You try to check out a book but are told that there is a new law that requires you to pay a rental fee to the book copyright owner or buy a license in order to read the book. Or else the library is told to close down completely because books are protected content under the new law and must be purchased in order to be read legally.

  3. Anonymous

    The bypass mechanisms will be created by people with less than honorable intentions and they would have a host of clients begging for the service.

    Perhaps the gross salaries of Hollywood elite do not draw as much ire as those on Wall Street?

  4. Anonymous

    What is clear is that a full-scale federal investigation needs to be conducted into the practices of all the old media and their surrounding cronies.  All if these organizations are worse than the Mafia, yes the actual Mafia.  They have certainly lived up to their MAFIAA nicknames.

  5. Not Verified

    Game is over. Train has left the station.

    BMG, Warner, Sony Universal, EMI …. just let them fail. NOT ANOTHER BAILOUT.


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