Why PROTECT IP Breaks The Internet

from the collateral-damage dept

Last year, after the entertainment foisted COICA on an unsuspecting public, Paul Vixie — a guy you should listen to when he’s concerned about the technical impact of something on the internet — explained why COICA’s reliance on DNS block was incredibly stupid. Not only would it not work, but it would fundamentally fracture the way the internet works, creating massive collateral damage. Last week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward with PROTECT IP, we mentioned in passing a new report from Vixie and other internet technology gurus explaining why PROTECT IP’s focus on the DNS system would cause tremendous damage. While we had mentioned it, lots of folks keep submitting it, and judging from the ridiculous claims of those in favor of PROTECT IP, the folks in DC pushing for this bill are apparently still ignorant of what the report says — so we’re posting about it again. The report, titled Security and Other Technical Concerns Raised by the DNS Filtering Requirements in the PROTECT IP Bill (pdf) is worth a read. The five authors are incredibly well respected, and the entertainment industry folks who are trying to claim this paper can be ignored are going to come out of this looking quite silly.

These are concerns that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The paper’s authors also make it clear that they’re not in favor of infringement, and in fact support enforcement of IP laws. They just recognize that this particular solution is dumb and counterproductive:

Two likely situations ways can be identified in which DNS filtering could lead to non-targeted and perfectly innocent domains being filtered. The likelihood of such collateral damage means that mandatory DNS filtering could have far more than the desired effects, affecting the stability of large portions of the DNS.

First, it is common for different services offered by a domain to themselves have names in some other domain, so that example.com?s DNS service might be provided by isp.net and its e-mail service might be provided by asp.info. This means that variation in the meaning or accessibility of asp.info or isp.net could indirectly but quite powerfully affect the usefulness of example.com. If a legitimate site points to a filtered domain for its authoritative DNS server, lookups from filtering nameservers for the legitimate domain will also fail. These dependencies are unpredictable and fluid, and extremely difficult to enumerate. When evaluating a targeted domain, it will not be apparent what other domains might point to it in their DNS records.

In addition, one IP address may support multiple domain names and websites; this practice is called ?virtual hosting? and is very common. Under PROTECT IP, implementation choices are (properly) left up to DNS server operators, but unintended consequences will inevitably result. If an operator or filters the DNS traffic to and from one IP address or host, it will bring down all of the websites supported by that IP number or host. The bottom line is that the filtering of one domain name or hostname can pull down unrelated sites down across the globe.

Second, some domain names use ?subdomains? to identify specific customers. For example, blogspot.com uses subdomains to support its thousands of users; blogspot.com may have customers named Larry and Sergey whose blog services are at larry.blogspot.com and sergey.blogspot.com. If Larry is an e-criminal and the subject of an action under PROTECT IP, it is possible that blogspot.com could be filtered, in which case Sergey would also be affected, although he may well have had no knowledge of Larry?s misdealings. This type of collateral damage was demonstrated vividly by the ICE seizure of mooo.com, in which over 84,000 subdomains were mistakenly filtered.

The defenders of propping up the business models of dying industries will brush these unintended consequences as no big deal or a “small issue” at the expense of “saving” the entertainment industry. This is because they don’t understand the technology at play, the First Amendment or the nature of collateral damage. It’s pretty ridiculous in this day and age that we still have to deal with technically illiterate “policy people” and politicians trying to regulate technology they clearly have little knowledge about. Only those who don’t understand the technology think the collateral damage described above is minimal.

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Comments on “Why PROTECT IP Breaks The Internet”

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127 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps you might want to sit back and try writing and article with a title like Why The Internet Breaks Everything.

I like “The defenders of propping up the business models of dying industries”. The industries are not dying, the demand for their products is higher than ever. This isn’t a lack of demand for music, movies, or television. The demand has increased dramatically. Everyone wants 50 new buggy whips. They just don’t want to pay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This breaks nothing.

These complaints are incredibly minor and not remotely difficult to take into account.

Subdomains? No shit. What’s the surprise there? If the parent domain doesn’t want to kill the illegal subdomain off, that is their choice to live with.

Other sites that point and rely on pirate sites? They’ll fix their scripts the next day to stop relying on pirate sites.

Virtual hosting? Again, no big deal. Especially since PROTECT IP doesn’t even filter by IP, it filters by domain. And sites like The Pirate Bay aren’t exactly on shared hosting plans.

Yawn. Wake me up when you whiners have something substantial.

Developer says:

Re: Re: Re: This breaks nothing.

You’re not very bright.

PROTECT IP is to bypass the requirement of talking to the host. If a subdomain is the offender, they won’t use precision. They’ll just blow the entire domain itself off the net. That’s the reason, they don’t want to deal with the actual hoster.

Site that rely on pirate sites? Google, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Digg and all them would be a target under PIPA.

Virtual hosting: DNS has to comply, so if you take down the host DNS server all the virtuals will fall as well.

Yawn. Wake me up when you know wtf your talking about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This breaks nothing.

Blogspot cannot be targetted under this law. You cannot take down Blogspot for one offending blog. Read PROTECT IP.

Google, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Digg have to remove pirate sites, but none can be taken down under the language of PROTECT IP themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 This breaks nothing.

“The normal world isn’t hysterical about anything.”

So your definition of the ‘normal’ world is a world that agrees with your opinion?

“Nothing hysterical about expecting copyright law to be enforced.”

A: Nothing hysterical about wanting copy protection laws to be abolished. It is hysterical to think that society should sacrifice so much just to implement laws that don’t need to exist.

The laws themselves are hysterical. 95+ year copy protection lengths is insane.

“Saying “BUT THE INTERNET WILL BE BROKEN!!!” if copyright law is enforced? Now that’s some prime hysterical FUD.”

The government already broke everything outside the Internet with oppressively plutocratic laws.

r (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This breaks nothing.

>>Google, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Digg have to remove pirate sites, but none can be taken down under the language of PROTECT IP themselves

I think this is what gets me all riled up about the perception of prescriptive law supporting businesses that suck.. but I like this part – “PROTECT IP themselves”

Find your own effing crap and take care of it.. and if you can’t then make more effing crap and take -> better

rubberpants says:

Re: Re: Re: This breaks nothing.

These complaints are incredibly minor and not remotely difficult to take into account.

They may be minor to you. But to people who have actually built successful business on the Internet they are not minor.

Subdomains? No shit. What’s the surprise there? If the parent domain doesn’t want to kill the illegal subdomain off, that is their choice to live with.

What’s an illegal subdomain?

Other sites that point and rely on pirate sites? They’ll fix their scripts the next day to stop relying on pirate sites.

You’re right. In fact, they’ll fix it so fast the takedown wouldn’t have mattered. Why would we do that again?

Virtual hosting? Again, no big deal. Especially since PROTECT IP doesn’t even filter by IP, it filters by domain. And sites like The Pirate Bay aren’t exactly on shared hosting plans.

It’s a big deal to someone who relies on said virtual hosting for their livelihood and has it destroyed in the collateral damage.

Yawn. Wake me up when you whiners have something substantial.

Maybe if you spent less time sleeping you’d have a greater understanding of these matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This breaks nothing.

What’s an illegal subdomain?

Blogspot responds to takedown requests. If someone starts a “piratecontent.blogspot.com” domain that is blatantly infringing, and they receive notification of that, they will kill that subdomain, thus protecting them under safe harbor.

Furthermore, PROTECT IP requires that domains be dedicated to infrining to be considered for blocking.

Blogspot would only be taken down under PROTECT IP if:

1) They were hosting a large amount of pirate material, and/or
2) Willfully refused to take it down once notified.

Don’t use Blogspot as a shield to try and pretend PROTECT IP would in any way hurt them. It would not.

It’s a big deal to someone who relies on said virtual hosting for their livelihood and has it destroyed in the collateral damage.

If you are an ISP that makes a living out of hosting pirate material on shared plans, that is your choice. And again, PROTECT IP filters by domain, not IP.

You’re right. In fact, they’ll fix it so fast the takedown wouldn’t have mattered. Why would we do that again?

If you’re suggesting they’ll get a new domain, this hasn’t happened in other countries that have blacklisted sites like The Pirate Bay. The major sites rely on brand recognition of their domain to get visitors. The second they lose that because all their identifiable domains have been blocked is the second they lose credibility.

At that point, phishers and spammers can start a thousand “thepiratebay12233.com” sound-a-like domains for scamming. To the layperson just looking for a quick fix, the brand loses value completely.

Again, I don’t see how any of this breaks anything, except the nice little cottage industry pirates have built for themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This breaks nothing.

You do understand that nothing anyone does will bring so called pirates back to the 90’s right?

You suggest government censorship of the internet to keep the pirates from having a free meal. I can’t wait until they actually start to try and define what sites dedicated to infringement actually means. That isn’t broad at all and could never be used to say take down something the government doesn’t like (wikileaks)

This opens up some flood gates and won’t actually fix any of the problems with the content distribution industry.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This breaks nothing.

If you’re suggesting they’ll get a new domain, this hasn’t happened in other countries that have blacklisted sites like The Pirate Bay. The major sites rely on brand recognition of their domain to get visitors. The second they lose that because all their identifiable domains have been blocked is the second they lose credibility.

it’s already happened. demonoid.com has already moved to demonoid.me and kickasstorrents.com has already moved to kat.ph. both of those TLDs are not controlled by ICANN.

those “major sites” won’t be affected because they’re already out of protect IP’s grasp.

PROTECT IP won’t do any damage to piracy. all the damage it does cause will be collateral.

r (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 This breaks nothing.

wow – a genuine donkey on the interwebs. spot it here first! (ok, not first so much)

Let me be brief. No technologist with any will whatsoever will ever be affected by what you’re supporting punctuation period

so yes, free as in dom as in no money due and so the more you take from me the less I care for you – tiddledee doo

r (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 This breaks nothing.

wow – a genuine donkey on the interwebs. spot it here first! (ok, not first so much)

Let me be brief. No technologist with any will whatsoever will ever be affected by what you’re supporting punctuation period

so yes, free as in dom as in no money due and so the more you take from me the less I care for you – tiddledee doo

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This breaks nothing.

This depth and breadth of ignorance you’ve expressed here is astounding. It is clear that you do not understand routing, DNS, hosting, tunneling, SMTP, HTTP, BGP, caching, network allocation, or much else that’s in play here.

Vixie is one of the few — VERY few — people on the Internet who sees beyond the concerns of the moment and understands the deep consequences of technical decisions. If you don’t understand why he’s right, the best algorithm to use (and this is the one I use) is:

1. Learn more
2. Re-read his statement
3. Return to step 1

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

TechDirt is already about why the Internet is disruptive technology that breaks obsolete business models. Not just the record industry.

Just like the automobile was disruptive technology to the entrenched horse and buggy.

Yes, the demand for music, movies and TV may be higher than ever. Those who provide what people want will succeed. Those who don’t won’t.

That also was true for transportation. The demand was higher than ever! Those who provided what people wanted, succeeded. The horse and buggy didn’t succeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The buggy whip analogy has been debunked numerous times as nonsensical.”

Asserting that it has been debunked is different than actually debunking it. Just because you can assert that it has been debunked does not mean it has been debunked.

“People that use it might as well grab a marker and write “doofus” on their forehead.”

Good argument there, way to debunk things.

masquisieras says:

Re: Re:

The demand is higher than ever for music, movies an television but less and less people are interested in DVD, CD and waiting a year to see what they want to see. Is not the music, movie and TV industries that are dying is the DVD, CD and TV distribution companies that are dying. Everyone wants 50 new horses but not as 50 buggy whips but in a internal combustion engine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The analogy is invalid because there is demand for recorded music and there was no demand for buggy whips.

It is easily one of the stupidest analogies the freetards have ever rolled out.

In fact, they have to use secondary analogies to try and make sense out of the buggy whip one, LOL.

But feel free to keep using it. I have no problem with ineffective pirate propaganda.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“The analogy is invalid because there is demand for recorded music and there was no demand for buggy whips.”

Except that you’re misrepresenting the analogy.

Music is analogous to transportation.
Buggy Whips = a specific method or type of transportation.
Cars = a new method of transportation.

and the point is that when businesses argue for new laws, it’s usually for laws in their own personal interest, not in the public interest. and the government often grants those laws for nefarious reasons, to support specific businesses that don’t want to compete in a free market, a market that better serves the public interest and not just their own private interests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Almost. A closer analogy is something like

“RIAA et al = subset of entire music experience.

buggy whips = subset of entire transportation experience.

recorded albums = in demand.

Transportation = in demand”

You would even be closer.

You disingenuously replaced “Transportation = In demand” with “buggy whips = not in demand.”

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps you might want to sit back and try writing and article with a title like Why The Internet Breaks Everything.

You’re a bit late to the party. October 2010:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101026/01311411586/the-revolution-will-be-distributed-wikileaks-anonymous-and-how-little-the-old-guard-realizes-what-s-going-on.shtml

February 2011:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110201/17251712913/distributed-party-we-is-already-control.shtml

The industries are not dying,

Stage of Grief: Denial.

The demand has increased dramatically.

And the supply has increased infinitely.

They just don’t want to pay.

I’ll pay marginal cost, or slightly above. With infinite supply, marginal cost is zero. Fix your prices to reflect reality instead of fantasyland, then I’ll buy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The demand for the PRODUCTS is higher than ever. Distribution is no longer a barrier. This means that the artists have unprecedented opportunity, but folks like the RIAA, who built a business out of distribution, are obsolete. Instead of allowing the market to adapt to this new paradigm, they instead seek to pass legislation to artificially restrict distribution and ‘prop up a dying business model’.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This isn’t a lack of demand for music, movies, or television. The demand has increased dramatically.

You’re right. That’s why overall music purchases hit an all-time high in 2009, and have been climbing since at least 2006.

You see, the “dying industry” isn’t the overall music industry. It’s the recording industry – the “CD industry.”

They are the buggy-whip makers, and CD’s are the buggy whips.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To save time and space let me repeat

The only people who would possibly think those three complaints (subdomains, referrals, and shared hosting) would “break the Internet” are people who have never hosted or designed a website and don’t actually know what those things are.

This is making hay about nothing and hoping people are technologically disinclined enough not to realize how small the complaints are.

MANY countries (and no, not just Iran and China) have now instituted domain level filters at the ISP level. Last I checked the Internet is still functioning.

Is there some special Jingoism that makes it different when America does it?

When Germany, Italy, or Israel filter illegal sites, nothing happens except that those sites are filtered, but when America does it, “IT WILL BE THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INTERNET!!!!”

Give me a break.

rubberpants says:

Re: Re: To save time and space let me repeat

The only people who would possibly think those three complaints (subdomains, referrals, and shared hosting) would “break the Internet” are people who have never hosted or designed a website and don’t actually know what those things are.

I’ve developed websites professionally for a large software company for over a decade I think that those complaints would break the Internet.

This is making hay about nothing and hoping people are technologically disinclined enough not to realize how small the complaints are.

No, you’re hoping the technologically disinclined won’t realize how devastating they will be.

MANY countries (and no, not just Iran and China) have now instituted domain level filters at the ISP level. Last I checked the Internet is still functioning.

Is there some special Jingoism that makes it different when America does it?

When Germany, Italy, or Israel filter illegal sites, nothing happens except that those sites are filtered, but when America does it, “IT WILL BE THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INTERNET!!!!”

This isn’t an internet filter. This taking down a domain hosting thousands of legitimate sites because one raised the ire of the entertainment industry.

Give me a break.

No. The Internet is more important than you’re legacy distribution business.

Bob says:

Needs some help

The problem with this report, as I see it, is that the eyes of these tech ignorant legislators will gloss over using the examples they’re using. You need to equate it to something that they can understand, like roads. When you close a road because one criminal lives on it, you also close that road to

1) every other person/business who resides/exists on it
2) every person/business who commutes by it
3) every person/business who does 1) and 2) on any side roads

and so on. Then maybe their eyes will unglass and they’ll stop to think what it means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike,
I think this is really the heart of the issue:

If implemented, this section of the PROTECT IP Act would weaken this important effort to improve Internet security. It would enshrine and institutionalize the very network manipulation that DNSSEC must fight in order to prevent cyberattacks and other malevolent behavior on the global Internet, thereby exposing networks and users to increased security and privacy risks.

Combined with this:
DNS filters would be evaded easily, and would likely prove ineffective at reducing online
infringement. Further, widespread circumvention would threaten the security and stability of
the global DNS.

It’s a major change to how the internet works with little real impact. This is a power play by Big Entertainment, nothing more.

Rekrul says:

Politicians should have to answer a random, 10 question quiz on whatever subject they’re proposing a new law for, before being allowed to introduce or vote on it. That would stop all these stupid laws in their tracks. It would also provide good comedic value as the entire world watches them try to explain what the DNS does, or how torrents work.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Only those who don’t understand the technology think the collateral damage described above is minimal.”

Their intent is to cause as much ‘collateral’ damage as possible.

Do you honestly think that preserving free speech is anywhere on the governments agenda? If that were so, the laws in place outside the Internet wouldn’t do such a good job of censoring free speech.

IP criticisms don’t make it on public airwaves or across cableco infrastructure, despite the fact that our IP laws are absolutely indefensible, yet pro-IP propaganda is communicated over these information communication channels. Why? Because the laws wrongfully grant monopolists monopoly power to exclusively use these communication distribution channels and it is not in the interests of monopolists to criticize monopoly privileges.

Crazy garbage can make it over public airwaves, things like “The end of the world is coming next month, the rapture is going to occur tomorrow” before the very reasonable IP criticisms can. The opinions broadcasted over public airwaves (and cableco infrastructure) are often extreme nonsense, often a smokescreen designed to distract us from more important issue and opinions, yet their influence still convinces many ignorant people of their validity, but legitimate discussions over the problems caused by IP laws and all the many many government imposed monopolies? They never get broadcasted. Only pro-IP propaganda.

Jeni (profile) says:

Buggy Whips

That “buggy whips” analogy is getting really old.

Boy, reading through the comments I lost my original train of thought – it’s like a zoo around here at times.

But I do have one question, if anyone would be so kind…why is it that just because tech savvy people – and even some of us not-quite-as-tech-savvy-but-sort-of-tech-savvy people who have serious concerns about this invasive and unconstitutional “PROTECT IP” bull, are constantly labeled “pirates”, “Thieves”, etc.?

I don’t understand this – maybe I haven’t been participating long enough, IDK, but it continues to baffle me because I’m a long-time advocate of privacy and respect for the privacy of others and my own. That is all that drives my sentiments on this issue.

These laws are insane. Utterly and completely insane. And it’s really quite scary to see people actually think it’s “Okay” and should be enacted.

I pay my cable company a hefty monthly fee. I subscribe to a movie tier. I get lots of channels of both music and TV shows in addition to the movie tier. When I watch a movie on that movie tier, or a weekly series on my television screen, it’s okay. If I watch it on my computer at a time that is more convenient for me – which, BTW, I pay the same company to access the Internet – suddenly some of you want to label me a “pirate” or a “thief”?

What am I missing here?

“Kool-aid” must be doing quite a business these days…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Buggy Whips

I think that attitude can be explained with a brief scene from The Office between Michael Scott and Dwight Shrute:

D: Knock knock!
M: [giggling] Who’s there?
D: KGB*.
M: KGB who?
D: [slaps M. hard across the face] KGB will be asking the questions!

*Wherein replace KGB with IP Maximalists.

You are the lowly consumer. Despite your supremacy of numbers, you have no place at the table in these discussions. You are a walking wallet to be opened at all times in all ways forever and ever amen. Your convenience is of no import. Your innocence is terminally at issue. Whether you pay or not, whether you buy or not, you are a ticking time bomb of criminal activity. Because you are not them. Because you can’t possibly understand. Because you can say no. Because you hold discretion over your own spending. Because you are merely a citizen.

You are the customer and therefore the enemy.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Buggy Whips

why is it that just because […] people who have serious concerns about this invasive and unconstitutional “PROTECT IP” bull, are constantly labeled “pirates”, “Thieves”, etc.?

Because the people using those labels are deliberately setting up a false dichotomy. It’s a pure propaganda move, labeling anyone who disagrees with them as criminals.

On this site, you’ll notice that most of these individuals post anonymously. I honestly believe it’s because most of them work for an industry that will benefit from these laws, and are coming here in order to hijack the conversation.

True Patriot says:

So I can see how this “Protect IP” thing can Spiral out of control say If a Website that deals with a group of car enthusiasts is not careful under this law and people post up the names of manufacturers and names of cars they will be Black listed for copyright Infringement,No? it sound like copyright Laws have taken a step to far in violating citizens right to me……

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