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.

Filed Under: dns, internet, paul vixie, protect ip


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  1. identicon
    HothMonster, 1 Jun 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Of course newspapers have the same problems, because they are producing similar sorts of content: Thing that people have no problem pirating, no moral issues, no qualms."

    How do I pirate news? Its fact, someone write about it and makes it freely available on the web, now I'm pirating news? My point was the new market place of digital news has weakened the market place for paper news. Newspaper companies have had to shift into the new digital maketplace and find ways to innovate and stay relevant. Their decline has nothing to do with people pirating news stories it has everything to do with learning to compete with a new media.

    "As soon as you start referring to record labels as gatekeepers you pretty much lose the battle. It isn't in their economic interests to make things unavailable on purpose."

    You just showed how little you know about what you speak. Gatekeeper doesn't mean block access it means control access and there is certainly a ton of profit to be had by restricting access or, as you say, they wouldn't be doing it all the time. The term stems from when they were literally the only way to mass produce an album, it remains because of their attempt to maintain a stangle hold on the market.

    What is the 28 day time frame between a dvd being on sale and available for rent? That is restricted access.

    How about the Disney Vault? They release a movie on a limited run, then wait a few years and re-release it at full price. It keeps the market from getting flooded and guarantees that it wont have to compete with second hand copies in a few years and can sell at full price. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Vault

    How about emulators? Nothing is stopping Nintendo from selling a cheap emulator of pcs and than their entire NES back catalog for a dollar a game. The tech exists, the games are tiny and require no formatting or work to release on an emulator. Emulators are not hard to build and fans have been doing it for free for ages. So why do they restrict access? So they can release a few old games a year on their new console at a high price.

    I could go on and on with examples of gatekeepers restricting access, but I shouldnt have to. There are tons of examples right in your face. Control over the flow of information allows you to release the information as you see fit for the price you see fit. The legacy industry could license to all the internet start-ups that to have a license, allow the market to compete and watch the price of digital music drop to 10 cents or less a song but that would ruin their outdated business model which happens to be where they make the most profit. So instead they restrict the marketplace and fix prices. http://www.google.com/search?q=itunes+pricefixing

    "I am sure they would love to sell you everything they can. There are restrictions that exist, costs involved, and so on to make the product available or to make older product available again, especially to a significantly limited or small marketplace. "

    First of all a digital release is not a small market, its global so that idea is tossed right out. Second those restrictions that keep them from releasing Mr. Bellividere for 50 cents an episode are restrictions they created and demand remain in place. It also allows them to sell box series sets for 150$ or 30$ a season. Seeing as how a person can rip and distribute the series for 0$ i find it hard to follow your logic that its not cost effective for them to release it. It is cost effective just not compared to overpriced box copies.

    "Piracy is cheap because it respects nobody's rights, it doesn't have to track sales, it doesn't have to assure quality, it doesn't have to pay taxes, it doesn't have to account for residual payments, it doesn't have to pay songwriter credits and all those other things that come with the deal."

    Tracking digital sales = less work than tracking physical
    What does paying taxes have to do with anything?
    Thanks to the magic of secret accounting that doesn't have to be shared with anyone they dont seem to have to do the rest of this stuff either.

    But yes I understand the label does do some work but it doesn't want to profit relative to that work, it wants to profit off of a style of distribution that died sometime around 1998. That area of the market is dead, trim the fat innovate and survive don't try to prop up your dead model with bad laws.

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