SOPA And Its Broad Regulation Of VPNs, Proxies And Other Important Tools

from the is-this-what-we-really-want? dept

There are so many scary parts to SOPA, it's taking some time to pull out all the pieces. One of the scarier parts of SOPA that isn't found in PROTECT IP, is the addition of a form of an "anti-circumvention" rule, which makes it illegal to try to get around any blockade on the US government's blacklist. Like the DMCA's dreadful anti-circumvention clause, this one is also vague and overly broad -- and would create problems for all sorts of legal services. The EFF is listing out some perfectly legal services that would suddenly be in legal crosshairs:
In this new bill, Hollywood has expanded its censorship ambitions. No longer content to just blacklist entries in the Domain Name System, this version targets software developers and distributors as well. It allows the Attorney General (doing Hollywood or trademark holders' bidding) to go after more or less anyone who provides or offers a product or service that could be used to get around DNS blacklisting orders. This language is clearly aimed at Mozilla, which took a principled stand in refusing to assist the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to censor the domain name system, but we are also concerned that it could affect the open source community, internet innovation, and software freedom more broadly:
  • Do you write or distribute VPN, proxy, privacy or anonymization software? You might have to build in a censorship mechanism or find yourself in a legal fight with the United States Attorney General.
  • Even some of the most fundamental and widely used Internet security software, such as SSH, includes built-in proxy functionality. This kind of software is installed on hundreds of millions of computers, and is an indispensable tool for systems administration professionals, but it could easily become a target for censorship orders under the new bill.
  • Do you work with or distribute zone files for gTLDs? Want to keep them accurate?  Too bad Hollywood might argue that if you provide a complete (i.e., uncensored) list, you are illegally helping people bypass SOPA orders. 
  • Want to write a client-side DNSSEC resolver that uses multiple servers until it finds a valid signed entry? Again, you could be in a fight with the U.S. Attorney General.
This is how the Great Firewall of China works as well -- by threatening service providers who don't help block with the idea that they might be liable if they don't figure out "some way" to block things. Then everyone scrambles to censor well beyond what is required under the law, just to avoid liability. The end result of this will make the internet significantly less secure. VPN providers will go out of business or be severely limited. This is exactly the opposite of the direction we should be moving in.

Filed Under: copyright, proxy, regulation, sopa, vpn


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  1. identicon
    out_of_the_blue, 15 Nov 2011 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Techno-geeks can never see a down side to technology.

    @Another AC, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 5:46pm

    What I can't understand is, assuming you are right, why do you think that's a good thing?
    -------------
    Er, you don't specify, so I'll assume SOPA:
    I say it's an inevitable reaction to rampant copyright infringement. I'm not for SOPA as such, though as a moral stance, taking "free" content instead of paying for it can't be widely tolerated, nor can it as a practical business matter for those who produce content. That aligns me with Big Media because I see the rightness of their essential point. Mike doesn't (and won't ever) have a valid business model that allows unchecked copying yet causes income to flow to the actual producers, not grifters who leverage the value of what others produce. I'm against grifting, so limiting it would be good. (I'm also for limiting how much especially the collection orginizations and its agents get by way of high personal tax rates: take the ridiculous "money for nothing" out of motives for mere entertainment.)

    As for the trap of technology: it's self-evident. Computers can monitor everyone all the time; the dream of all police states is about to become real thanks to the proliferation of gadgets. Read Orwell now and update it with current technology. For instance, you no doubt carry a phone which gives your location continually; only a matter of time until the gov't gives you orders through it, as they tested recently with televisions. -- I don't see growing surveillance as a good thing, either, if you were confused.

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