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. icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Nov 2011 @ 1:31am

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

    I'll go slowly, because you're apparently too stupid to get it still:

    You cannot stop digital copies of ANY content from being created. It doesn't matter whether you offer the content theatrically, on vinyl, on parchment or stone tablet, if it can be perceived by human beings, a copy of it can be made and distributed digitally. Got that?

    By refusing to do so yourself, all you do is create a market for those who can. Refuse to release a DVD in a region I can play? Pirates can. Refuse to let your DRM let me play my legally purchased content on the ebook reader or OS of my choosing? Pirates can. Refuse to offer an album in MP3 or FLAC in an attempt to try to force people to buy CDs they don't want? Pirates will release it themselves.

    We can argue all day about the "morality" of downloading (which again, I do not do personally), but the fact is that if you're not offering a product in a format that the consumer can either access or desires, that's your failing. You lost the sale when you refused to meet the needs of your customer, not when the pirate fulfilled their needs instead.

    Until you stop trying to force customers to buy things the way you want to supply it instead of the way they wish to pay for it, you've failed without piracy even being a factor. For example, it's been years since I bought a CD - too clunky, too easily damaged and they just sit in a cupboard after I rip it to MP3 anyway. Refuse to offer me a digital version? Fine, your choice, but you just lost a sale, no pirates involved. If you refuse to offer digital content for the fear that it will be pirated, you're a moron - the pirates still have their copies and legit customers can't buy from you either.

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