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
    Just John (profile), 16 Nov 2011 @ 11:16pm

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

    I think others below have quite well elaborated my point.

    You claim that because others are not in the US, they have no rights to it at all, and then the industries whine because they cannot stop those pesky "foreign rogue sites" from being pirates.

    You just made my argument for me, thanks.
    The others were also right, it is not "legal" issues that surround most of the distribution channel, it is the industries own fault. No one forced industry to put regional encoding. They made it, they chose it, and, they have to live with the pesky pirates that chose to get their content in ways not offered to them.

    Guess until industries wake up to the demands of customers, they will just have to put up with the pesky pirates, because you will not stop them, period. It's a reality thing, maybe you should wake up to it.

    In my mind, piracy is acceptable when no other options are being available, and your "Move to the US or don't watch" is not a viable option. Could care less if you agree with this or not, since this is not a "fact" matter, but your opinion against mine on what is morally right and wrong, and since it is not illegal where I live, that means that my moral compass is all that matters.

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