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
    Phoenixxl, 18 Nov 2011 @ 5:19am

    Sit back and enjoy the show.

    What will happen if this gets implemented and thoroughly enforced :

    Americans will buy VPN access to places abroad. It's already a booming industry and easily accessible. Get an IP outside the US , connect to it through a vpn server which you access over a secure ssl connection. Openvpn runs on TCP , UDP , it can be servered on any port , heck , with a 3rd party passthrough it can even look like html traffic.

    I can list dozens of companies that sell this kind of product (I won't , I don't want this site to get banned because of me ROFL)

    So , the workarounds to this bill already exist! They want to make vpn's in the US illegal with this bill but what would ever be the point in getting a US vpn account anyway ! You would want a UK , French , Australian .... etc one .. the idea is to get an IP from somewhere _outside_ the US , as not to be censored !

    The effect for businesses : They will all relocate abroad , and the only booming business will be the VPN connections outside.

    Next step , Ban outside VPN server ip's one by one ? That's on par with cutting all the cables that go out of or into the united states.

    I for one am not worried about this bill . I am laughing my ass off looking at how american big industry are cutting the ground from under their feet. The little guy , in the end -taking a transitional periodinto account - has nothing to fear , every American has the right to set up shop everywhere , businesses will relocate , .com can be registered anywhere , nobody cares where servers are physically located. Taxes would be paid in other countries !

    Piracy has evolved...and read this carefully .. not because previous methods didn't work anymore.. no , because the new methods are easier. The gnutella network still exists.. rated ftp servers still exist .. pirate bbs's over dial up became obsolete , they weren't eradicated... In a "worst case scenario" future I can imagine people flashing their routers with custom firmware to make city wide non government controlled wireless networks just because they can.. Possibilities are just endless . It takes 3 nerds and a 6pack to come up with the next method to distribute media. Why hasn't it happened you ask? It works fine for them like it does now , and you'd be surprised what's already running under the radar .. and what's _still_ running under the radar...

    The thing that makes the video of all this so hilarious is .. it's a panel of 5 that barely know about the technical side (barely is fairly generous) trying to convince the house who don't have a clue to implement something that's purely technical in nature. They are also constantly merging 2 very separate things . Copyright and Trademark..
    Ie , counterfeit goods and illegally distributed media.
    Counterfit medicine , counterfit handbags , watches etc etc has much more in common with drug smuggling than pirated movies who are distributed for free ! There are ways to regulate both things , technically viable ones , I can imagine stores with on the fly burning of blurays with added tractability to the movie so the person pirating can be traced. I can imagine a boom for streamed media with advertising in it. But these things are very much unrelated with counterfeit goods !

    http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_11162011.html (use wmp)

    I'm sure that each representative , has someone close to them that can sit in for them in these situations. When future generations will look at this , it will be on par with the trial of Galileo.

    Also , internet , it's a network people ... You can't imagine what's _impossible_ to do with it !!! In it's most basic form , keeping IP level it can be shaped to do anything DNS , TCP, UDP are merely concepts that can be replaced . Any data traffic can be made to look like something else. A server with a function to "translate" alphabetical data into a number like DNS servers do can be made to look like a POP3 server , it can be made to look like a html server .. 80% of the IT industry doesn't have a notion of what's possible.. Politicians seem to have some crazy notion that it's tangible and can be owned. "It's like native Americans getting conned out of their land allover again !" that's what they're thinking ! I'll sell them mars ..

    "All innovation is American..." "The Chinese are the biggest pirates ..." really , watch the video , these guys are beyond clueless and arrogant to boot.

    Me ? More cynical , but not as down about this as everyone else I guess..

    PS: The internet is not America.

    Have a nice day.

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