Monday, December 12, 2011

SOPA, PIPA and the Great Firewall of the USA

I have been following the continuous debates about PIPA and SOPA, the two bills crossing the House and Senate that are supposed to protect online copyright infringement. I read a couple of articles that are supposedly the definitive guides to why these suck.

I have boiled it down to a two reasons why they suck.

1) They are easily bypassed.
2) They are too broad reaching and can lead to censorship of legitimate sites.

For part 1, The basic facts are that Congress is trying to in some way regulate the internet. Nobody with any technology background actually thinks this will work. DNS filtering can easily be bypassed by hitting foreign DNS servers. There has also been the emergence of a distributed DNS model that would bypass this. The other big issue with the filtering is it apparently kills DNSSEC which is the answer to the Kaminsky bug.

Secondly, They are too broad reaching. There is not a single concept of what constitutes a "rogue site." The phrase used was "enables or facilitates" infringement. This is very dangerous, as several have pointed out any user content submitted site would fall under this definition. eBay, Facebook and YouTube all "enable or facilitate" infringement. The real issue isn't the loss of these sites. Huge public outcry would happen if any of the big ones went away, but the issue is squashing of startups and new sites. Beyond being potentially shut down, small sites will have to implement very expansive and expensive monitoring to check for potential infringement making it nearly impossible to afford to launch.

The basic problem with this whole bill is Congress. These are the people who boldly declared that the internet is "a series of tubes." They are trying to regulate something they have no concept of (again). They haven't bothered to ask anybody that doesn't have a vested interest in shutting down sites what really needs to happen. I think most everyone would agree online infringement is an issue that should be dealt with. Perhaps enforcement of the DMCA? Or perhaps just quit trying, many have figured this out. When it comes to the internet you can't win.

Great Firewall of the USA reference? DNS MiTM filtering is basically how the Great Firewall of China works.

Shameless plug: Donate to the EFF, they are helping to fight this.