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Saturday, January 14, 2012

SOPA Opponents Win A Victory As DNS Provision Pulled

By Susan Duclos

Today's headlines, via CNet and Ars Technica, show that opponents of the SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act), have won part of their battle against the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives.

This comes a day after the Senate version of the bill named PIPA (Protect IP Act) was stripped on the DNS requirements as well.

There has been a massive movement to stop these bills, which are being referred to as an "Internet Censorship Bill" as well as an "Internet Blacklist Bill", from going forward and legislators from both the House and Senate are beginning to feel the blow-back locally from their own electorate and are now asking for a postponement of the Senate vote on PIPA to give lawmakers more time to "study" the bill.

Full Text of H.R.3261 -- Stop Online Piracy Act can be found HERE.

Reddit has a comprehensive FAQ page on SOPA for those that have not been keeping up with the issue.

The arguments being used by proponents and opponents of the bill are below:

What are some of the arguments for SOPA?

Proponents of the bill argue that jobs are threatened by rogue websites and copyright infringement and the bill is crucial to protecting key American industries.

“Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity. The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences. According to estimates, IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs." Congressman Lamar Smith

The bill has broad support throughout the film and music industries, and those that rely on copyrights and trademarks including large corporations such as Mike, Viacom, Pfizer, and Ford. Several large unions and business organizations also support the bill, including the AFL-CIO, the Fraternal Order OF Police, the Chamber of Commerce, and the the Better Business Bureau.

What are some of the arguments against SOPA?

The language of the bill demonstrates a lack of understanding of the way the internet functions and disregards fundamental technological principles of the internet. It also contains ambiguous language that could lead to violations of the bill of rights and thus result in legal challenges. House SOPA Hearings Reveal Anti-internet Bias on Committee, Witness List

It has been called an internet blacklist bill that will grant the power to the US government to attempt to shutdown any website in the world once one US citizen has visited the site.

SOPA could have adverse consequences to internet security by forcing internet users to use private and foreign DNS servers. The functionality of the internet could be disrupted as users look for private DNS servers, and criminals would likely find ways to capitalize on the fracturing of the DNS hierarchy that has provided a basic level of security.

There is language in the bill that may result in attacks against open source software. The bill enables software vendors to go after sites that host software that can be used to enable piracy. This includes software such as:

VPN, proxy, privacy, or anonymization software--including SSH; software that works with zone files for generic top-level domains; or "client-side DNSSEC resolver that uses multiple servers until it finds a valid signed entry. Piracy Bill Could Waylay FLOSS Projects

The technical method of creating a blacklist with the domain name system is similar to the method that China uses to censor the internet with the Great Firewall of China. As the US government funds ongoing projects that are designed to allow internet users behind repressive firewalls such as China's to freely access the internet, then it is likely that those projects would need to be stopped or else the government would be in the position of funding projects that could enable American internet users to evade the restrictions imposed by SOPA.

Dr. Leonard Napolitano, the Director of the Sandia National Laboratories’ Center for Computer Sciences and Information Technologies released a letter reporting that SOPA and PIPA would fail to combat piracy and would negatively affect global internet security. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) had this to say regarding the letter:

This analysis from one of our nation’s top cybersecurity experts is the definitive word that this legislation would undermine Internet security efforts and would harm the Internet. Dr. Napolitano and his team are tasked with securing our cyber infrastructure. Their assessment as experts at our national lab gives us the final answer as to whether these bills would endanger our security. They would.

Click here for a full copy of the Sandia Labs letter. [PDF]

The site-wide censorship of SOPA is overbroad and will have a negative impact on ordinary, non-infringing internet users, according to former Google attorney, Alec Macgillivray

A study of 200 venture capitalists found that more than 80% would be more willing to invest with the current internet regulations and a in a risky economy, than they would be in an improved economy with SOPA enacted. Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists Say They Will Stop Funding Some Internet Start-Up Business Models if Tough New Rules Are Enacted

SOPA and PIPA would place an unfair burden on small, user generated content sites such as

The Reddit FAQ page also provides a list of opponents as well as proponents for both the SOPA and PIPA bills.