Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2012 - 10:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SOPA, pipa, congress
January 18th is almost upon us, and it is going to be more than a typical Wednesday for many Internet users. While different sites are doing different things tomorrow, they are all abiding by a common theme; protesting SOPA and PIPA, the anti-piracy bills currently winding their way through the House and Senate. Several websites plan to "go dark" and blackout their sites' pages in favor of a link to information on SOPA and how users can contact their congressmen. Other sites will be protesting the anti-piracy bills in a different way either by displaying links to SOPA informational websites on their home pages or by redirecting traffic to anti-SOPA pages.
Ever since popular social congregation and news site Reddit announced that it would blackout their website in protest, the list of companies and sites joining the protest has continued to grow. The companies and sites who plan to blackout their pages in protest include (in alphabetical order):
- 38 Sudios
- The Cheeseburger Network
- Epic Games
- Red 5 Studios
- Riot Games
- Wikipedia (the English version)
And in infomercial like enthusiasm; wait, there's more! While Facebook and (especially) Twitter have been reluctant to act and join the protest (despite their entire sites business model depending on user generated content), two big names in the Internet world have decided to throw their weight around and protest. Both Google and Mozilla will be protesting SOPA and PIPA tomorrow by directing users to pages encouraging users to contact their congressmen. Google will be posting a link on their home page to a document stating why they are opposed to the two bills while Mozilla will redirect web traffic from Mozilla.com and Mozilla.org to a call to action page for 12 hours starting at 8 AM (Eastern Standard Time). Further, Mozilla will replace the default Firefox start page with a call to action message atop a blank, black background.
UPDATE: Twit.tv, the host for a number of popular web shows and podcasts will also be joining the protest tomorrow by displaying the site in black and white. Further, OpenSUSE and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are also joining the fight with a splash page and a prominent "Stop SOPA" graphical link to more information respectively.
It is unfortunate that Facebook and Twitter have no joined; however, the number of sites that have decided to take action is impressive and will hopefully encourage more people to contact their congressmen and implore them not to pass SOPA or PIPA. You may have noticed that even PC Perspective is joining the protest in our own way, with the ads on the left and right side of the page being replaced by an anti-SOPA graphic. We considered joining the blackout; however, we felt that our audience has likely already voiced their opposition and is aware of SOPA and PIPA. Therefore, we felt it would be more effective to keep the news on the protest rolling in and to keep the site and forums up for users to discuss the issues. SOPA may be stalled; however, it is far from dead and talks in Congress on the bill may resume as soon as next month. Keep the pressure on, and help spread the word about SOPA and PIPA by talking to your friends and family and explaining to them the implications of such a bill passing. Do you really want to be the one to explain to them after SOPA or PIPA passes why they can no longer get their Facebook fix!? (Scary!)
Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2012 - 10:56 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SOPA, pipa, congress, Law, Copyright
Everyone who contacted your congressmen and / or boycotted SOPA supporting businesses please give yourself a pat on the back because the controversial House bill, SOPA, has been stalled until a consensus is reached. Following Texas House Representative Lamar Smith's announcement that the DNS provision of SOPA would be removed, House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa of California stated he was promised that the House would no longer vote on the Stop Online Privacy Act unless a consensus is reached on the bill.
Chairman Issa was quoted by The Hill in stating "While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House." He further assured people that a consensus on anti-piracy legislation would need to be reached before any bill would come to a vote. The Protect IP Act action he mentioned relates to the Senate bill proceeding as planned, without the DNS provisions however.
This is a small victory for everyone who is not overreacting Big Content or being paid by Big Content to think that way. SOPA has gathered a great many opponents during it's short time in the public eye, including popular sites Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, legislators Nancy Pelosy, Darrel Issa, and presidential candidate Ron Paul, and various civil rights groups. Now that the bill has been stalled, it is not likely to proceed to a vote in its current form, and the Internet thanks everyone who contacted their congressmen to oppose the bill. Keep in mind that the Senate version of the bill, Protect IP, is still proceeding; therefore, there is still work to be done.
Photo courtesy Amani Hasan via Flickr.
Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2012 - 06:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SOPA, senate, security, pipa, Internet, house, freedom, dnssec, dns, Copyright, congress, bill
SOPA, the ever controversial bill making its way through the House of Representatives, contained a provision that would force ISPs to block any website accused of copyright infringement from their customers. This technical provision was highly contested by Internet security experts and the standards body behind DNSSEC. The experts have been imploring Congress to reconsider the SOPA DNS provision as they feel it poses a significant threat to the integrity and security of the Internet.
In a somewhat surprising move, on Friday, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont both announced that the DNS provisions included in their respective bills (SOPA in the House and companion bill PIPA in the Senate) would be removed until such time that security experts could provide them with more conclusive information on the implications of such DNS interference.
Many sites are preparing protests to SOPA, most will be forced to shut down should SOPA pass.
As a quick primer, DNS (Domain Name System) is the Internet equivalent of a phone book (or Google/Facebook contact list for the younger generation) for websites, allowing people to reach websites at difficult to remember IP (Internet Protocol) addresses by typing in much simpler text based URLs. Take the PC Perspective website- pcper.com- for example; the website is hosted on a server that is then access by other computers using the IP address of "126.96.36.199." Humans; however cannot reasonably be expected to remember an IP address for every website they wish to visit, especially IPV6 addresses which are even longer numerical strings. Instead, people navigate using text based URLs. By typing a URL (universal resource locator) into a browser such as "pcper.com," the software then polls other computers on the Internet running DNS software to match the URL to an IP address. This IP is then used to connect to the website's server. Further, DNSSEC (the Domain Name System Security Extensions) is a standard and set of protocols backed by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) that seeks to make looking up IP addresses more secure. DNSSEC seeks to protect look-up requests by using multiple servers to verify that the URL look-up returns the correct IP address. By securing DNS requests, users are protected from malicious redirects on compromised servers. Browsers will request IP addresses from multiple DNS servers to reduce the risk that they will receive a malicious IP address to a compromises site.
Security experts are opposed to the DNS blocking provisions in SOPA because the methods contradict the very secure environment that standards bodies have been working for years to implement. SOPA would require ISPs to filter every person's DNS requests (the URL typed into the browser), and to block and/or redirect any requests for websites accused of copyright infringement of US rights holders. This very action goes against DNSSEC and opens the door to a less secure Internet. If ISPs are forced to invalidate DNSSEC, browsers will be forced to poll otherwise untrusted servers and what is to stop so called hacking groups and others of malicious intent from compromising DNS servers oversees and redirecting legal and valid URLs to compromised web sites and drive by downloads of malware and trojan viruses? DNSSEC is not perfect; however, it was a big step in the right direction in keeping DNS look-up requests reasonably secure. SOPA tears down that wall with a reckless abandon for the well being of citizens. Stewart Baker, former first Assistant Secretary for Policy at DHS and former General Counsel of the NSA has stated that SOPA would result in "great damage to Internet security" by undermining the DNSSEC standard, and that SOPA was "badly in need of a knockout punch." Various other Internet experts have expressed further concerns that the DNS provisions in SOPA would greatly reduce the effectiveness of the DNS system and would greatly effect the integrity of the Internet including the CEO of (anti-virus company) ESET, the head of OpenDNS, and security experts Steve Crocker and Dan Kaminsky.
While the suspension of the DNS redirecting provisions is a good thing, such actions are too little and too late. And in one respect, by (for now) removing the DNS provisions, Congress may have made it that much easier to pass the bill into law. After all, it would be much easier to amend DNS blocking onto SOPA once it's law later than fight to get the foothold passed at all. From the perspective of an Internet user and content creator, I really do not want to see SOPA or PIPA pass (I've already ranted about the additional reasons why so I'll save you this time from having to read it again). While I really want to be excited about this DNS provision removal, it's just not anywhere near the same thing as stopping the entire bill. I can't shake the feeling that removing DNS blocking is only going to make it that much easier for Congress to pass SOPA, and for the Internet to become much less free. We hear about the death of PC gaming or any number of other proclamations made by content creators expressing themselves and exercising their rights to free speech every year, but PC gaming and most things are still around. Please, call and write you congressmen and implore them to vote against SOPA and PIPA so that the last proclamation I read about is not about the death of the Internet!