Harry Reid Announces Senate Delay On PIPA Vote

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2012 - 09:49 AM |
Tagged: SOPA, pipa, Internet, Copyright

After the numerous website protests of SOPA and PIPA on Wednesday, quite a few representatives and senators started to backpedal on their support for their respective bills. Among the politicians that retracted their full support for the bill include:

  • Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)
  • Roy Blunt (Missouri)
  • John Boozman (Arkansas)
  • Scott Brown (Massachusets)
  • Orrin Hatch (Utah)
  • Tim Holden (Pennsylvania)
  • Lee Terry (Nebraska)
  • Jeff Merkley (Oregon),
  • Ben Quayle (Arizona)
  • Marco Rubio (Florida)

A fairly nice boost to the SOPA/PIPA opposition group. While both SOPA and PIPA are far from dead, both bills have now been delayed from being voted on in the House of Representatives and the Senate. We reported on the SOPA delay here, and Lamar Smith has since stated that he will be pushing for a SOPA vote around February 24th. Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, a democrat from Nevada, announced that a PIPA vote would be delayed until a compromise can be reached. On one hand, this means that PIPA is far from dead and the wording of "compromise" implies a slight wording change here or there so that they can pass it with less opposition. If; however, I'm being optimistic, the delay gives Americans more time to talk with their representatives about the bill and their concerns. Reid further stated that (allegedly) piracy costs the economy "billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year," and that:

"We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

Make of that what you will, but personally I'm of the opinion that it's not time to get comfortable. Keep the pressure on our Representatives and Senators by calling and sending letters. For example, one concern that I would like answered is this: Using the MegaUpload take-down as an example, why exactly do we need this law that takes away due process when that very same technique was used to take down a website. Obviously we already have methods in place to combat believed piracy, and a court system to, as fairly as possible, charge and punish those found guilty; therefore, why do we legitimately need SOPA and/or PIPA?

SOPA Stalled Until Consensus Is Reached

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2012 - 07:56 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: The Hill

DNS Redirect Provision Suspended From SOPA (and PIPA)

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2012 - 03:21 AM |
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.

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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 "208.65.201.194." 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!

U.S. Judge Makes Landmark Ruling That an IP Address Does Not Equal a Person

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 4, 2011 - 10:36 AM |
Tagged: Law, Copyright, Bit Torrent

This past year has seen a surge of copyright infringement cases where copyright holders have brought suits against not one, but hundreds or even thousands of defendants. These kinds of wide sweeping cases are highly controversial, and, according to TorrentFreak opponents have even gone so far as to call these types of cases as "extortion".

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The main reason for the controversy is that rights-holders are acquiring lists of IP addresses that connect to, download, and/or share illegal files that they own the original copyright for. They are then bringing lawsuits against the so called John Does listed in the IP addresses, and using legal subpoenas to force ISPs to release personal information of the account holder(s) connected to that IP at the times the IP address was logged downloading and/or sharing their files. While many may not realize the flaw in this logic, it seems as though a District Court judge by the name of Harold Baker has questioned the legality and implications of assuming an IP address is grounds enough to obtain further personal information.

The issue of connecting solely an IP address to a person is that while a log with an IP address along with specific dates and times can be connected to an ISP’s subscriber and their Internet connection, there is no way to know that it was that particular person who represented that IP address in that matter. It could just as easily have been another person living in the household, a friend or visitor who used the wireless connection, or a malicious individual piggy-backing on that subscriber’s Internet connection (and thus the IP address).

TorrentFreak reports that “Judge Baker cited a recent child porn case where the U.S. authorities raided the wrong people, because the real offenders were piggybacking on their Wi-Fi connections.” They also state that Judge Baker believes that these types of cases, particularly when it involves adult entertainment, assuming an IP address is enough material to subpoena for further personally identifiable information could obstruct a “‘fair’ legal process.” This is because, bringing a suit against someone by connecting them to solely an IP address, especially when it involves adult entertainment, could irreparably defame an innocent persons character.

Judge Baker goes on to say that rights-holders could potentially use the delicate issue of the accusation of allegedly sharing adult material to encourage even innocent people to settle out of court. TorrentFreak reports that “Baker conlcudes [sic] by saying that his Court is not supporting a “fishing expedition” for subscribers’ details if there is no evidence that it has jurisdiction over the defendants.”

There is no question that Judge Baker’s ruling could potentially change the landscape of bit torrent related lawsuits throughout the United States. Rights-holders are no doubt going to aggressively combat this ruling; however, civil rights groups and countless innocent people are rejoicing at the knowledge that it may very well be the beginning of the end for John Doe bit torrent lawsuits in the Unite States.

Image courtesy MikeBlogs via Flickr (creative commons 2.0 w/attribution).

 

Source: TorrentFreak