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Circumventing SOPA is Against SOPA.

The “Stop Online Piracy Act” and the corresponding “Protect IP” Act have been getting a lot of posts around here and rightfully so. Both bills are serious threats to free speech and due process afforded to all Americans under the Constitution.

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post has an excellent article on the two bills. Everything You Need to Know About Congress’s Online Piracy Bills, In One Post is something that everyone should read.

Some of the highlights in the post include the idea that while groups such as the MPAA and the RIAA make outlandish claims of how much piracy costs them, there is no solid study or evidence to back up those claims.

Are online piracy and copyright infringement hurting the economy? It’s always been hard to find solid evidence on this score. The copyright industry — record companies, movie studios, software makers — is always citing reports suggesting that IP infringement is destroying 750,000 jobs per year or costing U.S. companies $200 billion. But as the Government Accountability Office found last year, most of these claims “cannot be substantiated.”

And now, as Nate Anderson reports at Ars Technica, the International Intellectual Property Alliance is taking a brand new tack, arguing in its latest annual report that “piracy inhibits [our] growth in the US and around the world.” But as Anderson observes, the actual numbers in the report don’t seem bear this out. Since 2007, businesses based on copyright have been growing faster than the economy as a whole by a full percentage point. What’s more, the “core” copyright industries (sound recording, movies, TV, software, publishing) are thriving, shedding fewer jobs than the economy as a whole and earning record profits overseas, where piracy is even more rampant.

This means the whole premise of the SOPA and the Protect IP Act is somewhat fundamentally flawed. No one disputes there is intellectual piracy on the internet. The question is “are the two proposed bills using a cannon to kill a flea?”

Major groups have written and appeared before Congress telling representatives their approach will not work and will in fact harm innovation and economic growth, but officials have turned a deaf ear to groups and instead have listened to those groups that support them financially through contributions.

As a practical matter, seizing and blocking domain names, as the bill allows, is a technical nightmare. Both bills advocate the same type of censorship techniques used in China and other oppressive regimes. (That is a good feeling, isn’t it?)

In response to the proposed domain seizures, the group MafiaaFire and an individual who codes under the name of “Tamer Rizk” have both come up with extensions for the Firefox Browser that will allow people to circumvent the domain seizures and blocks if a website moves offshore and out of the United States.

The reason for Tamer Rizk in writing his extension called “DeSOPA” is given as:

This program is a proof of concept that SOPA will not help prevent piracy. The program, implemented as a Firefox extension, simply contacts offshore domain name resolution services to obtain the IP address for any desired website, and accesses those websites directly via IP. Similar offshore resolution services will eventually maintain their own cache of websites, without blacklisting, in order to meet the demand created by SOPA.

The Mafiaa group is a little stronger in their reasoning:

WHY?

Well, in one word: fairness – and balance of power.

A little while back the scumbag anti-piracy organizations like the RIAA and MPAA (Also known as the Music and Film Industry Association of America – (jokingly known as the) MAFIAA) ran to the American government whining like like little bitches and got ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) involved with taking down websites – local AND foreign websites, completely overriding the laws and rights of non US / foreign citizens who owned these sites.

Yes, a bunch of private companies got a government entity as their very own hired goons!

These anti-piracy (MAFIAA) companies submitted a wish list of sites that they did not like and ICE (like good lapdogs) started to seize those domains.

(At this point I would like to mention (in fairness) that we are in no way affiliated with the below sites)

Some of the seized domains were perfectly legal, like TorrentFinder.com which only had links to other sites and RojaDirecta.com which was declared to be a legal site in Spain – twice!

“Not all bad men wear masks”

Looking at court documents it becomes obvious that ICE does not do any diligent footwork but takes the music and film industries word as the gospel truth, or are downright sloppy at best.

The best example of how sloppy and mad with power ICE is can be is found in how they took down 84,000 sites for 3 days in a “mistake”. These innocent sites were run by small businesses, mom and pop garage startups etc and for 3 days had a big official splash page displayed to all visitors that it had been taken down due to child porn.

It’s hard to bounce back from something like that and it’s a safe bet to assume a lot of businesses / people went belly up because of being wrongly accused of peddling child porn (something the music industry loves, by the way).

To make matters worse there is currently a law being drafted (called COICA) that will make such types of domain name seizures easier.

Enough is enough.
There is a time to bitch and moan and there is a time to take action – the time to be taking action has been long overdue.
Governments around the world are either censoring for the entertainment companie’s never ending woes or using that as an excuse to slowly get more control over the internet for their own agendas – and trampling over our rights in the process.

Before it was “think of the children”, then came “the terrorists win” and now its “piracy”. While there were few genuine exceptions it’s mostly bogeymen, unicorns and leprechauns or the music industries ridiculous 75 trillion US dollars in losses due to one companie’s p2p software.

Our right to privacy should outweigh any outdated business model, unfortunately average Joe cannot afford a $10,000 plate dinner to speak to his representatives so his voice is drowned out by the vultures who can pay and get a politician’s ear for “business”.

However, the government does not like to be told the emperor has no clothes, and the Department of Home Security sent a request to Mozilla to take down the MafiaaFire extension.

Mozilla fired back a response (PFD here) asking some pointed questions including:

Have any courts determined that MAFIAAfire.com is unlawful or illegal in any way? If so, on what basis? (Please provide any relevant rulings)

Have any courts determined that the seized domains related to MAFIAAfire.com are unlawful, illegal or liable for infringement in any way? (please provide relevant rulings)

Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.

Can you please provide a copy of the relevant seizure order upon which your request to Mozilla to take down MAFIAAfire.com is based?

Has the Government furnished the domain owners with formal notice of the seizures, triggering the time period for a response by the owners? If so, when, and have there been any responses yet by owners?

As of this date, Mozilla is still waiting to hear back from the Department of Homeland Security.

It seems the DHS request was simply a “we are the government: do what we tell you!” type of notice. When Mozilla stood up to them, they simply went away and planned another strategy.

That strategy is contained in the SOPA itself. One of the provisions of the bill is:

To ensure compliance with orders issued under this section, the Attorney General may bring an action for injunctive relief—
. . . (ii) against any entity that knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed by such entity or by another in concert with such entity for the circumvention or bypassing of measures described in paragraph (2) and taken in response to a court order issued under this subsection, to enjoin such entity from interfering with the order by continuing to provide or offer to provide such product or service.

There may be some confusion as to what “knowingly and willfully” means as it pertains to this section, but it is clear the government is saying “if you make something like MafiaaFire Redirector and DeSOPA, we are coming after you.

Ironically, with these actions, the government is making the two extensions more popular. As more and more people hear about the SOPA and the government’s heavy handed response, more and more people are downloading the extensions. This is the internet’s “Streisand Effect” in action.

What is troubling here is the unwillingness of the the government to listen to the people and just as importantly to experts in the field. Both the SSOPA and the Protect IP Act are examples of bought legislation that the government feels it has to protect in order to garner campaign contributions, and we the people must stop.



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