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Technical Comments on Mandated DNS Filtering Requirements of H. R. 3261 (“SOPA”)

About two months ago, I got together with some fellow DNS engineers and sent a letter to the U. S. Senate explaining once again why the mandated DNS filtering requirements of S. 968 (“PIPA”) were technically unworkable. This letter was an updated reminder of the issues we had previously covered in our earlier white paper on the same subject.

In the time since then, the U. S. House of Representatives has issued their companion bill, H. R. 3261 (“SOPA”) and all indications are that they will begin “markup” on this bill some time next week. SOPA contains a DNS filtering mandate similar to PIPA’s, and our arguments about the technical unworkability of PIPA are entirely accurate about the technical flaws in SOPA. We’ve also heard rumours of a possible “compromise” whereby Congress may be willing to water down these bills and require that DNS lookups for infringing web sites are simply not answered, as if that would be somehow better than answering with a pointer to a government warning page.

This is not a compromise, and would not work anyway. Today we’re sending a letter to the chairmen, members, and staffs of the committees in the House and Senate who are trying to figure out how to re-engineer the DNS to protect brands and intellectual property from online infringement. The simple fact is, DNS doesn’t work the way Congress needs it to work, and mandated interception in any form will not make it so.

In other news, I participated in a panel at Stanford University’s law school the other night, topic: “What’s Wrong With SOPA?”. While we had no SOPA proponents on the panel itself, we had plenty in the audience, as the Q&A will show. The video is here. And if you missed the webinar last month where we discussed the dangers of PIPA (and SOPA) with some ISP’s, the audio is here.

By Paul Vixie, VP and Distinguished Engineer, AWS Security

Dr. Paul Vixie is the CEO of Farsight Security. He previously served as President, Chairman and Founder of Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), as President of MAPS, PAIX and MIBH, as CTO of Abovenet/MFN, and on the board of several for-profit and non-profit companies. He served on the ARIN Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2013, and as Chairman in 2008 and 2009. Vixie is a founding member of ICANN Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) and ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC).

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About that panel Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 1:50 AM

It strikes me as fairly cowardly not to include any anti-piracy advocates on the panel at Stanford. What do the organizers have against free speech, open debate, and real discussion?

Stacking the deck is something people do when they’re unsure of their position.

Movie Studio people were there Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 7:42 PM

There were some folks from Paramount films present. They did little to advance their case - they were unwilling to concede that anything could possibly be amiss with the bill. Nor were they willing to even discuss the idea that the lifetime+forever formulation of copyright terms might be a contributing element or that fair-use is being ignored. Moreover, it is unfair to say that there were no "anti-piracy advocates" on the panel. Pretty much everyone is against "piracy". However, that word has been hijacked to mean any use of written materials over a claim of copyright, no matter how spurious that claim and even if the use is fair use. As Carl Malamud just showed there are claims by music companies over US Gov't videos that have no sound track whatsoever - they are truly "silent" films.

No supporters were on the panel Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 7:50 PM

Yeah, I saw that two guys from Paramount were in the audience. Allowing them to attend is not exactly the same as having them on the panel, is it? Movie Labs is located in Palo Alto, it would not have been hard to extend an invite to them. I don't give the organizers any credit for demonstrating genuine commitment to free speech.

Why Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 9:57 PM

The panel was billed as "What's Wrong With SOPA", so it was not surprising that the speakers spoke about what is wrong with SOPA. (And if the "what's right with SOPA" voices are like that guy who said, in essence "well,just change DNSSEC to conform" then the pro-SOPA voices wouldn't be adding much. And as I mentioned about the Paramount people - when I spoke to them their stance was "this is what we want, this is non-negotiable, you creative worth is nothing compared to ours, get used to it." [They said it much more politely and with a friendly lilt, but that was the gist of the content.]) With respect to "genuine commitment to free speech" - Ought not the movie companies let me put some of my content onto the pro-SOPA advertisements they are running on CNN and other TV networks? SOPA is bad law. It offends our US Constitition in many ways - free speech, due process, the limited duration of copyright, equal protection, ... -, it offends the notion that we have private spaces that a separate from government and public spaces (the internet being largely a collection of private spaces), it offends our notion of national decency (how can we condemn China when SOPA does the same things), it offends technology and science, much as that fabled legislature did when it made a law that Pi has a value of 3, tries to make technical limits fit into boxes into which it simply does not fit. SOPA will be largely ineffective because it is so easy to walk around - much like Prohibition did, SOPA will create a class of minor (and not so minor) criminals who are not viewed in the eyes of the public as having done anything wrong. SOPA adds to an already growing pile of pressures that are stressing the idea that the internet is an end-to-end world with innovation at the edges. SOPA encourages the net to split into distinct name spaces. That encouragement may not, in itself, be sufficient to actually cause a split, but add it adds a log to the already burning bonfire composed of forces ranging from the shortage of IPv4 addresses (and the seeming inability of IPv6 to take off), to the TLD regime of ICANN, to the increasing perception of users that what matters is that "apps" work and that the end-to-end principle is of no consequence.

Nice sermon Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:15 PM

Gee, Karl, you should have been on the panel. Most of what you say has been said before, so there's no need to respond in detail. I accept that people who think copyright law is wrong aren't going to be enthusiastic about enforcing it. Such people are engaged in an OTT rhetoric competition right now to develop the most outlandish forecasts of doom. This suggests to me that there are still a large number of people who see piracy as the Internet's killer app and fear that the whole system will collapse if there are any meaningful attempts to rein it in. I personally don't accept - and never have accepted - the idea that end-to-end is a vital, important, or even a functional design element of distributed systems. It's a rule of thumb that offers one way of answering function placement questions, and I don't think it's the correct answer most of the time. The right way to look at function placement is in terms of overall system complexity. The Internet suffers from too much simplicity in shared, low-level network programming interfaces and as a consequence has too much complexity in end point services, applications, and bolted-on security elements. The cellular network doesn't have this bias and is therefore much more functional. It's also killing the Internet in terms of user population with a 5:2 lead. The Internet doesn't get to make the rules for the cell network and it's a good thing. But back to the panel, the problem is that what to do about SOPA is the interesting question as it is with all legislation at this stage, and the choices are pass it as is, amend it, or kill it. The panelists all wanted to kill it. That's rather silly unless your livelihood depends on piracy.

I depend on copyright, yet I want to stop SOPA/PIPA Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:27 PM

I own a software company; I depend on intellectual property protection. I am also an intellectual property lawyer. So I think copyright and trademarks are great and wonderful things - when they are used for their intended purposes. (Even the GPL people depend on strong copyright protection to give a foundation for the GPL contract to have power to operate.) Yet I find SOPA/PIPA to be nothing more than a land-grab by those who want to use copyright and trademark for other than their intended purposes. Regarding the end-to-end principle; I am firmly in the "stupid network" camp - but I do believe that the stupid network does need smart diagnostic and management mechanisms - in that regard I believe Ma Bell did things much better than the internet does. One of the themes of one of my video projects is the fight that occurred during the era 1965-1995 (roughly) between the telcos and circuit switching versus packet switching.

Biting the hand that feeds it Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:35 PM

I've always been amused by the fixation that Internet people have with the phone company. Circuit switching was the best that could be done in one era, and packet switching was the best that could be done in another era. Ultimately, packet switching will give way to some other technology that was too hard to do until recently. There's much more system complexity in a PS system than in a CS system because routers have to know all possible routes, not just the ones that are currently active. You need some fairly smart components to pull that off, so it's not really a "stupid network" at all. That's a term that was devised by people who don't really understand datacom and don't appreciate that routers share state in the form of routes.

+1 Paul - This 'solution' creates more hazard then benefit Jothan Frakes  –  Dec 13, 2011 6:43 PM

The type of intervention to DNS responses, either by muting certain entries at the resolver of the ISP that SOPA introduces will only drive the content consumers to seek workarounds. 

There are actually two issues with SOPA.  What are the oversight/process/contrals/remedies is the first, and the second is that there seems to be no authentic and pragmatic comprehension of the way disruption to DNS like it proposes would introduce far worse and problematic criminal opportunities.

What means to reverse are available where there was a wrongful takedown?  Will the wrongfully taken down be subjected to an arduous process of approaching each and every ISP to become restored?  Will the list of ISPs that implimented the takedowns be provided to the wrongfully accused in that circumstance?

Taking the USDHS ICE process into account, we’re seeing some holes surface to the concept of ‘clear cases’.

While I respect that the intentions are to combat perceived piracy, we’re seeing some examples where the US is doing complete takedowns at the registry under the current ICE program, which has bulk takedowns but lacks checks and balances to avoid due process or response by purported purpetrators.  Oregon’s Senator Wyden is currently seeking answers from DHS on djaz1.com’s return after the name was held for a year without any opportunity for the registrant to respond to allegations or any due process.  Time will only tell what the ongoing efficacy is of this program, but it drives a bus through ICANN policies about transfers and leverages venue of the registry as a means to attempt to make sites go dark.

Djaz1.com was taken down in a bulk group just over a year ago, and illustrates where the broadaxe meant to clear the forest may have sliced a villager.  Volume tools like this are potentially inelegant, and unless there were 100% accuracy, it still remains only partially effective in combatting the actual issue.

The internet being what it is, innovated solutions to access the sites again and created tools like the mafiafire browser plugin and other methods of accessing the sites like using direct IP addresses.

The ICE takedowns are somewhat obtuse to the SOPA, because they’re different in how they’d operate, but the point is that the average aptitude internet user will be able to route around the ISP takedowns. 

It is within these workarounds that the disruptive aspects of SOPA are evidenced.  There are robust, light of day actors in the alternative resolver realm, like OpenDNS, CommunityDNS, ISC, Google, and others. 

To use these systems, one simply changes the DNS settings on their PC/Mac/Linux box, or alternatively configures those DNS settings on their router.  If the ISP isn’t responding, maybe one of these will.

If those alternative resolvers are not responding, the odds are high that the person seeking to download something illegal heard about it on a bulletin board or IRC, and will look for workarounds there.  This is where a rougue DNS operator has their opportunity, to simply post how to regain access and list their nameservers.

That same simplicity to change the DNS settings to nameservers to other good actors’ servers is the huge opportunity that bad actors could leverage to operate rougue nameservers and obtain an amazing level of control over the users who configured to use answers from their system.

The person operating the rogue DNS could log and watch user activity, and perhaps even proxy all activity, capturing passwords and user account names, or infect PCs with malware, spyware, or command and control software. 

The rogue DNS operator could be located anywhere, in China, Korea, Russia, or anywhere on the planet beyond the US shores.

Additionally, many of the current countermeasures for malware include being visible via DNS traffic to high security vendors like Internet Identity, Support Intelligence, CommunityDNS and others. 

Rogue DNS operators can potentially obfuscate the activity of botnets within their dominion. 

User computers that change their DNS settings can also co-exist on a private network with those that do not and infect them.

I am only scratching the surface of the issues that SOPA or other similar legislature would exacerbate by forcing the issue to where internet users would simply find workarounds.

Between the inelegance in oversight/controls and the potential intensification of problems, any bill that proposes intervention to the DNS will likely do little to remedy the issue and potentially create more harm than benefit.

>will only drive the content consumers to Charles Christopher  –  Dec 14, 2011 9:47 PM

>will only drive the content consumers to seek workarounds Such as splitting the root and returning competitive forces and innovation to the internet. ICANN's nTLDs being an excellent barrier to root splitting since the TLDs with the most potential (as domain names or other services) by zoning those under ICANN. So long as an entry is not under ICANN it's fair game, the moment it gets zoned under ICANN others are not likely to try to compete. However if ICANN goes after root splits my instincts are people might view it now differently than what happened with .BIZ. Let the censorship begin in full view and scrutiny of the awakened stake holders. The sooner the better as those players WILL create the "workarounds" and the centralization that is initiating this insanity will be neutered ....

The purpose of DNS takedowns Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 9:37 PM

There’s not much reason to offer elaborate explanations about why DNS takedowns won’t deter dedicated consumers of pirated content or to forecast great harm to the DNS. The most plausible reaction is for the consumers in question to edit their /etc/hosts file and be done with it, so all this nonsense about offshore pirate DNS’s is not at all persuasive. In fact, it makes the people who offer it look rather loopy.

To me, DNS takedowns are a matter of principle. If you’re in the business of using the Internet to engage in blatant criminal conduct of any kind - selling counterfeit drugs, selling Hollywood movies, stealing IDs, etc - then you’re not entitled to use DNS. So removing the domains of such enterprises is simply a matter of good citizenship.

If you believe copyright law is wrong and go to a criminal DNS and ultimately find yourself hacked, well, you get what you pay for. Like Bob Dylan said: “to live outside the law you must be honest.”

Jumping to pejoritives Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:19 PM

One should not jump so quickly to pejoratives such as "selling counterfeit drugs, selling Hollywood movies". Drugs are not "counterfeit" if they are made, properly and legally, elsewhere - they may violate a patent in the US but that does mean that we ought to shoot our internet in the head to give yet another remedy for patent holders to vindicate their rights. Laws that are overbroad, meaning that they regulate behaviour in ways well past what is needed to redress the ill being addressed, are bad laws, often unconstitutionally so. SOPA is a law that attempts to cure a problem that looms large in the eyes of one industry (but looms small in the eyes of other industries) with Thor's hammer that is causes great collateral damage - and like the hammer thrown by Thor from the clouds it will often miss its target entirely. When I weigh the value of things like DNSSEC to protect internet users from false DNS mappings against the latest Hollywood incarnation of "Sex in the City" or some teen vampire sex saga, the internet comes out as the more valuable of the two. As for "Hollywood movies" - you have seen Carl Malamud's documentation of how public domain materials are being claimed by Hollywood and Music protectors even though it is clear that those groups have absolutely no rights at all in those materials? Hollywood "borrows" story lines and music, makes minor tweaks, and them uses its bulk to fend off claims from those who were the real authors. As a wannabe filmmaker myself I am finding it nearly impossible to wend through the maze of rights - a simple shot of a street can raise hundreds of trademark risks because of the signage in the background. That is copyright that does not encourage creation, as it is required to do under our Constitution's copyright clause. Nor is it trademark that, as it is also required under our trademark laws, helps consumers identify and distinguish goods and services. I am waiting for someone to trademark the green color we use for chromascreens and then claim that we are violating their trademark when we do green-screen videos.

Counterfeit drugs kill people Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:27 PM

Karl, really. Any law can be misapplied, so if all you have is slippery slope and over-zealous prosecution you've got nothing. Innocent people go to prison for murder all the time, but we don't repeal murder statutes as a consequence. When I say "counterfeit drugs" I mean the drugs you can buy from web sites that aren't what they say they are; alleged cancer drugs that are nothing but chalk, for example.

The flashing 12:00 technophobes need to be aware of impacts Jothan Frakes  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:02 PM

@richard - with respect to the rogue DNS operator scenarios... you make a fair argument about the content perps reaping what they sow without sheeding a tear for them. That said, I think a fair assertion is that many content perps are not yet of adult age - many are likely using a shared computer that is their parents' or grandparents', or even at a library or other shared source. The dire impact scenarios that I hypothesized in my comment are of no less impact than I described - for non-perps like mom and dad or the grandparents. Or in the case of university or office users that impact their surrounded machines. There is much collateral damage to the non-perps from this, and it is not reasonable to wash away those damages by proclaiming that 'they got what they diserved'. It is important that the lawmakers, Senators, Congresspeople etc (many who may still have a flashing 12:00 on their VCR) understand the harms created should they accidentally bring into effect ISP DNS intervention legislation like SOPA or PIPA thinking that they are solving piracy.

Funny Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:11 PM

Thanks for reminding me why the DVD player took over from the VCR. And yes, I recognize that bots are bad for the Internet as a whole. I don't think DNSSEC addresses that problem, however.

Fake drugs can kill; fake movies merely cause boredom Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:37 PM

If there are fake drugs, meaning that they are chemically and mechanically the wrong thing, then we have plenty of laws already on the books to deal with those problems.

If you are saying that law enforcement isn’t doing its job - then I’d agree in an instant.

If you are saying that law enforcement is lazy and isn’t using the tools we have given it - then I’d also agree.

If you are saying that we haven’t given law enforcement the tools that it needs then I’d say - let them make a proposal and describe the due process constraints that will control the use of that tool.

If you are saying that we need to give movie companies a vigilante power to use even when not protecting people against fake drugs then I’d say - “full stop”.

By-the-way, fake drugs can kill; fake moves cause boredom.  The former might justify a more stringing solution that the latter does not.

I have great concern that the net is increasingly a land of vigilante thoughts - SOPA is essentially a grant of governmental police authority, without constitutional due process constraints, to private actors.  That to me is very dangerous.

Over-stating again Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 10:52 PM

Look, Karl, the Internet works because a bunch of people have chosen to cooperate with each other to make it work. It has a very challenging technical structure that requires massive cooperation. This is called the "multi-stakeholder approach" and it's the status quo. When Pakistan advertised bad BGP prefixes to YouTube, there wasn't some hue and cry over due process, a guy at YouTube called one of his NANOG buddies and they warned a bunch of people that the routes were wrong and tried to get Pakistan's transit provider to stop propagating them. There's no due process issue with Paramount telling Visa that some web site in Russia is selling unlawful copies of "Teen Vampires in Heat." Visa has terms of use, and when they find that someone is violating them they're within their rights to cut them off. Even if SOPA passed as originally written (which won't happen because a number of people have sought amendments) the Internet would still be more free than it was under the NSF's AUP. So let's keep this stuff in perspective.

SOPA is backed by government force Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:02 PM

SOPA/PIPA will be laws - not the kind of friendly, private cooperation you describe.

Violate SOPA/PIPA and the other side can walk into court and get a court order.  Violate that order and guys will show up who have the full authority of the United States to make you comply by either removing your liberty or your property.

One could walk around the old AUP - that policy applied only to traffic crossing NFSnet links.  Rick Adams and others demonstrated quite convincingly that they could “circumvent” the AUP with complete legality.

SOPA, on the other hand, has anti-circumvention provisions which could criminalize the creation of competing DNS roots or private-club networks.

Nope, you've got it completely wrong Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:09 PM

SOPA doesn't apply in the situation where the cops are going to show up at your door, it only applies to foreign web sites clearly violating US law in a blatant attempt to reap financial rewards by selling stuff that they're not licensed to sell. Focus on the main intent of the bill, not the unintended consequences, boundary conditions, and misapplications. SOPA isn't going to send the government to anyone's doorstep with a gun.

SOPA imposes obligations and duties on people here in the USA Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:38 PM

The obligations of SOPA land squarely on residents and citizens here in the USA.  Don’t comply with a private SOPA takedown order and the police, with guns, can show up at your door.  They may merely give you a warrant to talk to Mr. Judge.  Ignore him/her and you can easily meet Mr. Jailer who, if you try to run away, is empowered to shoot you.

If someone in the USA does something that might smell like “circumvention” - like putting an entry in /etc/hosts - then that person may find himself at the wrong end of a discussion with a US district attorney.

The obligations of SOPA land on people in the US because that is where the reach of the US jurisdiction extends.  The reason the movie people want SOPA is precisely because they have trouble reaching those outside the US who are doing things they don’t like.

Somebody selling stuff in Pakistan isn’t necessarily acting in violation of US law - and even if he/she is, an accusation is not proof.  SOPA allows takedowns on mere accusation, without even requiring the accuser to post a bond that would compensate the accused party if even if the accusation is made with reckless disregard of the truth.

All this to protect “Sex and the City 2”?

Unfair characterization Richard Bennett  –  Dec 13, 2011 11:44 PM

You've made a nice little strawman and you're having fun roasting marshmallows on it as it burns. Don't let me disturb you.

I have no idea where you think SOPA doesn't affect people in the USA Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 14, 2011 12:42 AM

I have no idea where you got the notion that SOPA does not impose constraints on people here in the USA and imposes strong sanctions on those who do not comply. It's pretty clear in the text of the bill Under SOPA, the Bank of America in North Carolina (part of the USA) can be required to stop transferring money to certain persons. If BofA doesn't comply then can be sanctioned. Comcast - everywhere in the USA- can be ordered to block access to websites else be sanctioned. Verisign (California or Virginia - both in the USA) can be required them to remap domain names else face sanctions. It's not just a US Att'y General who can invoke these actions - people who merely assert, with very little risk to themselves from false assertions, that they have rights being harmed can initiate several of these things against US citizens. There's nothing strawman about it. And there is no doubt that the movie companies feel that SOPA is a lot more than a strawman. They are pushing this thing exactly so that they can take action against people here in the USA.

Nope Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 12:46 AM

The banks and credit union provisions have been amended out, and the Verisign thing is existing law. All that leaves is ISP domain editing, and that has been amended as well. In any case, it is something that could only be triggered by court order in the original draft. So yeah, all you got is strawman.

Uh, I'm looking at the proposed amendments and disagree Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 14, 2011 3:06 AM

Section 103 of the proposed amendments has the "Qualifying Plaintiff" mechanism that allows an accuser to walk into court, make an accusation, obtain a TRO against the accused, and then use that TRO to cause third parties - banks, advertisers (search engine companies) to start blocking left and right. And the proposed amendments, in Section 102, still give the power to require ISPs to block and sensor entire "site" (which is poorly defined), censor search engine results, remove products or services from the marketplace that are asserted to be circumventions - like /etc/hosts. I came across some amusing flaws in the definitions - like the fact that much of the proposed act excludes things done using UDP. This proposed law reminds me a lot of the way that occupiers during wars go after partisans - by not going after the actual partisan soldiers but rather by burning the villages that might give support to those soldiers. In other words SOPA is structured to fight a war against purported copyright/trademark violations by waging that war not on the actual accused perpetrators but rather by taking innocent third parties hostage and hoping that that will cause the accused to recant or fade from starvation. Were the approach of SOPA to be evaluated under the rules of the Geneva conventions about war it could be found to be an instance of hostage taking and thus in violation of those Geneva conventions. So I guess that even things that aren't fair in war are considered fair when going after somebody who copies Sex in the City 2 or sells Canadian Viagra?

You're a funny boy, Karl Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 3:14 AM

I['m surprised you can find the keys with that big smirk on your face. Let me know when you're ready to stop auditioning for the Daily Show and want to have a serious discussion.

I don't understand why you seem to trust the copyright industry? Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 14, 2011 3:39 AM

SOPA/PIPA are intended to be weapons - don't forget that I am an intellectual property attorney - I go to the meetings where this stuff is created, discussed, and advocated. As we have seen from the cases with the DMCA takedowns, the false claims of ownership by music and movie groups, the RIAA music cases, etc the entertainment industry has a history of playing very fast and loose and abusing every tool that it has been given. The drug industry is little better - are you aware of the practice in which owners of drugs at the end of their patent terms pay the generic makers to go very, very slowly with their paper work to obtain regulatory permission to make generic versions? That practice amounts to a purchased extension of the patent monopoly, paid for by the drug buyers in terms of even more years of non-competitive prices. With drug makers so willing to exercise such overt predatory practices over drug buyers it is no wonder that those buyers of drugs are willing to buy from offshore suppliers. There is little or no history of good faith, honesty, or fair dealing among the drug or copyright industries upon which to base trust in their motives or desire to exercise self constraint or to recognize non-infringing or fair uses. In fact history is to the contrary. The damage that this bill does to the integrity and security of the internet is enormous. Not only does this bill represent a significant risk to the integrity of DNS name resolutions and DNSSEC but it also adds huge pressure towards a Balkanized internet. And all of this is for what - so that somebody in India can't sell a DVD of Sex in the City 2? SOPA is, as they say, a serious case of cutting off our national nose to spite our face.

A little better Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 3:42 AM

You're almost there, keep trying.

He Needed Killin' Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 4:12 AM

Your last comment reminds me of the infamous “he needed killing” defense that used to be recognized by the Texas courts. You highlight some speculation about business practices and the small number of screw-ups in an enforcement regime that’s generated millions of takedown notices and say “See, it’s not perfect! Gotcha!”

All of what you say may very well be true, but it doesn’t really have much to do with the aims of PIPA and SOPA. The best way to change a bad law is to enforce it rigorously in any event, and we do all benefit from good new drugs and movies good enough that people are willing to pay for them.

The Internet enables particular crimes to committed that would be completely impractical at comparable scale and scope without it. Therefore, the Internet needs grow up and help law enforcement deal with what it’s wrought. Even Craig Newmark realizes this from the consequence of his casual sex section becoming a means of pimping under-age girls. Just because the Internet enables it doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.

One of the most annoying things about the copyright/trademark klatch is... Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 14, 2011 4:23 AM

One of the most annoying things about the copyright/trademark klatch is that their answer is always "more, more, more..." Yet often less give better results. Copyright "violation" would be reduced if we also reduced the duration of copyright terms. At the last intellectual property gathering some advice I got was "copy music from 1924 or earlier". That's because pretty much everything since then is encumbered even though the composers, now dead, are not obtaining much encouragement to produce more works from the current very long copyright terms. Copyright law is also far to complicated - distributing something on a physical DVD is subject to different laws than the exact same bits distributed over the net. That would let people know more correctly what their rights, duties, and obligations are. Don't treat N forms of the same material as N different things - in the music world a CD and a DVD and a digital stream of the exact same music are considered different "products" that are each sold independently - no credit for already owning something. Stop issuing "license" and return to "sales". It only confuses people about rights, duties, obligations - and they will react by copying anyway. Expand the definitions of "fair use" - most people don't understand that fair use today is largely a mode to comment on the original work. These things will free up massive resources to pursue focused remedies against real evil doers and won't have the massive collateral damage that SOPA will make.

Obvious observation Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 4:29 AM

Yes, we would have less crime if we defined fewer things as crimes. That's first grade arithmetic and you get no points for it. Similarly, changing the "business model" of content-creating industry to give more stuff away for free will reduce theft of IP. Gotcha, we know that. The fact remains that the Internet has created some entirely new forms of crime, and several players in the ecosystem profit from them: ISPs, advertising networks, and payment processors among them. It's therefore entirely proper to burden these player to a reasonable extent to cooperate in enforcement actions. The ones who complain the loudest about PIPA are making the most money from the status quo.

Disagree Karl Auerbach  –  Dec 14, 2011 8:39 AM

Your logic is to punish someone merely because of their proximity to one who has been declared, without a trial, to be a criminal - and even though that someone has done nothing unlawful. By that metric a lot of people who live in Portola Valley or the Hamptons ought to be fined or jailed because of what their neighbours do. By the logic of your argument we should fine those who make paper and copiers because those industries profited from all the fraudulent securitization of mortgages of the last decade. And we should similarly fine all the restaurants in lower Manhattan for providing food to those criminals. That, of course, would be silly, yet it is essentially the same logic that you are arguing. You are right that part of this battle is over money - each side is painting the other side as criminals. It's just that one who replicates patented drugs is easier to paint as a criminal than one who steals works from the public by extending copyright duration. In these copyright wars it is the copyright owners who have expanded and expanded copyright terms to make what was once quite proper into what is now unlawful. And why did those copyright owners do it - certainly not to pursue the purpose of the copyright clause, which is to induce creativity - but rather to make more money. Same for trademark people - they have twisted what was created to be a consumer protection tool into a way to drain money from consumers and suppress aspiring competitors. Those backing PIPA/SOPA are doing so for the sole purpose of making even more money. I'd like to know who, precisely who those you accuse of "making the most money from the status quo" - and which of those, precisely, are engaged in practices that are unlawful, really truly unlawful. Then we can weight and compare the moneys and equities. But even someone who is making money can recognize that SOPA/PIPA damage the internet, damage our democracy, damage our Constitutional principles, and make it clear that the USA is no better than China or Iran - in fact the USA might be worse as China and Iran censor for political and cultural reasons while under SOPA/PIPA the USA will do so for mere money. The internet - one of the greatest inventions of the last 5 centuries - is to be sacrificed in order to protect Sex in the City 2?

Get serious, Karl Richard Bennett  –  Dec 14, 2011 12:00 PM

OK, I get that you're in love with the sound of your heart pounding from your vast moral outrage and aren't capable of focusing your mind on anything relevant to PIPA and SOPA. You're carrying on about people doing things that are lawful or unlawful today when the nature of legislative acts is to define the parameters of lawfulness and unlawfulness tomorrow. It seems that you're owed a refund from your law school for letting you graduate without absorbing this distinction. The way I see it, the content creators have been subsidizing the Internet, ever since the NSF got out of the game, by providing its killer app, free movies and TV. The Internet has now reached a point in its development where I believe it's worthwhile to see if if can survive without this crutch. There's more to life than free movies. It's your view that it can't; this is evident in the belief you express that the Internet is addicted to pirated content. I'm more optimistic, and Sex and the City 2 isn't even part of it. You can keep as many copies of that as you'd like and I won't say a word. But don't delude yourself that the only issue here is patent and copyright law. A lot of people are doing bad things on the Internet, from identity theft to the sale of bogus drugs in nice packaging that don't have the ingredients they claim to have. Turning a blind eye to this sort of thing while extolling the perfection of the Internet is just plain dangerous.

Excellent piece Paul and thank you for Alexa Raad  –  Dec 14, 2011 4:00 PM

Excellent piece Paul and thank you for drawing attention to this

This is a piece of special interest driven proposed legislation and a misuse of the judiciary powers.

Aside from the fact that this legislation is contrary to constitutional rights of free speech, it puts the US in an awkward position when decrying censorship in other countries (How can we decry theirs when we are proposing it here for our own citizens?)  There are as you pint out, real technical issues.

Mandating technical “cures” through governmental policy pushed by special interest, especially one regarding the Internet, where the governing technical principal which has worked and blossomed has been the free flow of traffic and to enable greater scalability and usage, rather than technical and market driven innovation is an ill conceived notion.

There is a great paper on the technical flaws of this legislation:  http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/1115_cybersecurity_friedman.aspx

“While these bills will not “break the Internet,” they further burden cyberspace with three new risks. First, the added complexity makes the goals of stability and security more difficult. Second, the expected reaction of Internet users will lead to demonstrably less secure behavior, exposing many American Internet users, their computers and even their employers to known risks. Finally, and most importantly, these bills will set back other efforts to secure cyberspace, both domestically and internationally. As such, policymakers are encouraged to analyze the net benefits of these bills in light of the increased cybersecurity risks.”

While I deeply and fundamentally support a safer, secure and more stable Internet, this is not the way to achieve it.

The bill may be voted on this week.  The bills that are up for a vote are H.R. 3261 (The Stop Online Piracy Act) and S. 968 (Protect IP Act).

In addition to the link Patrick provided below, you can also monitor and register your opinion on each at http://www.popvox.com. Your opinion goes directly to Congress.

Find a link to each here:



New York Times: Russia Uses Microsoft to Charles Christopher  –  Dec 16, 2011 4:41 PM

New York Times: Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent


At least with Computers being taken you have a real person to argue with, and real property at issue in a real location you go go to. And you have fairly easy to calculate costs involved to build a lawsuit from.

When your domain gets dezoned, where does one start the dispute process? [rhetorical]

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