‘Stop Online Piracy’ Act Could Undermine Net Architecture by Encouraging DNS Workarounds
Feds to Blacklist Piracy Sites Under House Proposal
A bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation Wednesday that would boost the government’s authority to disrupt and shutter websites that hawk or host trademark- and copyright-infringing products, including allowing the government to order sites removed from search engines.
Much of the package is similar to a stalled Senate measure known as the Protect IP Act. Both proposals amount to the holy grail of intellectual-property enforcement that the recording industry, movie studios and their union and guild workforces have been clamoring for since the George W. Bush administration.
Both bills allow the Justice Department for the first time to obtain court orders demanding American ISPs to stop rendering the DNS for a particular website — meaning the sites could still be accessible outside the United States. The House bill also allows the Justice Department to order search sites like Google to remove the allegedly infringing site from its search results.
Furthermore, the newest proposal, (.pdf) introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), grants the U.S. attorney general sweeping powers to block the distribution of workarounds that let users navigate to sites that have been blacklisted or had their domain name seized, such as the MafiaaFire plugin on the Firefox browser.
Sherwin Siy, a staff attorney with digital rights group Public Knowledge, said the measure could be interpreted to prevent reporters from writing about DNS workarounds, such as publishing the IP addresses of banned websites. DNS servers translate domain names, such as wikipedia.org, into IP addresses – but DNS can be bypassed if a user knows the IP address of a site.