02:46 PM

Copyright Bill Causes Stir On Foreign Website Blocking

Some lawmakers move to drop provisions in the controversial Protect IP Act, now being considered by Senate, that would require U.S. service providers to forcibly redirect customers away from foreign sites accused of piracy.

One of the more controversial parts of the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) bill currently being considered by the Senate may get dropped.

The provision in question would require service providers, after receiving a court order, to prevent people from accessing specified foreign websites, by blocking those sites' domain name system (DNS) entries. The Department of Justice would seek such blocks if it determined that a foreign website was violating U.S. copyrights. But many U.S. service providers, amongst others, haven't been happy with the proposal.

"This is, in fact, a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it," said the bill's author, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday, on Vermont Public Radio.

Later in the day, he released a statement with further details. "The Protect IP Act provides new tools for law enforcement to combat rogue websites that operate outside our borders but target American consumers with stolen American property and counterfeits," he said. "One of those tools enables law enforcement to secure a court order asking Internet service providers to use the [DNS] to prevent consumer access to foreign rogue websites." But he acknowledged that no service provider would likely support DNS blocking.

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Accordingly, he'll propose that "the positive and negative effects of this provision be studied before implemented." But he added that "I regret that law enforcement will not have this remedy available to it when websites operating overseas are stealing American property, threatening the safety and security of American consumers."

Leahy's hyperbole aside, could PIPA--or the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which still proposes to block domains with a court order--actually do what he suggests? Critics of the bill have said that's unlikely. For starters, that's because the court-ordered takedowns in the proposed law would only apply to U.S. businesses. Hence if Google began forcibly altering DNS settings and redirecting users away from websites that the U.S. government had designated as being involved with inappropriately selling pirated software or prescription medicine, users could simply use foreign search engines. Meanwhile, while authorities might then tell service providers to block those foreign search engines, in reality there would be no way to create and affordably implement a rolling blacklist of all such sites.

Furthermore, Google has come out against PIPA. Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, last year said the company would resist any attempts to force it to censor sites that its users could access, and name-dropped China as another country that might favor such an approach. "I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems," he told the Guardian.

Regardless of the proposed modifications to the bill or the underlying technological issues, PIPA also faces a significant legislative hurdle. True, more than 40 senators have said they'll support the bill, which Leahy co-authored with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Leahy has scheduled debates on PIPA to begin January 24. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has placed a hold on the bill, which at least temporarily prevents the bill from being voted on by the full Senate.

Furthermore, Wyden said Leahy's proposed PIPA refinements haven't changed his mind about what he calls the "censorship regime" that PIPA will create. "It is welcome news that proponents of PIPA are finally accepting that it contains major flaws," he said in a statement released Thursday. "Unfortunately, this announcement to study the DNS provision does not eliminate the clearly identified threat to Net security contained within this bill."

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User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2012 | 6:26:57 PM
re: Copyright Bill Causes Stir On Foreign Website Blocking
@ readers: what parts of these laws (SOPA and PIPA) do you think should be kept, and which parts discarded?
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
Terabyte Net
Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2012 | 4:01:50 AM
re: Copyright Bill Causes Stir On Foreign Website Blocking
First, piracy stinks. It steals from legitimate companies and individuals and benefits no one in the long run; however, until a jury finds a site has violated US law there should be no court who can issue an order to block a site. Judges donGt convict, juries do. WeGre continually allowing our obviously ever-more clueless GǣrepresentativesGǥ in DC to erode our rights. I donGt want some judge deciding what site I can and cannot visit because s/he has decided itGs GǣillegalGǥ. When you copyright something and you believe youGve been harmed you must then go to the legal system, file a complaint and have it heard by a trial. If the defendant fails to show up you get a judgment by default and then can have actions taken, but this is no worse than the MPAA going after everyone and literally their mom (who often were sued even the parent didnGt download anything illegal and the minor child couldnGt be held liable for the damages) without actually getting a trial to say anyone was guilty. ItGs time for all Americans to stand up and tell Washington that this isnGt Beijing. If they want to filter CongressG access to the Internet go ahead, but leave mine alone.

BTW, the simple way around this is to use your own DNS servers internally and not your ISPGs. Install and use BIND locally and go to roots for initial resolution not your ISPGs. ItGs clear Washington has no clue how the Internet works.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2012 | 10:49:49 PM
re: Copyright Bill Causes Stir On Foreign Website Blocking
Here's an interesting story to show you how ignorant Senator Hatch (who co-authored PIPA and the original COICA (Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act))
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