Code is Law

In light of the recent controversy (to which I’ve added my voice, here on VC and elsewhere) about Congress’ flirtation, in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and similar bills, with various Internet-killing schemes at the behest of the intellectual property lobby, here comes the development of a Firefox extension, DeSopa 1.1, designed expressly to assist users who want to access websites whose URLs have been “blacked out” by SOPA-authorized court orders:

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.

It’s certainly an interesting concept, and illustrates one (though only one) of the objections to SOPA’s DNS-based enforcement scheme, viz. that it will be relatively easy for anyone with even a bit of technical expertise to circumvent the SOPA orders.

While I applaud the efforts, the developer (Tamar Rizk) should be aware of one of the provisions of SOPA (available here – see p. 20 for the provision quoted below), which provides that:

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.

I’m not sure that I understand what “knowingly and willfully” means in this context, but Mr. Rizk might want to be cognizant that he might be running afoul of this provision in providing this extension.

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