A story on TorrentFreak yesterday announced a new browser plug-in from MafiaaFire. Reading the comments and seeing the lack of impact, I think a lot of people don’t realize that MafiaaFire just killed the copyright industry’s entire ISP censorship strategy dead in the water.
The story on TorrentFreak goes into deep detail with the technical details on the inner workings of the plugin. Perhaps therefore, I guess, a lot of folks might have missed the big picture after this piece of code has come into being.
Here is that big picture with the plugin installed:
- US goons seize torrent site domains? No effect.
- Courts order ISPs to lie in their DNS records, giving you another page instead (“site blocked”)? No effect.
- Courts order ISPs to nullroute certain IP blocks, trying to trick you into thinking that the site is offline? No effect.
In the hypothetical extreme case that some United States goon agency would seize the domain thepiratebay.org entirely, most ISPs also lying about its previous DNS records and giving you a “page censored” sign, and even having blocked it at the IP level (a technique never used), you would still just type “thepiratebay.org” in the address bar as usual (given that you also have the first MafiaaFire plugin).
The story on TorrentFreak goes into detail on how this is accomplished using a list of thousands and thousands of proxies, circumventing censorship. Essentially, what the released plugin does is to turn your computer into a node in a mesh network that finds the shortest unblocked route to the target you request.
This kills the copyright industry’s strategy that the ISPs are “critical gatekeepers” right dead in the water. Of course, the reason the strategy could be so easily killed is that it is fundamentally wrong to begin with; the Internet doesn’t work like that. No matter how much the copyright industry dreams and screams for one, there just isn’t a central point of control.
The first list of circumrouted sites include The Pirate Bay and Newzbin2, but more are to come (and, most importantly, are easy to add).
Now, I predict that the copyright industry will be pretending in courts and to their bosses that installing this plugin represent a “significant extra effort”, and therefore hinders copying. Besides that I consider the prevention of spread of culture to be bordering on a crime against humanity, this predicted allegation is delusional. How many steps are already required to prepare a fresh, out-of-the-box machine for file sharing? The free and pirate technologies for encoding audio and video are superior to the commercial alternatives, but they also require separate installation.
You need to install all the proper codecs (AC3, MPEG4, DivX3–DivX5, all OGG variants and a bunch more), you need to map the AC3 channels to your speaker config, you need to install at least one BitTorrent client and configure it, you need to configure your firewall to accept BitTorrent connections, and a couple of other things. Adding the installation of a plugin, turning the number of steps to 21 from 20, is absolutely inconsequential. These are preparations that are already made to a computer to enable its file sharing, that all 250 million European file sharers already do. What is included out of the box is entirely irrelevant, as nothing enabling file sharing is.
It could be noted, by the way, that the demise of Internet Explorer also was despite the fact that it came tightly tied to the operating system and people needed to jump through hoops and rings of flame to replace it. People learned to do that, and did that. Just like with file sharing and anti-censorship tools.
Of course, pirates are engineers and take active measures to reduce the number of steps required to enable file sharing on a given computer. On the Ubuntu operating system, which I use, it’s a matter of one single command for setting up everything in the checklist above:
apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
So to summarize, MafiaaFire just killed all the copyright industry’s censorship-for-profit, both current and future, without any measurable extra effort required for the 250 million Europeans that share culture and knowledge. The plugin’s name is the somewhat cryptic “The Pirate Bay Dancing”, that derives from the movie Dirty Dancing, and more specifically, the assertive quote Nobody puts The Pirate Bay in a corner! I subscribe to that idea.
Oh, and to answer a common question: The plugin is currently Mozilla-only but will be released for Chrome in about two weeks. MafiaaFire released for Firefox first in homage to Mozilla Foundation’s formal response to US censorship goons (“take a hike”).
So: Thank you, MafiaaFire. Thank you immensely. You’ve done humanity a great service.
Viva Freedom of Speech, and death to all censorship, no matter whose bottom line it serves.