Much has been written about how destructive and dangerous the SOPA bill being pushed through the US House of Representatives is. And all its free speech and security risks are for absolutely nothing. Let me be clear: it won’t even stop piracy.
SOPA, which stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act”, lays out a plan to block websites by preventing their domain names from resolving. This is trivial to circumvent; instead of using a censored, US-based DNS, one need only route the request through a foreign, uncensored DNS. Even before the passage of the law, a Firefox add-on called DeSopa already does this automatically:
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.
The law can’t even be modified to use a more rock-solid blocking mechanism. Why? Because there is no such thing as a rock-solid blocking mechanism.
Proxy servers. Onion routing. Encrypted VPNs. For every method of Internet censorship devised, there is a smorgasbord of easy, user-friendly ways around it. Were a new, novel one to be devised, the global community of intrepid hackers would poke a hole in it in a matter of days. It is literally impossible to control or censor the access of a sufficiently-determined Internet user, short of physically monitoring them 24 hours a day and confiscating their device if they misbehave.
Of course, not every Internet user is sufficiently determined. Were SOPA to pass, not everyone would know about these tools or where to find them. But pirates are sufficiently-determined Internet users. People interested in illegally accessing copyrighted material will find these tools, and use them to completely bypass SOPA. The censorship will only affect law-abiding citizens, wondering why they can’t access Wikipedia anymore. And its chilling effects on free speech and security risks will harm everyone.
Meanwhile, online piracy will not be stopped.