The Stop Online Piracy Act Will Not Stop Online Piracy

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.


  1. DavidXanatos

    SOPA is not about Piracy, its about preparing the censorship infrastructure for what is to come once the US govt cracks down on all this demonstrating people whom now are already being considered terrorists.

  2. Mats Henricson

    Desopa no longer exists!

    The plot thickens…

    1. Zacqary Adam Green

      Still works for me. Is Sweden blocking it for some reason? (I assume you’re in Sweden from the email you used to comment)

      1. ForskarGurra

        No it still works in Sweden. At least my ISP…

  3. AeliusBlythe

    Had a problem with the DeSopa link yesterday, but today it was fine. …?

    @David, you’re right, it’s not so much about piracy. If I had more of a conspiratorial mindset I would say it was done specifically for the purpose of preparing the US for more totalitarian control of citizenry. However, I honestly believe it is due–like so many things–to pure ignorance. Perhaps that seems naive of me. But having interacted a lot with writers (many of whom SUPPORT this kind of thing) I know that many, many supporters of SOPA (etc.) simply do not understand that it will do nothing whatsoever.

    These are people who STILL believe that removing a link to a torrent will delete the information. These are people who STILL believe that you can stop all piracy without watching every single transmission that moves across the internet. These are people who STILL believe that a block on a website prevents people from reaching it. It is hard to believe, I think, for most tech-savvy Pirates. However, this is the message I want to bring to the Pirate Party: most people do not understand the technology, even if they use it every single day. They simple do not get the fact that you cannot wave a legislative wand and make it all go away overnight. How to get them to see this? I do not know. But I hope that it is only a matter of time before those who understand outnumber those who do not…

  4. […] auszudrücken denn Sopa hätte auch für uns Europäer unabsehbare Folgen und eines steht fest: die Onlinepiraterie wird SOPA nicht bekämpfen können den die meisten “Piraten” sind technisch sehr versiert und finden schnell Lösungen um […]

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