MaxCDN Blog

Save the Internet: Stop SOPA

December 30, 2011

Save the Internet: Stop SOPA

We here at MaxCDN try to leave political commentary to experts.  However, when such an impactful piece of legislation, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) gains as much momentum and notoriety that it has, we feel it necessary to comment on the proposed legislation and help provide some clarity on the very real dangers that passing this bill will present to Internet based business, including our business and the businesses of our customers.

Background on SOPA:

The Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as H.R. 3261 is a bill that was introduced to Congress in Oct. 2011 for the purpose of fighting online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property. The SOPA legislation provides relief for content creators through broad means of preventing access (blacklisting) to the website that contains alleged infringing content.

Existing legislation for the same purpose: 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the current means of enforcing the rights of Copyright holders against infringers who use the Internet as a means of trafficking or distributing infringing content (knowingly or unknowingly).  There has been substantial precedence created by the case law generated after the initial DMCA legislation was adopted.

Problems with the Bill:

  • Not capable of effectively performing its intended purpose.  The bill has the justifiable intent of preventing the illegal distribution of protected intellectual property.  The problem is not with the intent of the legislation, it is with the execution of how the bill attempts to execute this goal.
  • Authors of the bill, and experts that were asked to testify for Congress, admittedly do not understand how DNS actually works, nor were they able to explain to Congress the impact this legislation would have on such critical Internet functions.
  • Case law will need to be developed to understand exactly how the legislation will be enforced.
  • The bill will blacklist a websites hostname on US based DNS servers, but not block the associated IP address.
  • The legislation can be circumvented in a number of very simple ways.
  • This blacklisting of DNS entries will likely create a fragmented global DNS system, encouraging websites to use off-shore DNS servers, or to potentially move operations overseas as well.

Why this should matter to you: 

The broad sweeping language in the SOPA Bill, would grant significant power to Copyright owners to immediately shut down allegedly infringing websites.  Such sites include staple Internet companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Current Supporters of SOPA:

SOPA is supported primarily by the entertainment industry.  You can view a current list of these companies, here:

It is also important to note, that all of these businesses that support the SOPA legislation do not have significant online businesses, in fact many have been on the incumbent’s receiving end of deflationary economics (explained well in Mark Suster’s article here: simply meaning that these large dinosaur industries have seen their large margins diminish as disruptive companies and technologies continue to be introduced.  Think iTunes for the music industry, and Netflix for the entertainment industry.

The legislation appears more like a veiled attempt to curb the growth a competing industry, than it does a means of protecting Intellectual Property (which the Bill won’t actually be effective at actually doing).

Opponents of SOPA: 

SOPA is pretty much universally opposed by Internet based businesses.  Businesses that operate primarily on the Internet, such companies include: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, eBay, and Wikimedia and of course MaxCDN ;).

On Dec. 22nd GoDaddy published a press release that discussed their support of SOPA.  This resulted in the story being picked up by Reddit and quickly circulated the web based community.  The founder of Wikipedia even publicly voiced his opposition and that he was moving his domains from GoDaddy.  The following day, GoDaddy responded by changing their position on SOPA, now opposing the Bill.

What You Can Do?

Take action and sign this anti-SOPA petition:

Browser Plugins: 

We have created a browser plug-in that alerts you if a site uses GoDaddy as a registrar or if the site that you are currently on is one of the companies that is supporting SOPA. Since GoDaddy is now opposing the bill now we have disabled the GoDaddy registrar alert.

We where not the only ones with this idea so there are a few plugins out there that are doing the same thing. Now it is your turn install one of the plugins and boycott, email, tweet or write a nasty letter so these companies wake up as well. It worked great on GoDaddy ;)

Chrome Extension by Andy Baird (@ajbaird) and Tony Webster (@webster)

Firefox Add-on by Lautaro Orazi (@tarolandia) one of our developers @maxcdn

Please let us know your thoughts on SOPA and if you have ideas how we can improve the plugin or if you are a developer, fork it on github.