MPAA’s plan to break DNS in the name of fighting piracy – exposed by the Sony hack
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. The content creation industry, led by technological know-nothings and an influential group of purchased politicians are pushing for a set of laws that could fundamentally damage the underlying structure of the internet. Is this SOPA? The Trans-Pacific Partnership? No — it’s information leaked from the Sony hacks showing that once again, Hollywood is trying to carve out new and innovative ways to fight piracy with no regard for how they’d impact the rest of the internet.
The legal brief explores how the MPAA might pursue a strategy of arguing in favor for DNS filtering as a mandatory requirement of the DMCA. Such a win would be a significant shift from current interpretations of the law, and could introduce problems that would functionally break the DNS system. The DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision that allows ISPs to escape criminal liability for hosting allegedly copyrighted material depends on the ISP taking immediate action to remove access to the infringing work before any appeals process or challenge can be filed. In other words, the MPAA and other groups would have the authority to file DMCA complaints to kill DNS redirection to infringing sites, knocking those sites offline, and requiring them to file appeals and go through a lengthy process before service would be restored.
The argument that would supposedly justify this reclassification is a subtle one. The lawyers note that any attempt to completely disqualify ISPs from DMCA protection is virtually certain to fail. Instead, the line of attack would focus on the idea that ISPs are “service providers” when they provide some functions, but that DNS and caching services are not among them.
This is from 2012 — but apparently we’re still arguing this.
In all fairness, the legal team that drafted this document acknowledges that such arguments are currently unlikely to prevail in the current climate. What’s more striking is that the brief itself displays an understanding of technology that the MPAA’s mouthpieces rarely evince. While it doesn’t investigate the technical problems underlying any successful scheme that allowed content providers to issue DNS removal orders, it does indicate that the lawyers, at least, understand how some of these systems work.
Time to move on
It’s unsettling to see that the MPAA is still trying to find a solution that involves DNS blocking years after SOPA was defeated. It would be one thing if DMCA takedowns were weapons of last resort, only deployed in rare circumstances. Instead, we’ve seen many, many cases where corporations and some individuals resort to DMCA attacks to silence critics or to simply assert improper ownership of an asset.
Allowing companies to order DNS links offline would drive use to third-party services and fatally compromise attempts to secure the DNS standard itself. Multiple technical analyses of the various techniques proposed for achieving this filtering were posted in the SOPA discussions of several years ago, but they remain valid (this new briefing doesn’t specify which approach ISPs might argue for).
It’s time to stop beating a dead horse and move on. DNS filtering isn’t going to work.
Now read: Thanks to Hollywood’s continued pressure on ISPs, I’m now using a VPN
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