As Vote Is Delayed, Internet Engineers Issue A Scathing Open Letter Against SOPA

The Internet may have just dodged a bullet this afternoon, as the house Judiciary Committee voted to delay a floor vote on the odious Stop Online Privacy Act. The decision came after a long day of debate that included disagreement over an obscure provision that would empower the Attorney General to make horrifying changes to Internet Infrastructure. After no agreement could be reached, the committee adjourned without setting a date for new debate, ensuring that passage of the bill will not happen in 2011.

While the Film and Music industries are firmly behind this terrible infringement on American Constitutional rights, the tech industry is thankfully not so stupid. Coinciding with today’s committee debate, a group of Internet engineers released an open letter to the US Congress. That letter was read into the record by Representative Darrel Issa and may have influenced the outcome of today’s proceedings.

Given the importance of the issue, and our position here at GameFront that SOPA would be absolutely terrible for the Internet, for our readers, and for gaming in general, I’m going to post the letter in full:

We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We’re just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it.

Last year, many of us wrote to you and your colleagues to warn about the proposed “COICA” copyright and censorship legislation. Today, we are writing again to reiterate our concerns about the SOPA and PIPA derivatives of last year’s bill, that are under consideration in the House and Senate. In many respects, these proposals are worse than the one we were alarmed to read last year.

If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences. In exchange for this, such legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ right and ability to communicate and express themselves online.

All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals. In fact, it seems that this has already begun to happen under the nascent DHS/ICE seizures program.

Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship. It is also true regardless of whether censorship is implemented via the DNS, proxies, firewalls, or any other method. Types of network errors and insecurity that we wrestle with today will become more widespread, and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.

The current bills — SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly — also threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government. When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control. We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance as a design requirement for new Internet innovations. This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish.

The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open Internet, both domestically and abroad. We cannot have a free and open Internet unless its naming and routing systems sit above the political concerns and objectives of any one government or industry. To date, the leading role the US has played in this infrastructure has been fairly uncontroversial because America is seen as a trustworthy arbiter and a neutral bastion of free expression. If the US begins to use its central position in the network for censorship that advances its political and economic agenda, the consequences will be far-reaching and destructive.

Senators, Congressmen, we believe the Internet is too important and too valuable to be endangered in this way, and implore you to put these bills aside.

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6 Comments on As Vote Is Delayed, Internet Engineers Issue A Scathing Open Letter Against SOPA


On December 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm

The letter won’t do any good. Big brother will do anything to violate our liberty and gain more control over our lives. All they’ve ever cared about is money and power. People are just statistics to them. Only way things will change is if America does what the French did to achieve democracy.

-99% movement.


On December 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Our government has become a disgrace. It is appalling that this type of a letter need even be suggested, let alone introduced to congress. Do not mistake this comment to mean that I do not agree with everything stated by the author – that SOPA is a heinous violation of human rights and civil liberties – rather, I am suggesting that we have entered a new age of slavery that will rapidly overwhelm and subdue our population if we do not take a stand against apathy and disdain. I, for one, will be voting Ron Paul come 2012. Sad thing is, this comment will probably end up censored.


On December 17, 2011 at 4:44 am

pretty funny how they cant be botherd to do things like this because of child pornography. but for $$$ they can change the whole ing internet..

Ross Lincoln

On December 17, 2011 at 9:54 am

Probably because of the number of pedophiles in the 1%. Not a joke.


On December 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm

The spelling in the SOPA link needs correcting. It’s “Piracy” not “Privacy”


On January 2, 2012 at 12:40 am

I disagree with the measures stated above and fully understand the predicament of those who wrote the letter. I am on their side. What bothers me about this page is the comment by “anthony” which suggests we are in “a new age of slavery” and that SOPA is “a heinous violation of human rights and civil liberties”. Sure SOPA is wrong, but what do you know about human rights? What do you know about heinous violations of anything? I hope you enjoy have your civil liberties being heinously violated. The audacity of your mentioning voting in 2012, whilst complaining about your human rights being violated, is literally almost unsurpassed. You are the kind of person I imagine, based on your comment, that is causing so many problems in the United States. I hope you can lock up your sense of entitlement and remember back to the way things were long before you were born, and the way things are for many in other parts of the world. Don’t take your vote for granted, anthony.