As resistance grows against the Stop Online Piracy Act, some activists are getting creative. If passed, the legislation would allow US Internet service providers to block access to offending domain names at the behest of Hollywood -- that's the gist of it, anyway. Two new browser extensions demonstrate how this process can be automatically circumvented, making SOPA-like regulations an exercise in futility.
First up, "DeSopa" allows Firefox users to click a button and resolve a blocked domain through foreign DNS servers, sidestepping domestic restrictions. DeSopa can't currently resolve subdomains and it can only resolve one tab at a time along with other limitations, but developer Tamer Rizk hopes his add-on will prove to Congress that will "help them err on the side of reason and vote SOPA down."
A group known as MAFIAAFire has created a similar extension called "The Pirate Bay Dancing" (a play on the film Dirty Dancing). The plugin automatically routes your website request through a random proxy, again bypassing your ISP's blockade. An earlier version of this add-on was released in April after the US Department of Justice along with Immigration and Customs seized domain names.
"This is just a start, now that we have opened this can of worms people can expect many add-ons, extensions and plug-ins from us," the group told TorrentFreak at the time. "Our goal is to reverse governments attempts to censor the Internet, and nearly anything the anti-piracy people put up to protect their dinosaur business models." "We really are tired of the corruption...Enough is enough."
It seems that passion still burns strong. "DNS and IP blocking is probably the most dangerous part of SOPA/PIPA in terms of 'breaking the Internet,' so we tackled that first. We will be going after the other parts of SOPA in later releases but probably not in 'our usual plugin form' -- the other parts require different solutions that we have already started work on," MAFIAAFire said late last month.
The group described Internet censorship as an overwhelming game of whack-a-mole, and that's proven accurate thus far. SOPA has been outwitted on many levels before even becoming law. More than being a technological proof of concept, the add-ons have given "good guys" an opportunity to flex a little muscle. The US demanded that Mozilla remove the MAFIAAFire add-on in May. It refused.
After two days of heated debates, the House Judiciary Committee adjourned its markup session on SOPA until after Congress' winter recess (despite attempts by committee chairman Lamar Smith to reconvene this week). When discussions resume 2012, Congress is expected to enlist the aid of some experts, as few members have a firm understanding of the technology they're trying to regulate.