Internet engineer George Ou has written a forceful response to claims that the PROTECT IP Act will “break the Internet” by allegedly undermining the Internet’s architecture.
Those arguments suggest that PROTECT IP would interfere with a protocol that allows users to connect to websites more securely and that technology used to prevent access to rogue websites would be ineffective.
Ou makes two particularly compelling points. First, in response to concerns about the security protocol Secure DNS (DNSSEC), Ou points out that the purpose of that system is to facilitate users’ secure access to legal, legitimate websites to support online commerce and protect personal data.
“[S]ecure access to an illegal site is moot because the purpose of the Protect IP court ordered filters is to prevent any access to that illegal site,” Ou writes. “These opponents of DNS filtering never make the claim that DNS filtering will compromise DNSSEC in the general case for websites that aren’t blacklisted with a court order. DNS filtering is not a threat to legal websites implementing DNSSEC.”
In other words – you shouldn’t need to be able to connect securely to illegal rogue sites, because those sites shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Ou’s second point responds to criticisms of technology in which domain name systems prevent access to certain sites, noting that Paul Vixie, one of a group of engineers who signed a white paper opposing PROTECT IP, had himself developed a system to protect users from accessing risky websites:
The thesis of the letter opposing the Protect IP Act is that protecting Intellectual Property is important but DNS filters are ineffective and dangerous. Yet Paul Vixie is the inventor of DNS filters, so it is self-evident that he does not think his invention is ineffective. Vixie simply believes that protecting Intellectual Property is not important enough to deserve the protection of his technology.
This is an important paper that should help shed some light on the debate around PROTECT IP.
The bottom line, of course, is that while some people use technology to commit crime or fraud, technology can also be one of our strongest weapons to fight theft of our creative works – and one of our strongest partners in making those works more widely available to the people who want them. Now that’s real innovation.