XMission Fights for a Free Internet
Over the past month, I have seen a groundswell of opposition against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Both of these bills attempt to control copyright infringement on the Internet by attempting to control the Domain Name Service (DNS) by which software finds websites. When you enter a website into the address bar of your browser, a transaction takes place with DNS where it translates the text of the first part of your address into an IP address. For example, the easy to remember “xmission.com” is translated in the harder to remember IPv4 address, 188.8.131.52, and the even harder to remember IPv6 address 2607:fa18:0:3::4. These bills seek to block the ability of software to find particular sites based on court order that they are suspected of trafficking copyrighted content.
Aside from being punished before ever proven guilty, this ignorance of technology is rife with unintended consequences. Since the passage of the DMCA in 1998, XMission has been forced to act as police, investigator, judge, and jury in copyright claims that are emailed to our email@example.com address. We have seen everything from recording company robots spewing notices based on textual matches to businesses trying to cause problems for their competition. Not to mention the number of lunatics that waste our time with their baseless accusations. The unintended consequences of the DMCA is that it had a direct effect on the cost of doing business that copyright claimers do not have to bear. If Sony was charged 10 cents for every email they sent us, they’d probably think twice before handing it the task off to a software robot.
PIPA/SOPA will do nothing to prevent copyright infringement on the Internet. Instead, they will fracture the legal use of the DNS system and drive criminals to more obscure methods that will be harder for investigators to track. This is the nature of censorship on the Internet. As John Parry Barlow said, “The Internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it.”
The only way to control the Internet, as China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, and Iran have learned, is to shut it down altogether. Even when you do that, it would have to be shut down world-wide before you really stop information from moving. I hate to see the USA follow the leads of these despots, but XMission will continue to fight for a free and unfettered Internet as it always has. Over the past 18 years of business, XMission has fought a number of bad Internet bills in Utah and nationally. We have advocated for Internet privacy rights as “papers and effects” under the 4th Amendment and turned away all requests for information that did not fit jurisdiction or the definition of a proper warrant.
In spite of my own office-seeking, I have tried to keep XMission and my representation of XMission as apolitical as possible. Yet when it comes to the question of keeping the Internet unrestricted and unregulated, XMission’s voice has been clear. When the U.S.S.R. fell in 1991, I read first-hand accounts on Usenet as it happened. The Internet then was an embryonic force that has matured to bring down despots through communication. Governmental attempts to control the Internet are not new, and neither is my nor XMission’s commitment to fight them.