A GROUP OF INTERNET HEAVYWEIGHTS have written to the US Congress with their arguments against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP Act (PIPA).
The letter comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and is undersigned by internet engineers like Vint Cerf, Paul Vixie, author of BIND, and Jim Gettys, editor of the HTTP 1.1 protocol standard, and is in no doubt that SOPA is a very bad thing.
"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," they write in the letter, which is signed by over fifty of their peers.
The letter is a follow-up to one sent last year about proposed COICA copyright and censorship legislation. Now they have repeated their concerns with respect to SOPA and PIPA, saying "in many respects, these proposals are worse than the one we were alarmed to read last year".
They warn that if the bills are enacted they will bring down a curtain of fear over the internet and technological innovation that will "seriously harm the credibility of the US in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure".
The bills could break DNS, according to the letter, and have other "capricious technical consequences", while creating the sort of two-tiered internet that no one wants.
"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," they add.
"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."
These are internet engineers of course, and they have concerns that run deeper than the headline opposition to SOPA and PIPA. The letter warns that Congress wants to make censorship and compliance a design requirement for internet software, which is counter to the way they worked when they were developing their software and protocols.
"This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish," adds the letter as it reminds the US government not to make the sorts of decisions and rules for which it criticises other governments.
"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," they warn.
"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." µ
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