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Time to bomb the internet back into the Stone Age?

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Despite being pronounced fit for duty after undergoing mental health screenings, required of all US army snipers, the American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians (not pictured here) was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after sustaining a blow to his head.

Despite being pronounced fit for duty after undergoing mental health screenings, required of all US army snipers, the American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians (not pictured here) was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after sustaining a blow to his head.

After failing to defeat iiNet, will AFACT attack the internet itself?

Some people would say the carrot is mightier than the stick when it comes to battling online piracy, but such sentiments seem lost on the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. Yet AFACT's court battles against Internet Service Providers such as iiNet have repeatedly failed to deliver a killer blow. After once again failing to take out the middleman ISPs last week, AFACT's options are to target end users or to attack the problem at its source.

AFACT has made it clear in the past that it's not keen on urban warfare. It doesn't want to drag everyday Australians through the courts, a stance it reiterated at Friday's press conference after the High Court verdict went against it. That would seem a wise strategy considering that such actions in the US turned into a PR nightmare. Courtesy of Wikileaks we know that AFACT is merely a puppet of the Motion Picture Association of America, so I'm sure they'll be coordinating their next move carefully.

Moving up the chain from end users, striking ISPs obviously seemed like a wise strategy until those pesky judges got in the way. AFACT was even smart enough to attack a smaller ISP like iiNet in an attempt to strike fear into the others, rather than tangle with the more powerful Telstra and Optus. AFACT has made some progress negotiating with ISPs over the last few years, but its legal threats now ring hollow.

Of course there's more than one way to target piracy and the copyright police have invested considerable resources in legal assaults on high profile BitTorrent search engines such as TorrentSpy and The Pirate Bay. These cases might have claimed a few scalps and made a few headlines but they failed to slay the multi-headed hydra that is file-sharing. It's still easier than ever for anyone to download files via BitTorrent and other methods.

The recent takedown of Megaupload is an interesting development, but it's only applicable to websites which actually host content. BitTorrent file sharing doesn't work this way, it just puts people in touch with other people so they can share directly. There's no central BitTorrent storage point to strike, unless you're prepared to attack the entire internet. So that's exactly what the copyright police are planning to do. They want to destroy the internet in order to save it, in a backroom strategy that would make Nixon proud.

Rather than shut down BitTorrent search engines or perhaps target the initial uploaders, Plan B in the copyright war is to push through draconian laws allowing the copyright police to rewire the internet. Forget targeted attacks, they're aiming to bomb the entire internet back into the Stone Age with weapons such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Protection IP Act (PIPA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). 

Under SOPA for example the US government would have the power to make websites disappear -- removing them from DNS directories, erasing them from search results, preventing them from accepting advertising and blocking them from processing online payments. After a public backlash SOPA and PIPA have been put on hold, but they're far from dead and will likely reappear although perhaps in a different guise.

All these various legal manoeuvres have the same basic goals -- to strip away people's online rights and to seize control of the internet by tearing at its very fabric. The Motion Picture Association of America and its goons would in effect become an occupying force on the internet, but they'll be fighting on foreign soil and face a determined and resourceful indigenous resistance movement. You don't need to be a history student to know how these things tend to end.

Coming back to Australia, the government's mandatory internet filtering plans aren't dead either, they've just been on the backburner while the iiNet trial played out. Now AFACT has failed in the Australian courts it's calling on the government to act. Expect the filter to be back on the table, although also perhaps in a different guise. Meanwhile a Federal government review of Australian copyright law is coming next year. Also keep an eye on the IP sections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which aims to build on the free trade agreement between Australia and the US that saw Australia inherit all the worst parts of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Even if Australian lawmakers don't succumb to powerful copyright lobby groups, it might not matter if US laws such as SOPA come into effect. If you're thinking this all sounds a bit Orwellian you're right, but that doesn't mean it can't really happen. To win this war, the copyright police are clearly prepared to attack the entire internet. They should brace themselves, because the internet is going to fight back.

48 comments so far

  • The logical conclusion to all this is that we cut the USA off from the internet.

    Commenter
    Bec
    Date and time
    April 23, 2012, 10:02AM
    • Bec, cutting off the US will kill the internet in its current form.

      Commenter
      P
      Date and time
      April 23, 2012, 12:56PM
    • It will survive, and be better off in the long run.

      Commenter
      XIII
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 6:00AM
    • "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" - John Gilmour. AFACT/MPAA don't understand that this capability is hardwired into the most fundamental elements of the Internet's technical design*. Which is why theirs is a losing battle.

      @P - it really wouldn't. It'd just mean a loss of connectivity to American websites and US-based users. The world would simply need to create a new IANA. It wouldn't be that hard.

      * (the end-to-end principle that TCP/IP embodies)

      Commenter
      kosh
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:04AM
    • actually XIII, it won't

      ppl refuse to believe, but the USA "is" the internet.. The US government control the 5 main DNS routers worldwide... close these key points down and the web is black.. not hard really... don't make uncle Sam Angry

      Commenter
      Waffles was here
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:20AM
    • Dear Waffles.

      You could hardly be more misinformed.

      There is no such thing as a "DNS router". There is such a thing as a "DNS root server" to which I presume you are referring. The US government does not control them except very indirectly since the IANA & thus ICANN is currently headquartered in the US.

      And in fact there are well over two hundred root servers, distributed all over the globe, the majority outside of the USA, and easily enough competent people involved in designing & operating them that the loss of the US would be an inconvenience but hardly a catastrophe.

      In fact one might argue that the removal of the US from Internet governance would be a huge boon to stability and sanity, given some of the more whacko policies enacted by ICANN In the last decade and some of the historical peculiarities (such as the existence of .com) due to the US origins of the system.

      Commenter
      kosh
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 1:01PM
    • @Waffles was here: Waffle is right. I don't know where you pulled that phrase "5 main DNS routers" from, but it clearly shows you have no clue what you are talking about. For those who want to educate themselves (I highly recommend you do too), go look up "Root name server" on wikipedia.

      Commenter
      Commenter2095
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 2:41PM
    • Actually Waffles, you're incorrect. DNS is a split, tiered system with the root DNS (anycast) clusters existing around the world. Yes it would be complicated to rework or change the current setup but it is by no means impossible.

      Commenter
      Deages
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 3:48PM
  • Our American controlled Puppets will dance to Americas tune - the more stubborn ones will be wined and dinned by Hollywood with money from overcharging us. Canadian Government is a lot smarter when they tell them to dance they tell them where to go.

    Commenter
    RonaldR
    Location
    Cockburn Central
    Date and time
    April 23, 2012, 11:47AM
    • Hi Adam,
      I noticed you missed your obligatory use of the made up word "wundertablet" in this piece. Surely you could have found a way to squeeze it in alongside an equally topic irrelevant brand name. Please rectify and resubmit.
      James

      Commenter
      James
      Date and time
      April 23, 2012, 12:12PM

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