In a single day of glory, January 18, a major portion of the Web went dark as a warning that we will no longer tolerate the Copyright Nazis’ infringements on our speech.
The next day, with the FBI’s takedown of MegaUpload, they showed us the law doesn’t even matter to them — that they never needed SOPA in the first place. And they really didn’t. For the past few years, the FBI has seized the domain names of alleged “intellectual property infringers” through in rem actions and civil forfeiture. SOPA was just a legal fig leaf. As Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) Media Coordinator Tom Knapp argues, regardless of whether SOPA passes, its substance will still be implemented piecemeal through executive action.
But only hours after the MegaUpload takedown, Anonymous showed us the real way to fight back against the Copyright Nazis. The good guys’ sites went dark on Wednesday; the bad guys’ sites went dark on Thursday. The websites of the US Department of Justice, FBI, MPAA, RIAA, and dozens of media companies were taken down by distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks.
The beauty of it is, this was an an impromptu action using Anonymous’ “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” attack from our grandparents’ day, all of two years ago. DDOS isn’t hacking a site; it’s the equivalent of tearing down a poster — taking a site temporarily offline by overloading it with traffic. In contrast, during the past year, Anonymous has actually infiltrated major corporate and institutional websites — like those of HBGary, Texas law enforcement, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and Stratfor — and published reams of highly embarrassing internal emails and memos. This is called a “doxing” attack. Just my guess, but I imagine we can expect something similar to happen to the MPAA, Chris Dodd, and assorted Big Content companies starting any day now.
The ultimate response, rather than trying to fight for reform within the system, is simply rendering the Copyright Nazis’ filthy laws — whatever they are — unenforceable. As C4SS board member Charles Johnson has argued, a gram of circumvention is worth a metric ton of lobbying. Let the wicked write whatever laws on paper they see fit; the righteous will break them, as Samson broke iron chains like bands of tow.
The seizure of MegaUploads’ domain name is a shot across the bow, a warning to companies who store and transfer large files through the Cloud, for entirely “legitimate” reasons (under the existing copyright monopoly), that their data is vulnerable to lawless action by the state. The Copyright Nazis’ rentacops in the FBI are only creating a powerful incentive for websites to migrate to servers in places outside the American Gestapo’s control. Iceland, an emerging free information haven, is a good candidate.
The American state’s decline into fascism is also creating powerful incentives for Internet users here behind the USA’s DRM Curtain to adopt Tor routers and circumvention tools like the Firefox DeSopa extension. The latter extension automatically routes to a site’s actual numeric IP address when the domain name is shut down. (MegaUpload is already back up and accessible at its IP address, http://126.96.36.199/, by the way).
Totalitarian regimes in China and Iran are unable to prevent their citizens from using such means to access information in the Free World. The Lords of Scarcity and their hired thugs in the American state, likewise, are unable to prevent Americans from breaching the Great Firewall and communicating freely with the Free World.
There’s also another promising avenue of attack. Just about every day or two, Mike Masnick at Techdirt mentions another example of some Copyright Nazi Congresscritter or Big Content company whose own website includes copyrighted material without permission. If SOPA passes, we need to start actively flagging all such content, calling Joe Biden’s 800 anonymous snitch number, or whatever is necessary to subject the Copyright Nazis to a costly war of attrition under their own laws. In fact, by using government coercion against us, they’ve put themselves outside the law and made themselves lawful spoils of war — why does the violation even have to be real, so long as the complaint is anonymous?
By setting itself up as the World Hegemon enforcing artificial scarcity and information lockdown, the United States will simply reduce itself and its satellites to the position of a closed, squalid, and declining society, shut off from a surrounding world of free, open, and agile networks. And in the end, it will relegate itself to the ash heap of history.