The Interview is out now in theaters and streaming on YouTube (and elsewhere). There have now been a cross-section of experts in entertainment, celebrity lifestyle, foreign policy, and Internet security that have all weighed-in with their analysis and opinions on the how, the why and the ultimate impact of Sony’s hacking incident. If you want a decent synopsis, read this one.
Like everyone else, I followed the story as it trickled out publicly over the last several weeks. In the aftermath, George Clooney once again rose to ‘rogue hero’ status, but Sony’s leaked emails revealed that the Motion Picture Association of America has sunk to an unsurprisingly new low with it’s own new angle of attack on the Internet — and the security industry needs to be on high alert.
While we can debate the ethics of disclosing leaked emails, The Verge made the call to report on a series of messages between the MPAA and six Hollywood studios. Attempting to use the Internet’s infrastructure (and DNS in particular) and loopholes in digital law, these emails uncovered a new coordinated effort by Hollywood to brute-force its anti-piracy agenda on the technology industry and all US-based Internet users. In an article explaining its editorial decision, Emily Yoshida, The Verge entertainment editor, commented, “We decided that it was important for you to know how the MPAA plans to influence how you experience the internet, and by extension, how they intend to shape the future of the information marketplace; we could all agree that it had more impact on our world and our lives than top-secret internal intelligence that Scott Rudin is a meanie.”
Based on the leaked information, it appears that SOPA (the proposed legislation OpenDNS helped defeat) was just the beginning. For network security companies and ISPs, statements made by the MPAA’s general counsel Steven Fabrizio make it clear the fabric of the Internet is a key target in its strategy to fight copyright piracy. No longer able to bend Congress to their antiquated perspectives, they intend to bully ISPs and network vendors. In one email, Fabrizio said, “We start from the premise that site blocking is a means to an end.” Another message reads, “We have been exploring theories under the All Writs Act, which, unlike DMCA 512(j), would allow us to obtain court orders requiring site blocking without first having to sue and prove the target ISPs are liable for copyright infringement.”
While it’s incredible that a lawyer like Fabrizio would be so bold (and foolish) to use such language in discoverable emails, what he is proposing is even more incredible. A deliberate attempt to circumvent the DMCA. Ironic, right?
At a more technical level, one of the options the MPAA suggests in its quest is DNS blocking, an approach the technology industry has fought hard to show is a bad idea. In fact, back in 2012, the MPAA officially declared DNS filtering as off-the-table.
For the exact same reasons the technology industry rallied against SOPA, we cannot let the MPAA abuse DNS services as their anti-piracy hammer. DNS is a fundamental protocol of the Internet — as fundamental as the physical wiring itself. It is not in any way conducive to an environment that fosters piracy any more than oxygen is. The mere idea that DNS services induce cases of copyright infringement is a nonsensical technical argument. Fortunately, the Verge, Ars Technica and other sites and blogs sounded the warning call and several freedom of speech proponents and technology organizations have kicked off responses to the MPAA and state government officials enlisted by the association. You can bet that we will continue to drive this brain-dead idea back where it belongs… on the set of a show like The Walking Dead.
Copyright infringement is an important issue. Rather than trying to segment and cut off the Internet, the MPAA should be finding ways to reduce piracy by enabling access to content via methods that reward creators. As an industry we’ve already proven we won’t back down to threats of draconian measures. While I’d rather focus our energy and talents on delivering a safer and more secure Internet, we won’t hesitate to put that mission on hold to preserve a free and open Internet first and foremost.