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A preview of SOPA: Web shut down before my eyes

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Sysadmin blog On Saturday, 7 January, a Canadian DNS host named EasyDNS winked out of existence. This was a preview of what SOPA promises to be like.

Suffering from a massive DDoS, all DNS services provided by EasyDNS simply ceased to function. Metacritic and DSL Reports are two examples of sites that affected me directly.

Random but important elements of my virtual world - including all my personal and client domains - were shut down entirely without notice. EasyDNS babied me through by providing stellar customer support throughout, and a few hours later life was back to normal.

While frustrating, the DDoS incident is something that your average systems administrator or internet punter can understand. Bad people attacked many of the places on the internet that mattered to me. Criminals. Hoodlums. Evildoers.

Yet as you read this, the United States Congress is pondering bills like SOPA and PIPA. Here are two bills, either of which would give businesses in the US the right to do exactly this - and worse - to those same sites we love. Without the requirement of pesky things like due process.

The topic is divisive, with some placing ultimate blame for the perceived necessity of these bills on Big Tech's refusal to grow up, and others on Big Content's inability to adapt. Even in the face of studies showing there are superior alternatives for everyone.

The mainstream press has largely remained mum on the subject. To contrast, the nerdosphere is livid.

While those backing the bill have agreed to take the DNS provisions off the table for this round of legislation, they won't stay that way for long. When combined with America's questionable approach to privacy issues, the US risks losing its leadership position as the place to do business online.

It hasn't gone unnoticed. While discussing the DDoS outage, Mark Jeftovic, CEO of EasyDNS. noted that he had begun to see an influx of customers - some of them quite large accounts - choosing EasyDNS specifically because they weren't American. He said: "What the Americans are going to end up doing to themselves is really hamstring the ability of their own industries to compete. It is American businesses and American net users who will get the short end of the stick."

As nice as the fringe benefits are for EasyDNS, Jeftovic has concerns over how SOPA, PIPA or their eventual inevitable successors will be implemented. EasyDNS has assets located within the US. Will the company - which is Canadian - be forced to stop resolving certain domains for American IPs only? Would it face economic strangulation by having access to American payment processors cut off if it has the "wrong" customers?

While the implications of these bills trouble Jeftovic more than an easily understood incident like the DDoS-caused outage, but he remains optimistic. The steady increase in businesses choosing "not hosted in America" is a good earner. A non-American major credit card company does indeed exist and is expanding its presence worldwide. If it needs to, the internet - and online businesses - can survive without the US.

Should SOPA/PIPA or descendant bills pass, the internet is going to do what the internet does best: treat this new form of censorship as damage and route around it. ®

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