Another dangerous bill is winding its way through Congress, this time it's the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) by Texas representative Lamar Smith. Smith's bill would establish a system for taking down Web sites that the Justice Department "determines to be dedicated to copyright infringement."

The bill is, by nearly any sane measure, overreaching and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that the bill targets Mozilla specifically for refusing to comply with Homeland Security's ICE unit.

What's Going On

Take the wayback machine to May, and what happened is that Mozilla didn't immediately pull the MAFIAAFire Redirector plugin that redirects users to domains that have been taken down. Mozilla's response from its general counsel and vice president of business affairs, Harvey Anderson, was that Mozilla complies with valid court orders. The ICE request was not such an order.

So the SOPA bill now includes language to let the attorney general go after, in the words of the EFF, "more or less anyone who provides or offers a product or service that could be used to get around DNS blacklisting orders."

Viewed expansively, this could be a lot of providers and projects. It would almost certainly include The MAFIAAFire plugin, and Mozilla for distributing it. An extensive list of prominent engineers have signed on in opposition to the bill, including Paul Vixie (author of BIND), Jim Gettys (editor of HTTP 1.1 protocol standards)OpenDNS CEO David Ulevitch and security researcher Dan Kaminsky. (Updated to add OpenDNS CEO and proper attribution for Kaminsky.)

This is in addition to the existing SOPA provisions that the EFF says "authorizes the United Sates Attorney General to wreak havoc with the Domain Name System by ordering service providers to block U.S. citizens' ability to access domain names, which will inevitably lead to competing Internet naming infrastructures and widespread security risks."

As pointed out on OpenCongress, the bill as written allows sites to be taken down before a case is heard. It would allow the government or industry to take down a site while the case is wrangling its way through the courts. The damage to legitimate sites would be enormous, and there's little that a defendant could do if slapped with SOPA wrongly. We all know that the entertainment industry has a history of shooting first and asking questions later.

If you'd like to stand up in opposition to the bill, the EFF has a draft letter you can send to your representative.

Update: Not only is this bill dangerous, but it's apparently being pushed through without giving opposing voices much of a chance to comment on the bill. OpenCongress reports that the bill is being heard on Wednesday but the hearing is stacked in favor of those who are in favor of the bill.

OpenCongress also notes, "companies that support SOPA have been 'speaking' to Congress with their campaign contributions as well. According to an analysis by, interets that support the bill have given four times more money to members of Congress than oppose it."