Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Venn diagrams: the intersection of morons and judges

Few people know it, but the Internet as we know it, has its roots in military technology. It's predecessor was called ARPANET, which was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defense. Some of its design objectives were:
  • Providing for host-to-host "pipelining" so that multiple packets could be rerouted from source to destination at the discretion of the participating hosts, if the intermediate networks allowed it.
  • Gateway functions to allow it to forward packets appropriately. This included interpreting IP headers for routing, handling interfaces, breaking packets into smaller pieces if necessary, etc.
  • Each distinct network would have to stand on its own and no internal changes could be required to any such network to connect it to the Internet.
  • Communications would be on a best effort basis. If a packet didn't make it to the final destination, it would shortly be retransmitted from the source.
  • There would be no global control at the operations level.
During the Gulf war the US army wondered why it was so difficult to take out the Iraqi network. What were these guys using? Later they found it were just off the shelf hardware and software components, stuff any ordinary consumer could get his hands on.

A few years later politicians thought it was a good idea to unleash this military grade technology onto the world, just like they thought it was a good idea to introduce the Euro. In both cases, without thinking about the consequences. The impact of a decentralized, open architecture has become clear now - and they don't like it. And worse, they are unable to keep up.

Yes, Pandora's box is wide open and they are struggling to contain the monster. But they try and manage to make themselves ridiculous and less credible with every step of the way. You can't complain about states censoring the Internet - for different reasons, agreed - and proposing similar legislation at the same time. In the US you have SOPA, PIPA and ACTA and in the Netherlands we have judges like mr. P.H. Blok, mr. R. Kalden and mr. M.P.M. Loos.

They decided not only that IP addresses, and had be blocked by ISP's, but also gave BREIN (the Dutch equivalent of the MPAA) the authority to add any IP address they want to that list, which means that in principle they can take out any website at will without ever having to go to court again. Needless to say that these judges not only proved they are completely clueless about the nature of the Internet, but they also violated every rule in the book.

Imagine there was a bookstore selling counterfeit books, would those same judges give a plaintiff the authority to simply close up any bookstore he wants? Of course not! As a matter of fact, they gave BREIN the possibility to change the verdict of the court. Which - by the way - is in conflict with European jurisdiction. Speaking of Europe, Neelie Kroes, the grand lady who got Microsoft on its knees, commented: "Speeding is illegal too: but you don't put speedbumps on the motorway".

That the court came to this decision was no big surprise. One of the judges, P.H. Blok, is also employed (for a fee) by Wolters Kluwer, one of the largest publishing companies in the world. Why he was wasn't substituted by another judge is anybodies guess. If this isn't a conflict of interest, what is?

But we cloggies don't take such violation of our rights laying down. In the days that followed, tutorials popped up on how to install TOR and VPN networks or use proxies and anonymizers. Mirrors were created, proxies installed, by the time the "offical" site went on black there had never been so many ways to reach the Pirate Bay.

Tim Kuik, spokesman of BREIN, commented: "Smart hackers will always find ways to circumvent measures like this." So according to Tim Kuik, if you're able to click this link, you're an accomplished hacker.

What were these guys thinking? Either they knew that their measures were ineffective and consequently merely symbolic or they were completely ignorant of what the Internet is and how its community acts on threats. Either way, it is unworthy of a judge who considers himself to be an expert on the field of IT and law.

So what's next? Outlaw links to proxies and anonymizers? Outlaw access to proxies and anonymizers? Outlaw sites who offer proxies, anonymizers, TOR or VPN? Outlaw technologies like proxies, anonymizers, TOR and VPN? Outlaw writing about proxies, anonymizers, TOR and VPN? Maybe I should emigrate to North-Korea or China. As long as you leave politics alone, you can at least blog about technology!

Of course it doesn't stop there. The weakest link in the current torrent architecture are the centralized torrent repositories. However, other technologies will emerge that eradicate this flaw as well and become completely decentralized. All that is left then is deep packet inspection, a technology that ironically has recently been banned by that same juridical system.

End of story.

Update: One of the blocked IP addresses: a list of computers. The other one: the word "Yeah". This proves how little the verdict has to do with the actual content of a site. There is nothing illegal down there. It has just been taken down because they are in the IP range of the Pirate Bay. And yes, you XS4ALL and Ziggo subscribers can click too..

Update: This almost forces me to change the title of this post: it turns out that we're dealing here with blatant corruption. Read this and this (Dutch).

Update: I wondered several times why the lawyers of the ISP's didn't try to substitute the judges. Well, as a matter of fact, they did! But they were turned down, because "there just aren't enough judges". Go figure.. (Dutch).

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