Should the Internet be controlled by the government? Or can former backers of The Pirate Bay circumvent law enforcement efforts to sheriff the Net and instead come up with an open and secure P2P DNS alternative system?
After DHS and the U.S. Department of Justice seized 82 domain names during “Operation In Our Sites II” and shut down those websites that the government said were selling and distributing counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works, the EFF called the government actions a “glimpse at the Draconian future of copyright enforcement.” If Congress passes Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), then its “nuclear-option” design will allow the government to blacklist entire sites out of the domain name system. EFF states that this would be “a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech.” Is this really the best use of DHS resources? Another good point the EFF makes is that the seized sites were back up and running at other domain names within a few hours.
While some people cheer the government domain seizures, others call the government taking over ICANN, “a direct attack against vital Internet infrastructure.” In fact, some people go so far as to say ICANN is dead. According We Rebuild DNS Wiki page, “We cannot longer [sic] trust there to be one synchronized perfect root for DNS. This has been the standard which we’ve gotten ourselves used to since the dawn of the world wide web but has now been made only a dream by politicians. We can however make the best out of the DNS system, bringing back the power over Internet infrastructure to the Internet itself.”
The condensed version for anyone not versed in DNS…
The DNS system converts domain names to IP addresses. Every machine connected to the internet has a unique number; its IP address, that allows your browser to get web pages, send email etc to it. However, people are really bad at remembering long numbers so the DNS system was invented so that people could assign a name to an IP address and remember that name instead e.g. google.com -> 18.104.22.168
The DNS system is a huge distributed database that contains every domain name and how it converts to an IP. The most important aspect of the DNS system in regards to all this is that the system is hierarchical. That is that your browser, when presented with a new domain name, must start somewhere to work out what IP that domain converts to. That somewhere is in the root servers.
The root servers are the most basic level of the DNS system that must be consulted to convert the domain to a IP. The domain must exist in the root servers in order to work on the internet. There are 8 root servers, A through M. However, they all mirror the information held in server A. The machine at a.root-servers.net is THE root server for the internet. Your domain *has* to exist in that machine in order for it to work normally on the internet.
The root server is controlled by ICANN which is an organisation that is a part the US government. What has got everyone so upset is that the ICANN has removed some domains from the root server at the request of another part of the US government. If they are not in the root then they are not on the internet. Because the root server is controlled by the US government then they can do this for any domain they feel like. *Any* domain they want. If the US gov decide they don’t like china today they can drop all the .cn domains. Naturally, this issue has been brought up before by lots countries that are not happy about all this control being in a US governmental body but ICANN has always promised that it won’t do anything bad.
The new p2p system being proposed is a new root server that is not controlled by anyone. No government can force the removal of a domain as no one has control of it. It will certainly have other issues but having your site approved by the US government for it’s continued existence will not be one of them.
ICANN is supposed to manage IPv4 and IPv6 Internet Protocol address spaces, DNS root zone (root nameservers), with primary principles to help preserve “operational stability of the Internet” and to “promote competition,” states Wikipedia.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced, “By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain. Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton said, “The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers.” Morton added that it’s a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations.
Peter Sunde, formerly of The Pirate Bay, is certainly not the only person who has lost a domain and his trust in ICANN, but he did something about it. Sunde tweeted, “Hello all #isp of the world. We’re going to add a new competing root-server since we’re tired of #ICANN. Please contact me to help.”
In a couple days, an alternate DNS blog was born. P2P DNS states, “A small tweet turned into a lot of interest. We haven’t organized yet, but trying to. The background for this project is that we want the internet to be uncensored! Having a centralized system that controls our information flow is not acceptable. By using existing technology for de-centralization together with already having a crew with skilled programmers, communicators and network specialists, an alternative system is not far away. We’re not going to re-invent the wheel, we’re going to build on existing technology as much as possible.”
The Dot-P2P project is not filesharing, but peer-to-peer exchanged DNS data which is both open and secure. According to Dot-P2P goals, “By creating a .p2p TLD that is totally decentralized and that does not rely on ICANN or any ISP’s DNS service, and by having this application mimic force-encrypted BitTorrent traffic, there will be a way to start combating DNS level based censoring like the new US proposals as well as those systems in use in countries around the world including China and Iran amongst others.”
AlterNIC tried and failed to be an alternate DNS root. Some people applauded the effort while others branded it as harmful. Will Dot-P2P gain support? If interested in a P2P DNS, you can also read more at DNS-P2P Brainstorm or the IRC channel that EZTV tweeted. You can say or feel what you want about The Pirate Bay, but many people loved it. There is a good chance many will support a BitTorrent-based DNS after the U.S. governments’ latest domain seizures.