Tuesday, January 17, 2012

aprs.fi closed in U.S. on Wednesday

aprs.fi will join Wikipedia and Reddit, and protest the proposed U.S. SOPA/PROTECT-IP legislation by closing down on Wednesday. (News about Reddit blackout, and Wikipedia joining it.)

The aprs.fi outage will only affect clients in the United States (or those with IP address mapping an U.S. network operator - the targeting is not fully accurate).

Although the law is being made in the U.S., it will break the Internet on a global scale by making sites such as aprs.fi liable for links and content posted by the users of the site. Sites like aprs.fi are commonly run by individual developers or small volunteer teams. Due to the huge volume of automatically published user-generated content (50 packets per second currently!) it would be impossible for me to go through it all before publishing. If some APRS user would post links to copyright-infringing material, even when that material would reside somewhere else than aprs.fi itself, aprs.fi could be shut down in the U.S. and there would not be much that I could do about it. See how difficult it was for a falsely censored music blog to get unblocked under the current legislation.

The law claims to be targeted at pirate web sites, but it won't have any practical effect on criminal file sharing, since those networks can very easily switch to new domain names and IP addresses, or bypass the DNS altogether with modern peer-to-peer technologies. Instead, it will force web site administrators such as myself to pre-censor data (by, for example, removing user-posted links completely). In practice: no home page link shown with your APRS station on aprs.fi. This is just silly – on other sites which depend more on linking out it could ruin the whole show.

If you're an U.S. citizen, you can probably do something about this that would actually make a difference. I'm not there, so I can't (but I voted yesterday evening in Finland's presidential election!). Please read through the material on the Reddit blackout page, there are good "Learn More" and "Get Involved" sections in the end!

Data collection will be running as usual, so Wednesday's data will be available on Thursday.

Now I'm really happy that aprs.fi is aprs.fi instead of aprs.com or aprs.net. And that I'm not living in the UK. The really bad news is that similar laws are being pushed in Europe.

PS. You can get your APRS location from http://www.findu.com/cgi-bin/find.cgi?YOURCALL or DB0ANF. If a life-threatening disaster would happen in the U.S. let me know and I'll open up the site.


Geoff Johnson said...

I'm in full support of what sites are doing, but I'm curious, are you keeping the site shut down all day, or will it open back up later? I'm giving an APRS demonstration for a local radio club at 6PM EST and would love to use aprs.fi!

Hessu said...

The idea is to keep it closed for the whole day. What's the current UTC offset for EST, so what UTC range would that be?

RiverCharts.info said...

+5 for EST - I'd say a lot of people are getting the message. Too bad Facebook, Myspace doesn't close for 24hrs, that would really get the younger people upset & make a lot of people ask what is going on.

Hessu said...

I hope I got the offset calculations right. :)

Hessu said...

Geoff: How did your demonstration go? I opened up the service for about an hour for you.