Even those who were blissfully unaware of the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA, were made sit up and take notice of the bill, which, if and when passed, is most likely to frustrate the vast majority of internet users.
SOPA proposes expanding the ability of U.S. law enforcement authorities and copyright holders to offshore locations in a bid to prevent online piracy or infringing of copyrighted content, which could effectively curb internet freedom to a large extent.
Despite the widespread criticism from web giants including Google and Wikipedia, SOPA could probably pass, adversely affecting many of the high traffic Web sites. Worse still, blogs or sites hosted by web hosting providers could be affected and blocked if someone serves your Internet Service Provider (ISP) a notice alleging that you are hosting content that potentially infringes copyright.
But is there anything you could do to evade the SOPA blockade to access sites?
Here are some tips to circumvent the restrictions:
1. Using Numeric IP Address - Even if the ISP blocks a particular domain, SOPA probably cannot get the numeric IP addresses blocked, which means the site can be accessed using its IP address.
To obtain the IP address of a particular site you can open a command line window and use nslookup which will return the IP address. Mac users can use Terminal. Here is how:
RUN>CMD>type nslookup www.google.com
The window will return the IP address, in this case multiple addresses. Type that IP address into the web browser.
Alternative: You can use Web sites that return you the IP addresses by simply typing in the URL of the site in the search box. Example: yougetsignal.com. This also helps you see all the sites which are hosted on a single server, with the same IP address.
Drawback: Numeric IP addresses will not help you open a site, if it is hosted by servers hosting multiple domains, because the host is using name-based virtual hosting. The browser is most likely to send you to a default or blank page, which won't be the one you're looking for. Similar is the case with sites hosted on the clouds of Amazon, Blogger, etc.
2. Using Browser Add-On: There are some existing tools which could help you access blocked sites, and many are reportedly being built in the wake of new legislation. One such tool, as reported by Boing Boing, is Soapy.
Download Soapy>Drag soapy.xpi file into the Firefox window>Install>Restart Firefox
Tip: If you are planning to install Soapy now, it is better to disable it until the SOPA legislation starts blocking your favorite sites.
Drawback: You can't access HTTPS with the sites Soapy directs you to. Also, it doesn't direct you to sites which are not in its database. However, the database is expected to expand soon.
3. Using Tor - Tor is a volunteer system that consists of servers spread across the globe, and a downloadable software that enables access to the network. When you use the Tor software for your online communications and transactions, your IP address remains hidden. Tor software for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux can be downloaded from the EFF Web site free of cost. Download the software, run a relay and you are good to circumvent not only SOPA or any such internet censorship, but also protect your online identity. More about Tor here.