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AT&T Piracy Filters: 'Corporate Seppuku'
Move could make themselves legally liable for infringement
by Karl Bode 10:42AM Thursday Jan 17 2008
Tim Wu thinks that AT&T has lost its mind for their plan to employ network filters that will identify and flag pirated material being transmitted over their network. We've commented at length about how this is a very dangerous move for the company, as investors may not like the cost, p2ps users & pirates (who are paying customers even if you don't agree with their actions) will migrate to other ISPs, and regular users won't like it if the system flags false positives. Wu calls the decision "corporate seppuku":
No one knows exactly what AT&T is proposing to build. But if the company means what it says, we're looking at the beginnings of a private police state. That may sound like hyperbole, but what else do you call a system designed to monitor millions of people's Internet consumption? That's not just Orwellian; that's Orwell.
Wu suggests that AT&T's biggest problem may be legal liability. Once AT&T starts blocking pirated traffic, they're potentially invalidating a 1998 immunity law they themselves lobbied to pass. That law currently shields them from copyright infringement, but to maintain that immunity, AT&T must transmit data "without selection of the material by the service provider" and "without modification of its content."

Of course AT&T's lawyers and lobbyists are a pretty smart, creative and well-funded bunch, so we're sure they'll find (or create) some way around being held liable.

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reply to rantou

Re: Hmmm..

said by rantou:

Find me one ISP billing software that you search an IP address and it doesn't come back with a name. Go ahead! See if you can find one. That's just the whole problem. So it's unethical then to search out who a person is by the traffic coming from their IP address?
Depends on why/what use you intend to make of that knowledge.

I never said anything about looking at URL history. I look at their traffic based solely on protocol and amount of traffic passed, which every ISP has to do these days.
However, you identified certain of your users as intellectual property pirates. If you merely meant to say some percentage of an aggregate pool of users utilizing P2P protocols fell into certain demographic groups, that is quite different from identifying specific individual users as intellectual property pirates. The latter requires you to have inspected unencrypted packets to determine content, or to have made a stupendously egregious presumption.

If you want to see an ISP that does have relational data between URL history and who you are, look at AT&T, Verizon, and the many others that sell your clickstream data.
That's what we were looking at in this thread; the unscrupulous activities of the major Telcos and Cablecos acting on behalf of out-of-control national security organizations, corporate intellectual property owners and their own desire to become the controlling portal monetizer/monitor/provider for/of all on-line content.

Sure, they're not selling the clickstream data with any kind of end user identification, but you know that they have that relational data in their systems, whether you like it or not.
What makes you so sure that they don't, or, as importantly, they won't, in conjunction with the content filtering activities on behalf of intellectual property owners (read R.I.A.A., M.P.A.A., I.F.P.I.)?

I don't even sell clickstream data, nor have systems that would ever cache that information.
For this, I applaud you!

The fact that I even know my customers is because, again, I work at a smaller provider where I do speak with my customers when they call in for technical assistance and I grab their calls, or because I even did their installations for them. I have tried to distance myself from customers by trying other methods with limited good results (bad contractors, bad language skills, etc.) and the bottom line is that if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.
I hope you are speaking of set-up, troubleshooting equipment, maintenance of network resources and customer relations, rather than of spying on your customers.

Do/would you agree that surveillance, content filtering, protocol throttling, DNS redirection, and the monitoring, collection and sale of clickstream data are inherently invasive practices detrimental to subscribers when they become the tools of aggressive, and oppressive, factional third party interests?



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Enough is enough, but it won't stop things. Since our President in league with our Corporate America, spy institutions, compliant Congress and now ISPs are on the same team there are no reasons to think that freedom on the internet is any more of a "right" than rights we lost to them in our daily lives over the past seven years. This is a VERY SERIOUS situation indeed. While the words "Orwell" and "Orwellian" have lost their potential to incite alarm, perhaps we should reinvent Mr. Ray Bradbury's model for showing us how to cope with what clearly is a growing fascism using the tools of technology in a totalitarian manner. No, I will not hide my books. No, I will not hide my opinions, thoughts and ideas. No, I will not enable these forces by censoring myself in a public venue (the internet). No, I will not be a Fahrenheit 451 person! But if the penalties for doing such make it necessary, then it IS time to "pull the plug" from the monster network or be a victim of "lockdown" - from censorship and self-censorship, from McCarthyism, from freedom-burners. All it takes is to pull the ethernet plug and turn off the wireless adapter and say goodbye to that which was once the internet but is no more. Truly, that is a choice many of us are considering, and it is very sad but real.