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AT&T Piracy Filters Tread Dangerous Ground
Telco in talks with NBC Universal & Disney
by Karl Bode 01:54PM Thursday Nov 08 2007
AT&T is the first ISP we've seen that wants to voluntarily put mechanisms in place that will filter pirated material from the company's network. "As AT&T has begun selling pay-television services, the company has realized that its interests are more closely aligned with Hollywood," AT&T's James Cicconi stated when the plan was first unveiled.

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No specific technology has been announced, but insiders say that AT&T has been testing a solution from Vobile since last Spring. Vobile insists their "Video DNA" technology has a "a near-zero false positive rate."

AT&T has promised that whatever technology is utilized, they'll be sure to protect subscriber privacy. Given AT&T's recent history, that's not comforting privacy advocates.

It also may not make simple business sense. Investors may not like a significant investment in a technology that -- if history is any indication -- pirates will certainly find ways around. Techdirt notes that the plans aren't legally necessary, since AT&T is protected by safe harbor provisions they helped enact.

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AT&T also risks a massive backlash from customers, given that it's no secret (unless you're in public relations, or denial) that piracy has been this industry's killer app. In addition to driving file traders to competing networks (if there are any), the filters, if implemented poorly, could accidentally block legitimate content.

Given that this could rile network neutrality advocates, marketing of the plan will be key. Business Week says the company is hard at work on how to pitch this technology to their users, with one plan being to first sell the solution as an anti-kiddie porn weapon:
AT&T is also working on a plan for marketing the approach to consumers. One possibility is to focus at first on using the technology as a way to filter illegal content, such as child pornography. "This could make it all seem a lot more innocent," says Forrester Research (FORR) analyst James McQuivey.
The website notes that AT&T is in talks with NBC Universal and Walt Disney to help prevent specific trafficking of their content. NBC, in their never ending quest to help the American farmer, has been demanding that the FCC force ISPs to implement such filters, and has even advocated pirated content filters on home networking gear.

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