AT&T Asking For Trouble With Filtering Plans

from the let-me-count-the-ways dept

Businessweek reports on AT&T's bizarre plan to placate Hollywood by adding antipiracy technology to its network. This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. For starters, it's completely unnecessary; ISPs are protected from copyright liability by the DMCA's safe harbor provisions (which AT&T itself helped enact), so there's no reason AT&T needs to do anything at all other than follow the procedures specified in the DMCA. Second, the technology almost certainly won't work; the Internet is far too complex and fast-changing for any one piece of software to reliably filter out pirated content. On the other hand, filters invariably make mistakes, as we learned when Comcast accidentally blocked Lotus Notes traffic when it was trying to block peer-to-peer protocols. If AT&T starts aggressively blocking content it thinks is pirated, it will almost certainly block a lot of non-pirated content in the process, leading to angry customers and a lot more bad publicity. Finally, any move to filter Internet content will give renewed momentum to the campaign for network neutrality regulation. One of the most powerful arguments against new regulations has been that proponents' concerns were almost purely hypothetical. Between Comcast's shenanigans with BitTorrent and AT&T's anti-piracy plans, a lot of fence-sitters may decide that the danger of network discrimination is no longer so hypothetical, and that the FCC needs the power to regulate ISPs' routing policies.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Phillip, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 7:40am

    They're already just screwing with your bandwidth

    I was grabbing Fedora Core 7 again last night and my bandwidth dropped like a stone. I was only downloading at ~40kbps and any web surfing I did came to a crawl. I did a speedtest and with the download paused I'd get ~2800kbps but as soon as I started it back up even with only ~40kbps down I'd get 80kbps in the speedtest.

     

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  2.  
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    4-80-sicks, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 7:50am

    It's hilarious if anybody actually thinks this can do anything. "Video DNA?" Well, this is the best way to do it, and that will work for a few files until someone figures out how to strip that info off--in a day or so. They're looking at a hole in the dam when the tidal wave is already here. Only a fool would do more than posture on this issue in the current climate.

     

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  3.  
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    Mizchief, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 7:57am

    They are protecting thier hollywood interests

    They are doing this not to fight piracy in general, but are leveraging their market share of internet access to prevent people from sharing movies produced by the companies they have a stake in.

    This is a 2 fold benefit for AT&T they prevent people from stealing thier content, as well as cutting down on the total bandwith usage of thier ISP customers.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 8:19am

    "This is a 2 fold benefit for AT&T they prevent people from stealing thier content, as well as cutting down on the total bandwith usage of thier ISP customers."

    LOL, yeah, that'll work... :)

    Oh, and tell me when it's become possible to transmit physical objects over the interwebs - until then,it is not possible to "steal" content, only infringe on copyrights...

     

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  5.  
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    Haywood, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 8:34am

    As usual, the pirates will go deeper underground

    They won't be hard to find, it will soon be announced on the evening news; Movie monger XVR protocol sites shut down by XXia, with screen shots of the new XVR software in action.

     

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  6.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 8:36am

    duh!, all I need to do is transcode the file/image

    or simply encryption or any other of a number of simple obfuscation/translation of the file image to fool even the most intelligent software filters.

    I write software to revere flip 17-byte words.
    The software is good for encrypt as well as decrypt.
    I 17-byte swap a file image, transfer over the net with instructions and boom, past the software filters.

    The harder part would be to move the port number around to get past the network port filters. It may be that one day BitTorrent and the like will simply manage thru one port and download thru ftp=20/http=80.

     

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  7.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 8:39am

    Think about it like this...

    The internet is a highway.
    Cars/Trucks are packets.

    Government and regulation bodies and even road owners (ISPs) are trying to stop specific passengers and cargo.

    But I can move passengers and cargo from car to car and truck to truck at will.

    Anyway, why do ships carry cargo and cars carry shipments?

     

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  8.  
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    Phillip, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 9:02am

    Re: They're already just screwing with your bandwi

    damn now Fedora Core 8 is out and I'll have to start all over tonight :(
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071108-an-old-hat-with-new-tricks-fedora-8-officially-rel eased.html

     

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  9.  
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    ScaredOfTheMan, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    This is why....

    I hope google or anyone BUT a telco wins the 700 Mhz.... I would love to see ATT try this when I have a choice to switch providers.

     

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  10.  
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    Harry, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    Re: Think about it like this...

    same reason we drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 9:53am

    Welcome to the club

    AT&T joins Microsoft in trying to gain favor with Hollywood at the time when people are just starting to turn their backs on DRM, filtering, and the attendant silliness that they bring. AT&T should ask themselves if they want to do to their broadband services what Microsoft Vista has done to the Microsoft franchise.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: They're already just screwing with your ba

    Try changing the port number.

     

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  13.  
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    Kevin, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 10:20am

    Bad idea all around

    For starters, if they begin filtering traffic for Hollywood, then the music industry will want filtering for them too. Then the anti-porn lobby. Then the anti-anything else lobby. It's a slippery slope, and if you can filter for one type of traffic you can probably filter just as effectively for any other (note the "just as effectively", as filtering may not be all that effective to begin with.

    But more importantly from AT&T's standpoint, if they do start filtering traffic are they risking their common carrier status/safe harbor? Not only "might" they be asked by others to filter additional content, but wouldn't they almost have to comply to avoid getting sued?

     

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  14.  
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    Joe, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 10:50am

    Tim Lee, you should do more aritcle writeups. I enjoy reading yours.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re: They're already just screwing with you

    already did that I never used the standard port. I guess I'll have to go to I2P or tor

     

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  16.  
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    chris (profile), Nov 8th, 2007 @ 11:57am

    que darknets in 3, 2, 1

    go read the darknet paper.

    so they want piracy off the internet? IF that were possible (and believe me this is a BIG if) all the bandwidth in the world is available on the one network you CANNOT filter: meatspace.

    the concern hollywood should have is that piracy will no only go further underground, but that it will become even higher tech, or worse, lower tech.

    essentially, you have groups that swap data using cheap USB hard drives (or iPods, like in spook country) and it suddenly becomes way more expensive to track and prevent piracy.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 12:10pm

    Re:

    Thanks!

     

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  18.  
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    ehrichweiss, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 12:37pm

    Re: que darknets in 3, 2, 1

    Absolutely! Years ago when DVDRs first came out there was talk of what they were calling HDTP, hard drive transfer protocol. Basically filling up hard drives or DVDR media with files you want to trade and swap via mail, etc. It was all based on trust but several people I know traded several terabytes of data in under a couple weeks.

    If a ruler is gentle, the people are simple; if a ruler is cruel, the people are cunning.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: They're already just screwing with

    already did that I never used the standard port. I guess I'll have to go to I2P or tor
    Some ISP's are start to block those too. In fact, any encrypted traffic other than HTTPS and when P2P starts to use that they'll probably block it too.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 3:05pm

    Re: que darknets in 3, 2, 1

    essentially, you have groups that swap data using cheap USB hard drives (or iPods, like in spook country) and it suddenly becomes way more expensive to track and prevent piracy.
    I've heard that M$ is working on DRM that will keep the next version of Windows from transferring files it determines to be infringing to or from portable media.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Bad idea all around

    ...if they begin filtering traffic for Hollywood, then the music industry will want filtering for them too. Then the anti-porn lobby. Then the anti-anything else lobby.It's a slippery slope...
    That's what I expect to happen and I think AT&T is betting on it. If you can control what people see and hear then you can control what they think. If you can control what they think then you own them.

    But more importantly from AT&T's standpoint, if they do start filtering traffic are they risking their common carrier status/safe harbor?
    It is a common mistake in the US to think that ISP's have common carrier status like regulated telephone companies. They don't. That's why they need safe harbor protection (and telcos don't).

    Not only "might" they be asked by others to filter additional content, but wouldn't they almost have to comply to avoid getting sued?
    The DMCA is super good for ISP's. Not only does it give them protection from lawsuits for stuff just passing through their systems but it then still lets them go on and filter information to their little heart's content. It's authority without accountability. They get to have their cake and eat it too.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    Snoops

    This is the same AT&T that has already been caught snooping on it's telephone customers without warrants or court orders. This is just the way they operate. Why should anyone expect anything different form them?

     

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  23.  
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    chris (profile), Nov 9th, 2007 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: que darknets in 3, 2, 1

    I've heard that M$ is working on DRM that will keep the next version of Windows from transferring files it determines to be infringing to or from portable media.

    god i hope not for microsoft's sake. if they implement that, they won't be able to PAY people to use windows. the history books will all it the "DOH!" heard round the world.

     

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  24.  
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    chris (profile), Nov 9th, 2007 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They're already just screwing

    Some ISP's are start to block those too. In fact, any encrypted traffic other than HTTPS and when P2P starts to use that they'll probably block it too.

    that will never happen. https is what makes internet shopping possible. no provider in the world, even one as dumb as AT&T will block https.

     

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  25.  
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    Robert Davidson, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 9:33pm

    at&t yahoo already blocks soulseek

    you can't access it anymore if you have at&t yahoo internet.

     

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  26.  
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    some guy, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 6:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: que darknets in 3, 2, 1

    "god i hope not for microsoft's sake. if they implement that, they won't be able to PAY people to use windows. the history books will all it the "DOH!" heard round the world."

    As long as people are stupid, Microsoft will always be able to sell Windows. I wouldn't worry too much.

     

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