AT&T Decides To Start Throwing Money Away By Attempting To Filter Copyrighted Content
from the good-luck-with-that dept
AT&T says that now that it’s in the cable TV business, its interests are “more closely aligned with Hollywood”, and as such, it plans to begin filtering traffic for copyrighted material that’s being illegally shared. The inanity of the move is obvious, mostly because these sorts of things never work, but also because it’s not particularly clear why the company would want to do something that will do little more than annoy its customers. The problem isn’t so much that it will stop piracy, but that it will create all sorts of false positives and block all kinds of non-infringing uses. For instance, CBS now makes its copyrighted content available from a wide range of sites other than its own. To a system looking for copyrighted content, will legitimate traffic from Joost or AOL look any different than infringing streams from other sites? How will it know which YouTube videos have been authorized by their owners, and which are “illegal”? The likely answer is that it won’t — and if AT&T’s in bed with the MPAA and RIAA, it won’t likely care, either, since they continually try to undermine fair use.
Furthermore, it’s worth wondering, what’s the business case here? Did AT&T’s new friends in Hollywood threaten it with a lawsuit, or promise it a better price on content? There must be some reason that the company would decide to go to the trouble and expense of implementing some fingerprinting and filtering system, then throwing more money at it in a futile attempt to make it work, pissing off their paying customers all the while. Whatever the motivation, the company’s opening up a giant can of worms with significant legal and privacy implications. Perhaps if nothing else, this illustrates the point that pro-net neutrality groups don’t need to make things up about AT&T and its executives; they do plenty of egregious things on their own. It also underlines that the issue of net neutrality is one of competition. If there was real competition in the broadband market, AT&T could never get away with a move like this, as it’s basically a reason for customers to change providers. But given the lack of a truly competitive market, it can, and it will.