Why AT&T's Plans To Filter The Internet Will Only Do More Harm To AT&T (And Everyone Else)

from the not-a-good-idea dept

AT&T announced last summer that it was going to start filtering traffic for copyrighted content — so we’re still not entirely sure why many in the press seem to think it was something new when discussed at CES a few weeks ago. However, this new burst of attention has many more people pointing out all the reasons this is bad for AT&T itself. As we said, this seems to make no sense at all, unless it’s some bizarre attempt to come up with an excuse to get rid of net neutrality. In that post, we noted that any filtering would likely open up additional liabilities for AT&T, potentially losing its safe harbors from being a service provider (safe harbors that AT&T itself spent a lot of effort lobbying to have put into the law). Tim Wu has a lot more detail on that aspect of this plan (which he calls “corporate seppuku”). However, there are many other problems for AT&T as well. For example, it won’t take long for someone to accuse AT&T of violating wiretap laws, a charge which may be accurate. But the biggest point is that this won’t even do what they hope it will do. It won’t stop unauthorized transfers from happening and it won’t reduce network traffic. As we’ve discussed in the past, every move to do this kind of filtering will only drive up the market for encryption technologies, and that encryption actually adds more overhead to internet traffic. The PC World article linked above notes that 20% of all bittorrent traffic is encrypted, and if that number goes up, as it will under a filtering regime, the network load will only increase. So, if AT&T actually thinks (as it sometimes claims) that filtering will decrease the burden on the network, it’s likely very mistaken.

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Comments on “Why AT&T's Plans To Filter The Internet Will Only Do More Harm To AT&T (And Everyone Else)”

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Anonymous Coward says:

First of all, nearly everything on the internet or transferred over it is copyrighted. This message I am writing here is copyrighted the instant I type it. That’s how content is. So, presuming that what they mean is the transfer of copyrighted content which doesn’t belong to the person transferring it, how will they know I don’t have a right to the content? How will they know I’m not downloading something that is public domain? Perhaps their solution to all this will be whitelists. Downloading content from itunes and vongo will be acceptable, but downloading content from some kid’s website where he made an indie movie with his college buddies for free distribution will not be… because it’s not part of the subscribed whitelist.

I hope people flee from AT&T over this bullshit. They have no right to do this yet still claim they aren’t responsible for other things done on their network because they’re “just a carrier”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps their solution to all this will be whitelists.

I suspect that’s what they’re going for. It would also fit in with their desire for a walled garden that would let them charge Google and others to get on the white list. I can just see the ads now: “Our base internet package provides access to over 100 websites for only $19.99/mo! Or move up to our Internet-Pro package and get access to 500 websites for only $39.99/mo! Or get Internet Ultra and a whole 1000 websites for $49.99/mo! Wow, that’s a lot of Internets!”.

Yeah, I can hardly wait.

I hope people flee from AT&T over this bullshit.

Where are they going to go? To a different country? A lot of people don’t have any other choice due to the monopoly the local phone company has in a lot of places.

Liquid says:

Re: Re: Anonymous Coward

Just as I have stated in previous posts on other topics about this AT&T deal.

Thank you capitalism…

Ohh and don’t forget for slogan you would hear for all the people that wanted to visit porn sites… what kinda packages would you see for an ADDITIONAL FEE on top of those packages…

Personally I don’t think that will happen especially at their end… they would charge big bucks to the ISP’s for the connections both up and down the pipes, and then you would see the package deals at your local ISP’s… I doubt anyone would deal with that crap since we already have to deal with it with our cable, telephone phone, satalite, etc… I would have to feel that at some point someone would look at it and go this feels wrong… Time to go to the government and see if they are breaking any laws… Ehh what do I know what other people besides myself are willing to put up with when it comes for me to be able to enjoy the internet for what ever reason be it Video Games, Surfing to my favorite sites, or just looking for weird crap…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Anonymous Coward

@ Liquid “Thank you capitalism” – What does capitalism have to do with this situation?

I don’t speak for Liquid, but…
Under pure capitalism everything is money driven, everything (including legislation) has a price, and profit is the only morality. This makes it possible for the wealthy to buy laws and abuse those with less. In this case, AT&T has laws that eliminate local competition (among other things) and it then uses that lack of competition to do things that it otherwise could not get away with in a free market.

On the other hand, capitalism seems to be the only economic system yet devised that operates efficiently. But it needs to be watched and controlled so that it doesn’t run amok. Otherwise it can lead to free market destroying monopolies.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright Ownership

Occasionally Anonymous Coward is correct. Everyone who posts here is a content creator and is entitled to copyright “ownership”.

On to a new point. Unfortunately, the copyright debate and filtering overlooks significant policy issues that I hope can be focused on.

First, those advocating filtering have not disclosed how their magical filter will know if the content is protected by copyright. What is to stop someone from slapping on a copyright flag for Adam Smith’s “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”? This book was published in 1776 and is in the public domain.

Second, suppose an “illegal” copyright flag is used, how do those advocating filtering propose to have this situation corrected?

For the sake of argument, lets assume that “filtering” can be deployed to protect content that has a legitimate copyright. To assure that the rule of law works, those who abuse the copyright flag should be severely fined. If you can fine college students for unauthorized downloads, then content providers should also be fined for abusing copyright. Fair is fair.

Back to reality. “Filtering” is an abomination.

Wolferz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is kind of hard to flee from a company that owns vast stretches of the actual infrastructure that mucks up the internet backbone in the US. Even if you and all your providers don’t use AT&T the odds are that some of the websites you visit are only reachable from you’re ISP by traveling across AT&T’s backbone to get to their ISP. Same for the other companys such as Sprint, MCI, and Verizon.

M says:

Re: Encrypted traffic

It is not true to say that encryption makes little difference….encryption adds a LOT of overhead to bandwidth needs.

For example, let’s say a 100MB file takes 15 minutes to transfer from point A to point B over the Internet without any encryption.

When you add encryption, you are coding that traffic and adding additional overhead (usually about 20%) so the traffic can be decrypted at the other end. A prime example of this is IPSec encryption, which most corporations use to enable employees to have remote VPN access to the corporate network from their home DSL or Cable Internet server.

So with encryption, that same 100MB file will take at least 20% longer to transfer from point A to point B across the Internet, or in this case, it will take about 18 minutes instead of 15 minutes.

Now add 20% to millions of users…. you’ve just created a network that is undersized with worse response time than when you started.

I think the whitelist idea is a huge part of what AT&T is thinking, with extra fees to be part of that whitelist. Thus, the creation of a prioritized traffic-based Internet with neutrality thrown out the window.

Frankly, it’s incredibly risky, because AT&T is one of the few tier 1 ISP backbone carriers in the U.S., and they are using that unique position as leverage to control the Internet and find new revenue streams, leaving all the tier 2 and tier 3 ISP’s completely unable to control what’s happening across the tier 1 ISP backbone network.

It is also incredibly arrogant of AT&T to attempt to distinguish “licensed” traffic from “unlicensed” traffic. At the end of the day, they will fail and will spend millions of dollars doing it, further devaluing their stock.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Encrypted traffic

When you add encryption, you are coding that traffic and adding additional overhead (usually about 20%) so the traffic can be decrypted at the other end.

That’s nowhere near the overhead I’ve seen. With IPSec, ESP takes about 50 bytes. With 1500 byte packets, the overhead then is (50/1500)(100%)=3.3%. Some other types of encryption can take even less. Now I notice you didn’t provide any calculations, so unless and until you do I’m calling bullshit.

M says:

Re: Re: Re: Encrypted traffic

IPSec overhead can range anywhere from 3% to 62%. It depends on the nature of the traffic being sent (in terms of how it is packetized) and the bandwidth of the pipe the traffic is traversing.

For low bandwidth connections, IPSec overhead is much worse than high bandwidth connections.

For VoIP traffic, IPSec is especially hurtful because of the small packet sizes and the overhead that gets added is more severe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Encrypted traffic

IPSec overhead can range anywhere from 3% to 62%.

I notice you’re still not providing any calculations but just pulling numbers out of your ass.

It depends on the nature of the traffic being sent (in terms of how it is packetized) and the bandwidth of the pipe the traffic is traversing.

If you try hard enough, it’s possible to construct a single byte payload packet with overhead in the range of (50/1)(100%)=5000%. So what? That doesn’t mean IPSec has an overhead of 5000% and using that kind of argument is dishonest.

For low bandwidth connections, IPSec overhead is much worse than high bandwidth connections.

No wonder you haven’t been providing any calculations: You don’t know what you’re talking about. IPSec overhead does not vary with transmission speed but rather packet size.

Anonymous Coward says:

I imagine there will come a time where we need to ask ourselves, “Is the threat as big as it costs to maintain…”

In this, it’s easy to assume that China or India will come up with some sort of solution for their entire population, because content owners can’t make deals.

Naturally, the US Government will have to get involved, and negotiate a cross-licensing agreement of some sort with all IP owners.

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but overall, this is a dumb strategy.

AT&T needs to focus on building a network. Isn’t that their core competency?

Iron Chef says:

Re: Re:

So it’s okay that content owners can’t (read: won’t) negotiate licensing agreements?

I have to agree with the Coward on this one. Seems like an untapped revenue stream for the content provider.

Why outsource the business problem to AT&T? It seems like trying to kill a fly with a jackhammer.


sterlingsilver says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s go futher: that is thought for everyone: outsource all filtering to India or China: cheaper and they may have more common sence. Cencure is centure does not matter what one calls it. It starts with innocuous small step, and than continue to grow. Eventually we will have cabinet member and new buracracy, if allowed to proceed in that direction. It all started, in my humble perception from making life easier for parents of the children. I have 2, so I know. A little effort from parents would of not started us on that slippery slope. Next we burn software(since nobody reads books:ha,ha. Copyright software is already on commercial market, recording time of creation, so what do I need someone with High school education review my scientific reseach? or novel, poetry and what if religious bias gets involved: after all we are CHRISTIAN nation, rest of people just allowed in by their benevolence. ETC

Benjamin says:


As we’ve discussed in the past, every move to do this kind of filtering will only drive up the market for encryption technologies, and that encryption actually adds more overhead to internet traffic.

While encryption adds some traffic overhead, it’s usually minimal compared to the processing overhead. So considering the processing overhead, there may be a carbon issue here as well. But that may all be a moot point as AT&T could just ban encrypted traffic except to certain white listed sites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Overhead

“But that may all be a moot point as AT&T could just ban encrypted traffic except to certain white listed sites.”

Oh yeah, that’ll go over REAL well. Imagine all the encrypted VPN connections for businesses going offline, not to mention any website using SSL for secure transations. AT&T would really be in hot water then. No, that’s never gonna happen, period.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Overhead

Oh yeah, that’ll go over REAL well. Imagine all the encrypted VPN connections for businesses going offline, not to mention any website using SSL for secure transations.

They’ll just have to pay AT&T to get white listed or join an AT&T “business partner plan” or some such thing.

AT&T would really be in hot water then.

With who? Somehow, I don’t think they’re worried about threats from you.

Iron Chef says:

Bad NBC!

I’ve come to realize that people at NBC don’t like me either. Everytime I post something on here, I get “Wanna be a part of our Survey” email from them.

So did you see how Gene Simmons was kicked off of Celebrity Apprentice last week? I really liked Trump and Cramer. But it really dissappoints me. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to remove NBC/CNBC/MSNBC from my Tivo. I reccomend you do the same.

It’s not on iTunes so you can’t get that episode, but it’s very telling of how Big Content works.

I’ve moved on, and still waiting for the Writer’s Strike to end…

Gutless Wonder says:

Communist internet is better

Stealing is wrong. Wiretaps is wrong. Is Sneaking into a movie theater to see a movie like downloading it on the net?
No, if you sneak into a movie theater you get the full experience. The Big Media Companies and AT T, I think have joined forces under the table. What will happen is that AT T will have enough money to install filtering devices. Then all the Media companies are going to sue the heck out of the mom and pop ISP’s. You know the ISP’s that try to give you better speed and better value. Why or how can this happen?
Maybe its because its more easy to wiretap all of you, if they have less communication companies.
Everyone pays money to have a analog phone ring. people everyday pay a service like vontage… and they get taxed by the fcc. Everyone could have just used free ip phone.. free source code. No money.. just internet. Oh well. Guess we all need to pay big brother to listen in.
have fun.

Tom Greenhaw says:

I backup my files from my work computer to my home computer. I use AT&T at home.

If I understand this correctly, copyrighted files that I’ve purchased, whose license allows copy for backup purposes will be blocked by AT&T. No reasonable person would agree that this is acceptable.

Additionally, how will iTunes or Amazon sell copyrighted files if they can’t transfer it to me.

For the life of me I can’t understand how they could do this without making their service of no value to its customers.

If all they are doing is blocking ports or protocols suspected of abuse, it is a false sense of security. It would be easy to use http or ftp to send the data in a way that could not be blocked without redering the service useless.

This rhetoric is more likey an exercize to cloak AT&T with a shield from accusations that it is complicit to copyright violation. A legal clarification should be made to protect the ISPs from abuse of the network by criminal customers. I don’t think its appropriate or fair to expect the ISPs to police the content flowing over their network beyond what is expected by contract or law.

Examples of content that is unlawful would be spam and child pornography. Instead of wiretapping all content, it seems logical that wiretaps of traffic be made in response to complaints. These laws should be enforced and it seems a relatively trivial matter to deal with this type of criminal activity throgh existing channels.

Unfortunately, all complains I’ve made in reporting this type of abuse is ignored. There appears to be little budget to police true criminal activity on the Internet. To me this is a much bigger issue that should be adressed.

The protection of copyrighted material being transferred over the internet is the responsibility of the entertainment industry. They have every right to develop technology that is convenient to legitimate use without promoting flagrant distribution of their work. It is not the responsibility of the ISP to enforce this on behalf of copyright holders.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No reasonable person would agree that this is acceptable.

You don’t have to agree. It’s not your network.

Additionally, how will iTunes or Amazon sell copyrighted files if they can’t transfer it to me.

They’ll pay At&T to be while listed.

Examples of content that is unlawful would be spam and child pornography. Instead of wiretapping all content, it seems logical that wiretaps of traffic be made in response to complaints. These laws should be enforced and it seems a relatively trivial matter to deal with this type of criminal activity throgh existing channels.

Well, you just never know where something objectionable might show up. That would require filtering everything. AT&T is on your side.

Unfortunately, all complains I’ve made in reporting this type of abuse is ignored. There appears to be little budget to police true criminal activity on the Internet. To me this is a much bigger issue that should be adressed.

AT&T has heard you. AT&T is on your side.

the_dukeman (profile) says:

AT&T monopoly still exists

In my city AT&T has protected telco service areas. So even though I have options on choosing my ISP, they still have to use AT&T’s equipment, so AT&T has the ability to control what happens over that equipment. The monopoly is still there. Verizon refuses to provide internet services in AT&T areas. I was told by a Verizon tech that this is because they don’t want AT&T tampering with their equipment (again). The cable companies enjoy the same monopolistic protections here.

sterlingsilver says:

Re: AT&T monopoly still exists

Geographical monopoly not limited. In WI,Miwaukee you can’t move without involving Time_Warner from cable or SBC from basic phone connection and guess who controls equipment etc ? You might be surprised but on front lines fighting all this are university libraries. Education :formal or informal goes long way. I bet driving force behind AT-T is $. Not humanitarian causes.
I think this idea will go through few transmutations, before its a reality and money will be driving force, or some politician will make name for himself on it. Its not global worming , its Internet freezedown.

SJT says:

AT&T Give up all hope and despair

As an intellectual property attorney, I am certainly sympathetic to the desire to protect copyrighted materials. However, here’s the problem: the barbarians not only have stormed the gates, they built the gates — there is no hope of ever protecting copyrighted material from being disseminated over the internet. The only hope will be the demise of the current copyright system or some sort of enlightened value-added approach to selling content. Perhaps one day you will be able to sleep with a rock star if you buy their record. Oh,wait, that was the sixties.

jmd says:

Safe Harbor

So, AT&T helped to get the safe harbor law passed? Who is to say that they can’t get another law passed where they’re exempt from liabilities if their intent is to filter for copyrighted work? Big Corps can get their own laws- get AT&T and RIAA lobbying for a law change, and things may change.
Look at what’s potentially happening at Universities where the RIAA and potential laws are trying to corner them into filtering.

Sham says:

"Don't Tase me bro!"

If the internet gets filtered, you can bet your ass its not just about revenue.
This will effectively give control of the freedom (of information, speech, thought, religion, ..etc) that we got so used to and that became such an integral part of shaping this new millennium in such a short time, over to the same people that controlled the Media before the internet came along!

You can complain about how much you miss downloading Movies, Music, Applications, porn, whatever, but in the end the real shame will be how they were able to pull the only last truly real venue for free speech right from under our noses.

And no other time do we see that more relevant than this Election year, where the free flow of information over the internet is what seems to be driving the race (so is the war in Iraq, which is easily viewed online in the form of hundreds of amateur and professional videos), and is causing a record number of younger people participating in the polls.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want big brother filtering what they think I should or should not read. The internet should ALWAYS remain free.

Filtering is simply the first step.

sterlingsilver says:

I always thought, that if I have nothing to hide, who may hurt me. BOY! was I wrong. Bring this topic to your other discussion groups. More people aware, the better.
I have a lot of problems just operating my computer, AT-T how about working on spyware and leave “FREEDOM OF SPEECH” alone. There are enough nuts trying to do and place limitations as it is. USA suppose to be bastion of freedom, not benevolent dictatorship. As it is instead of “LEADERS” we are trying to elect people who are best of following gray uneducated masses. Leaders suppose to lead, and be better than average berr guzzling, footballstaring JOEBLOW. And that are people who vote, and politicians follow those polls. No wander just a few get exited, that privacy gone even from bedroom. Internet to the rescue. Spread the word and read small print, where freedom being chipped away, small piece at the time. Look at HEppa laws, but than you need days of work and at least some brains, and we have people who talk on $400 phone and never learned to read. So educate others in discussion groups, what else regular person may do? Soon it will be filtered out. !(*$ come and gone. Orwell Clock work orange is a reality. Use tools IT gave us and manage knoledge. I am glad someone else noticed erosion of privacy, that starts innocuosly, like copyriht. There are laws on the books on copyright, why do we need filtering of all content? Conspiracy theory: you whant to bet who are going blamed for it? Hate is free, freedom of internet requires work and fire in your chest. Don’t give up, keep steering muddy waters. {Now dorr opens and people with black suits take me away}

Iron Chef says:

Thinking ahead. Rambling here...

Hmm. So I imagine that ATT would have to maintain an electronic catalog of all copyrigthed works, owners, royalties, etc. This may not be that bad of an idea, because content providers would have a means to identify art.

All will be good in Content Land until an artist decides to sue for improper use of art. Think of the legal prescedent as “Prnce Vs. Mom 2.0”. This would set new legal prescident, maybe it would go as high as The Supreme Court. Fair Use would be challenged, and the industry would be forced to create a business-friendly method for licensing for creation of derivative works using the monitoring technology and catalog system they wanted.

The output of this is a quite profitable business process outside of the legal process for those with sizable IP portfolios.

Does this business model create new content? Absolutely, but it’s user-generated, outside of The Industry, where people can share with friends and family, and pay 5-cents per play to ASCAP, George Lucas etc.

In the long term, I find it difficult to see how anyone outside Google/YouTube wins in ten years. Sure, content owners may claim victory in the short term, but the key is capturing that User Generated Content, like YouTube.

(If your wondering about the reference to Lucas, have you seen Chad Vader series on YouTube?)

Michael Evans (profile) says:

Might be repeating some stuff, but I’m short on time right now and want to make sure these points are addressed.

1) Encryption is a benefit to anyone wanting to keep private things private, or control distribution of their information. It will be central to business models, private communication, and anyone trying to break the law to any degree… and you won’t be able to tell who is doing what. You can’t force people to hand over their freedom by making them use a vulnerable algo, and processing for that on the fly would cause insane lag anyway.

2) When you make the types of content transfered transfer at different rates, without being fair or transparent about it, the easiest solution will be to encapsulate/tunnel the content. Any redundancy or headers already there will then be repeated or even increased in the outer wrapper.

3) Get a business model that works.

My ideal system would look something like this for billing.

* Account Fee: $5 per year
* Network Action Hotline: Free (Automated front end, you dial in the account number, it tells you what they think the status of the network is for you (up, down, area outage, etc) and if you disagree you can dial in details and checkoff a simple troubleshooting list over the phone. If at that list you don’t mind being called back by a technician for additional questions you can leave them a callback number.)
* Network Support Hotline: $5 flat rate to do the above with a human. (If they can’t help you isolate the problem in 30 min, they deserve to eat it.)
* Data Transfer: Billed by mega-bit (or byte, multiply cost by $ per second rate guarantee… )
* Data Pipe Class: (Depends on the hardware, flat rate lease per month…)
* Service Level: Various types of response packages, redundancy options (basically discount extra-links), and insurance against downtime.

…which means you’re leasing that much of a pipe, dedicated 24/7. Rate structure something like BulkRate*(1+1/(Weight^((Speed-X)/(Y-X)))) , where Speed is the constant BPS, X is the speed where rate is 2x, Y is the speed where rate is close to 1, and Weight is how bent the slope is (If the Weight is too high relative to the difference in 2x and ~1x rates, then odd distortions in pricing occur.)


Nick (user link) says:

Somethings are just so silly...

The problem is that they open themselves up to legal suit from anyone who has had their copyrighted material shared through AT&Ts system.

For instance, you find the person who shared your latest book, you get them charged with the piracy, and then you can sue not only the person who did it, but the carrier who allowed it to happen.

Not a smart business move, and it would not take long for some bright spark to come up with a way of getting around the AT&T proposed system. (how many people would switch suppliers or just go without if AT&T go ahead with this).

Rekrul says:

Assuming AT&T doesn’t come to its senses and drop this plan (ok, you can all stop laughing now), here’s how this will play out;

They will spend millions to develope and deploy hardware that will inspect and filter packets based on digital signatures provided to them by RIAA/MPAA. When they turn it on, users will start seeing mysterious failures when they try to download copyrighted material. (I’m aware that not everything copyrighted is illegal to download, I just want to avoid writing “works whose copyrights are held by large corporations” each and every time, ok?)

They will complain to their ISP who will claim that there is nothing wrong, that the problem must elsewhere, etc. They will then go to various forums on the net looking for someone who can actually help. Rumors and speculation will run rampant for a while. Sites such as this one will pick up the story and finally some experts will conduct detailed tests to see what’s happening, just as with Comcast and Bittorrent.

When the news officially breaks that AT&T is indeed filtering packets passing through their network, people will start trying to come up with ways around it. The simplest method will be to compress files with an archiver like Zip or Rar, thereby changing them enough to avoid detection. RIAA/MPAA will provide updated signatures that include the compressed versions. People will then re-compress them using a different program, or a different compression level. RIAA/MPAA will counter this by providing even more signatures. In the end, the filtering machanism will be scanning for dozens of different signatures per file, degrading network performance.

When it becomes clear that the content comapanies will just keep updating the signatures to cover every possible variation of a file, the authors of the P2P clients will add public-key encryption. If not the original authors, someone will make a “mod” that does it. People will begin using encryption. At first, only a few people will use it, but over time, it will become standard so that all P2P traffic is encrypted.

End result: Millions spent, network performance degraded, customers angered, company opened to legal liabilities, piracy thriving as much as before.

How is such filtering even supposed to work?

There are thousands if not millions of copyrighted works floating around the net. Every encode of a particular work will have a slightly different signature. Not to mention archived files, encrypted files (versus encryption provided by the client) and so on. Each packet would have to be tested against potentially millions of signatures. Not to mention that to get the signatures for “ripped” copies, those copies would have to already be in circulation for the content creators to scan them.

If they go through with this plan, I’ll cancel my service with them in a heartbeat, including my regular phone service. While I’m aware that AT&T owns a sizeable portion of the net and every other ISP would be affected by this, at least I won’t be helping to finance it.

Rekrul says:

Nope. The DMCA protects them against that.

Wrong. The DMCA protects them NOW and that’s only because ISPs like AT&T lobbied hard to get a provision written into the DMCA that says they are immune from liability for what their users do on their networks because they don’t know what their users are doing. When the DMCA was being formed, they argued that it was unrealistic to expect them to police what their users were doing. They said that like the phone company, they merely provide the lines, they don’t snoop on what their customers are doing with those lines. The exception being that when informed of copyright infringement on their network, they are required to take action to stop it. Either by taking a web site offline, or disconnecting the user who was sharing the material, etc.

Once an ISP says “Yup, we can filter the illegal material passing through our network.” the content providers can say “Well, you’re not doing a very good job since xxxxx got through. You failed to block it, which means you’re facilitating copyright infringement.”

Realistically, the RIAA and MPAA might adopt an attitude of “You can’t filter everything, but at least you’re on our side, so we’re not going to sue you over what gets through.”, although this is far from certain. However, smaller companies will probably feel no such loyalty. They’ll see their works sneaking past the filters, their lawyers will smell blood and AT&T will be slapped with lawsuits.

If they go through with this, I’d seriously consider producing some kind of video content and putting it on a web site for sale, just to be able to get my slice of the liability pie when AT&T’s filtering system fails to block it.

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