ISP Copyright Filter Debate Continues: Verizon Stays Away, While Rep. Bono Is All For Filtering

from the not-so-much-a-debate-as-posturing dept

With the entertainment industry actively pushing for ISPs to filter unauthorized content, it seems that the discussion is getting wider and wider attention. Rep. Mary Bono (now Mary Bono Mack), who is rather infamous for the last copyright extension efforts, and who believes that fair use is theft, has now stated that it should be the ISP’s responsibility to filter out unauthorized content. Thankfully, she hasn’t reached the point of making it mandatory, but it’s not surprising to hear her say that she supports the concept of ISP filtering. Not to be left out, Cary Sherman of the RIAA chimed in to note that he doesn’t think we need new legislation, but that ISPs should voluntarily start filtering content.

While AT&T agrees (for reasons that still don’t make any sense), it’s nice to see Verizon feels otherwise. Verizon’s Tom Tauke says that the company is not interested in becoming copyright police, noting the inevitable privacy questions this would raise: “We don’t want to get into the business of inspecting the bits and figuring out what is and is not appropriate traffic.” As much as we tend to disagree with Verizon’s position on many policy issues, the company has at least a decent (though, certainly not wonderful) record in protecting privacy. Remember, it was Verizon who initially stood up to the RIAA on trying to get information on customers without filing lawsuits.

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Companies: at&t, riaa, verizon

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Comments on “ISP Copyright Filter Debate Continues: Verizon Stays Away, While Rep. Bono Is All For Filtering”

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JB says:

How Does It Work?

How would an ISP implement filtering? How could they possibly know whether a packet of data moving across their network is actually copyrighted content? And even if it is copyrighted, how would they know whether or not this is an authorized transmission of copyrighted material?

I just can’t fathom how this would work.

Liquid says:

Re: Re: How Does It Work?

I completely agree with that from Anonymous Coward. That is a huge problem this is one of the larger steps to having signs posted all over your cities, and neighborhoods like the ones in George Orwell’s 1984 “Big Brother is Watching You!!!”… This is going to give the major corporations of the world more, and more power to force companies like local ISP’s to do what they want. Letting them monitor what you do on your OWN computer. You wont be able to any thing that would have your identity attached to it with out fear of them being able to see it. They could get passwords to your e-mail, bank accounts online, etc… This is getting a little out of control as far as saying file sharing is illegal. Hell we’ve been doing it for decades.

I know that some of you fellow Techdirt readers are of a older generations. Just think back when you where in high school, college, etc… and you listened to the radio. Remember if you ever put a blank casset in your tape deck and recorded songs off the radio live, and ask your self “I recording a song off the radio is any different then using P2P network (which are legal network topologies) to download songs?”… You used those “Mix” tapes for your own purpose and didn’t pay the person or group that wrote that song any money to listen to it. Do you think that the radio companies should have to pay those F***S because people record those songs off the air before networking, and the information age of file sharing began.

Don’t even think about letting a friend barrow a movie, book, white paper (tech writing for those that don’t know), CD (that you bought), etc… or any thing that could be viewed as copy righted material. In essence that’s still considered stealing because they are using that material for their own personal whims and they didn’t even pay a dime for it…

All this bull shit began because some fuck leaked metallica’s newest CD to Napster back in 2000, and Lars Ulrich got his panties in a bunch. I can see why since the CD was released BEFORE the initial release date. Now we are forced to deal with this shit. Next you will see signs at the boarders all over this country “Welcome to Communist America. Ran by many old ass holes not just one”.

Tony says:

re: How Does It Work?

It’s actually pretty simple. It requires a large list of keywords and titles that are ‘contraband’ but modern ASICS make short work of matching lists to filenames. TCP packets are sequenced, so they don’t have to do stateful deep inspection of all the packets in a stream, just of the first few and disregard the rest.

Never-the-less, I glad to see Verizon stepping up to the plate.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: re: How Does It Work?

@Tony: I think that JB’s point is that this still wouldn’t work. Filenames can easily be changed to try and fool these systems and the level of false positives could easily be unacceptable.

For example, imagine I have a copy of a Creative Common licensed (free to distribute) song called GoodTune.mp3. Someone wants to pirate the new Britney song but is finding it gets blocked under its original name, so they rename it to GoodTune.mp3. Under the guidelines suggested, there’s now 2 options – allow the renamed pirated track through or block both. The most likely solution to avoid lawsuits is to block both, effectively BANNING the CC file if online distribution is the only way of getting it.

There’s also other methods such as blocking files based on “fingerprinting” – also highly imperfect – or service e.g. BitTorrent – for which there’s as many legitimate uses and non-legitimate.

I’m also glad to see Verizon stepping up, but part of me wants to see an ISP cave to these kinds of demands so that it can be demonstrated just how unworkable the whole idea is.

Rekrul says:

The problem is that the filtering mechanism will have to compare each packet against a list of thousands.

For every song on the banned list, it will have to be checked against digital signatures for the same song in MP3, OGG, APE, WMA, RA, Flac, etc. For every video, it will need to be checked against digital signatures for a DVDR copy, a DVDRip, 1CD, 2CD, AVI, MKV, MP4. Not to mention it will also have to compare each against signatures for Rar compressed copies, Zip compressed copies, each at variable compression levels, since each would generate a different signature. As people start to encypt each file, it would also need to compare it to every known encypted copy.

Of course, an ISP can’t filter for just movies and music without Microsoft and every other software company crying foul, so they’ll have to filter for software as well. ISO files, Rips, Rar copies, Zip copies, multi-volume archives, etc.

And the filtering mechanism WOULD have to inspect every packet, since P2P programs don’t transfer files in dequential order. The parts of the file are sent in whatever order they happen to be available.

All of this is going to put an extra burden on the network. It will make mistakes (how it can tell the difference betweem a DRM dree song bought on Amazon and the same song traded on a P2P network? What about users transferring legally purchased content between the home and office?) and drive away customers. The ISP will have thrown away its safe harbor provisions and opened itself up to lawsuits for every copyrighted work they fail to filter.

Meanwhile, software authors will simply add public key encyption to the P2P programs, making it impossible for the ISPs to match the packets to their list of signatures.

yahn says:

boycott those supporting RIAA

It makes mi sick. They treat their costumers as criminals and now they want ISPs to cripple internet connection for everybody and get us all under surveillance just because they are not able to come up with business model suitable for digital age… does that make you angry too? Does that make you wanna boycott those who finance RIAA?

It certainly works for me…

nomo says:

Filtering is so AT&T Can stay in power

Filtering is so AT&T Can stay in power.
Rep. Mary Bono must be getting a fat Check from someone.
I allege that ATT wants to filter content for many reasons all good for them. 1,AT T has been involved with Video and TV service. They don’t appear to be as big as the rest. They still go through Dish or Direct TV. I think AT T wants the media market. Its no surprise that your old TV sets will not work after next year. Don’t think AT T hasn’t thought of this, or has been involved. Is ATT trying to sell us that most of the traffic is illegal, and by eliminating this traffic, we will have a better network? What they cant handle what we give them now? What about internet TV, sling boxes (isn’t that a rebroadcast?). Right now people use sling boxes and other means to rebroadcast content and the writers are not paid. Who made these hardware devices legal? Have you ever seen a seeded torrent? Good illegal music or movies-are traded by the 1,000’s… why is it the only a select few are picked to be destroyed? I even allege that record and movie companies have posted their stuff to be downloaded by torrrent *(illegal..) as a way to promote it.
Some of these artists cant sell their music, but if they let someone download and sue them- they stand a chance.
ATT I say- wants to filter content.. “this was thought of years ago.. not now” WHY? So they can stay in control of your life and pocket book. Its only big brother and they don’t care about you.. they care about their own pocket book.

Anonymous Coward says:


not only that same song same format just re-encoded will provide a different “ID” also different bit rate different “ID”
P2P users are familiar with that.

also u can just crop 1 frame of a song or a movie and again its a new “ID”.

Plus P2P software are now starting to use a form of encryption (granted thats not too hard to decrypt) but it still adds to the complication.

Swiss Army knife says:

Double edged sword

ISPs might have brought that upon them selfs.

in the ealy 2000’s (not sure how things have progressed since i left Canada) ISPs started limiting your monthly transfers and charging extra for excess.

of course the official reason was to help deter file sharing but we all know they saw a cash cow and they decided to milk it.

but it only takes to stand up to the bully and slowly the rest will follow. I as well am glad that Verizon is standing up to them

Liquid says:

Re: Double edged sword

I agree I commend Verizon for looking out for their customers on this issue. I would also home that judges from our side of the giant lake see how court proceedings over in Europe are handling things of this nature. They have been shooting down the European MPAA/RIAA for trying to force ISP’s to filter content and hand over information on their users when it comes to file sharing. Hopefully the courts here in the states will follow suit and start going “No you greedy little children of the music and movie industry. Now come here for your whoopin for being ass holes”.

From what I’ve been reading in the news a lot of people in law enforcement, courts, and general public DON’T give to craps about what goes on, on the internet. They would rather deal with crimes in the real world then stuff on the internet.

Vincent Clement says:

In term of opposing the RIAA, Verizon understands that if they released information to the RIAA, then more people would demand information from Verizon. Divorces. Child custody. The list could go on.

The same applies to content filtering. Once you filter out copyrighted material, what’s next? Material that is offensive or doesn’t pass muster with some local ordinance? Again, the list could go on.

Verizon is totally correct in that it should not play the role of internet cop.

Hamfist says:

How Does It Work?

I work at a cable company and can tell you there is no way in hell we could filter content in any practical fashion. Its a fantasy. As Rekul and PaulT pointed out above, there are numerous practical and policy issues. IMHO, the technology to do this exists only in the imaginations of the MPAA/RIAA and their tame politicians. They watch too many movies.

Liquid, this also feeds into your concerns about Big Brother. In theory, the government/corporate cabal can put together information from multiple sources and create a seamless surveillance state. In practice, they are way too incompetent, fractious and self-serving to actually do it. Also, look at the RIAA’s legal record. How many thousands of lawsuits vs. how many legal victories? 40k:1 I believe. Lots of people settled, but of those who didn’t, only one actually lost. And that verdict may be tainted. These people are staggeringly incompetent. Combine that incompetence with the practical difficulty of filtering and you get plenty more years of wide-open downloading before anything changes.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Corporations Grabbing "Police Powers"

We apparently are entering an era were the content industry is buying legislation at the congressional supermarket that essentially gives them what has traditionally been government “police powers”, the ability to point the finger of guilt, to judge (declare) guilt, and to punish. All this without any pretense of due process.

Ms. Bono-Mack is listed as a Republican. I thought republicans are for less government!?!? Ron Paul, in the Presidential debates, has pointed out how the Republican party has lost its ideals.

PS: I am NOT a Ron Paul supporter, he has like Kucinich, point out obvious hypocrisies in how our political system works.

PSS: As others have pointed out.
1. If we have filter, how would we know if the copyright flag would even be valid?
2. What is to stop a content provider from asserting copyright on content that is in the public domain?
3. If a content user is “damaged” by an “illegally” deployed copyright flag, how is the content user going to be compensated?
4. Of course this will be top of a slippery slope leading to filtering for the noble cause of preventing child abuse eventually descending into the filtering of content that may be critical of unpopular ideas such as the preservation of free speech.

jonnyq says:

Re: Corporations Grabbing "Police Powers"

“I thought republicans are for less government!?!? “

Republicans are pro-business and pro-competition. Apparently there are Republicans that mistakenly believe that strong copyright protection is necessary for competitive business. There’s also the stigma that if you’re against strong copyright, you’re a pinko hippy commie bastard.

I’ve even heard Romney say in passing that strong IP protections are necessary. I don’t really know what he meant by that, but it bothers me.

Republicans need to be taught that looser copyright protections are indeed necessary for competitive business and technological advancement, and it’s not a pinko commie issue. I think they can be taught, but it will take time and a powerful lobby to do the teaching. The problem is that there is no powerful lobby against copyright, so only one message is being heard, and politicians aren’t expected to be experts in tech fields.

I frankly don’t know where Democrats stand on the issue.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Corporations Grabbing "Police Powers"

The irony is that the those who assert that they want less government interference in business are actually demanding more government regulation for the purpose of establishing revenue “toll booths” for their business models. ** corporate welfare ** Of course they don’t say that.

Many of those advocating a “strong” copyright position in the name of “competition” are delusional. A “strong” copyright position means that you are claiming an unduly expansive property right where you can scream “infringement” at the drop of a pin to demand “compensation”. This, as you point out, retards competition.

Dan says:

Unlikely to last if passed

I just can’t see this remaining a law even if it does get passed. It seems to me this is would be an obvious conflict with freedom of speech, because infringement is a grey area.

ISP filtering is inherently flawed because of this, and would by necessity violate fair use and enforce censorship. I can see the EFF jumping all over this if it gets passed, and drawing comparisons to China’s internet policy and giving the content industry a huge black eye in the process.

As far as Ms. Bono-Mack is concerned, the woman is a congresswoman, but had to be informed that a perpetual copyright is unconstitutional. By working to needlessly increase IP protections, she’s protecting her own source of income instead of representing the people of California.

Clueby4 says:

Common Carrier

Common Carrier. If they start filtering for copyright, they will also be responsible for anything else occurs on their network.

– Spam
– Popups
– Spyware/Malware/WGA(;p)
– phishing
– etc.

A good test will be the telecoms immunity scam that’s currently underway, if that goes thru, then it will probably be trivial for them to re-write an exemption in for copyright.

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