by Timothy Lee
Thu, Nov 8th 2007 7:14am
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.
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