AT&T Wants Government Website Blacklists, Hadopi-Style Tribunal

from the ma-bell-daydream dept

Companies like Verizon and Qwest recently took their cooperation with the entertainment industry to an entirely new level -- by not only forwarding DMCA warning letters to users (which has been going on for years) -- but by also now threatening broadband users with account termination (which, at least in Verizon's case, appears to be a bluff). Both companies are using the flimsy and unreliable DMCA letter process as a foundation, and layering a completely non-transparent termination process (where grandmothers wind up falsely accused) on top -- obviously a winning formula for success. So far AT&T hasn't been willing to play along with this new voluntary program, and in filings with the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, make it clear it's primarily just worried about covering its legal posterior:

"Private entities are not created or meant to conduct the law enforcement and judicial balancing act that would be required; they are not charged with sitting in judgment of facts; and they are not empowered to punish alleged criminals without a court order or other government sanction. Indeed, the liability implications of ISPs acting as a quasi-law-enforcement/judicial branch could be enormous."

It's interesting, because AT&T not only argues that ISPs shouldn't be acting as content nannies, but it also acknowledges that the entire DMCA process is built on a platform where such letters can impact non-infringing members of a household, people with "valid defenses," or people with unsecured wireless networks. At first, AT&T's argument reads much like an EFF complaint -- the company even going so far as to insist that (as we've long said) disconnection from the Internet isn't a suitable punishment for downloading that first season of the Golden Girls.

However, AT&T isn't necessarily against some kind of graduated response system -- they would just prefer it if Uncle Sam was the one screwing up. AT&T's filing argues that it doesn't want this handled by the courts, rather, it wants an expedited faux-legal system set up much like the Hadopi-run process we've critized in France, where a Judge is given all of five minutes to determine a user's guilt or innocence. Though AT&T consistently complains about government regulation (at least when applied to them), it takes things even further by arguing the government should "create and maintain a list of international websites known to host and to traffic in infringed copyrighted works."

So while Qwest and Verizon engage in non-transparent threats against their users based on flimsy evidence, AT&T wants taxpayers to fund an entirely new government organization tasked with non-transparent threats against users based on flimsy evidence. For good measure, AT&T wants a website blacklist whac-a-mole program that -- like most filtering programs -- won't accomplish a damn thing aside from pushing pirates further underground and blocking access to legitimate content. Perhaps AT&T should stick with struggling to run a wireless network?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Sam I Am, May 3rd, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Three strikes is plenty.

    "Perhaps AT&T should stick with struggling to run a wireless network?"

    Oh please. They took the PR hit to get the money, that's brave business, not struggle. ANY network, Sprint, Verizon, TMobile, you name it would have tanked under the kind of data streams the iPhone demands.

    In a civilization where cars are virtual necessities (except perhaps in Manhattan) we pull licenses everyday for repeated misbehavior. And the drivers learn to suck it up. Have to drive Grandma to dialysis three times a week? Stop breaking driving laws.

    So explain again why repeated unlawful behavior online should get a free pass and not lose legal access for awhile? Get over yourself. Three strikes is plenty fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    Besides hacking in all its forms and child porn... What exactly is "unlawful" online?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    Except in the driving case it's easy to provide what you did and that it was you who did it. In this case that's very difficult, if it's even at all possible, especially including the fact that often not even the copyright holders can get it right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    TPBer, May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:11pm


    Sam has obviously been sucking up on something

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Trails (profile), May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Oh Snap!

    "Perhaps AT&T should stick with struggling to run a wireless network?"

    AT&T just got f'ed in the a!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Common Sense, May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    "ANY network, Sprint, Verizon, TMobile, you name it would have tanked under the kind of data streams the iPhone demands."

    And would the other networks have just shrugged it off and taken a bonus instead of improving the network?? Well, maybe, but that still doesn't mean AT&T is right...

    And seriously, taking a person's drivers license is very different than taking their internet. Taking the internet away is more like taking the family car away because the youngest kid in the family was speeding one night. You're basically saying "If you're a responsible adult and need the internet for anything, either don't have children or don't let them on your internet."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    Yes, three strikes would be fair, if, of course, you were actually afforded due process and the presumption of innocence, required to be proven guilty to get a strike, had a method to appeal strikes, and had tools available to penalize/deter false accusations.

    Of course, those things don't exist, because they would make justice too difficult for you and your kind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    open wireless should not be an excuse. that is like not locking up your handgun and then wondering why the kids shot each other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    So what happens when someone finally writes a program similar to the popular and heavily secured Japanese P2P programs designed to hide traffic and IP addresses, like Perfect Dark ( )or Share ( ) systems that becomes popular in the western world?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 3:20pm


    Welcome back TAM. I missed your ignorance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    Of course with driving people lives are at stake ... you know ... 2 tons of plastic, steel, and glass hurtling uncontrolled at 120 mph into other people, cars, buildings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 3:41pm


    They'll try to nerf the internet. And fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 3rd, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Three strikes is plenty.

    In a civilization where cars are virtual necessities (except perhaps in Manhattan) we pull licenses everyday for repeated misbehavior

    (1) There is no internet license, so the comparison is meaningless.

    (2) Drivers licenses get pulled for actions that put others at risk. Copyright infringement is a business model issue, and just because you have shown that you don't want to adapt your business model, it doesn't mean you should punish those more innovative than you.

    (3) When someone's driver's license is pulled, they can still ride in cars.

    (4) Driving badly -- to the point of losing your license -- involves doing the ONE THING that driving entails badly. Losing your entire internet access because of a minor civil infringement, without due process, is ridiculous.

    You must know that.

    Of course, I find this funny, because in the past you have insisted that you are against these types of laws. Why the change of heart?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    abc gum, May 3rd, 2010 @ 6:12pm


    "open wireless should not be an excuse. that is like not locking up your handgun and then wondering why the kids shot each other."

    No, it's not like that at all. If you have any factual information which shows an open wireless causing bodily harm similar to that of a firearm, then by all means, lets see it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Mike Raphone, May 3rd, 2010 @ 6:45pm


    The Music Industry wants to legalize Vigilantism on the Internet and make it legal to lynch any Broadband Customer without due process. The RIAA has always been psychotic when it comes to consumers copying copyrighted music. When Advent combined the Philips Cassette with the Dolby B Noise Reduction System it started a war between the music industry and the home tapers. There was numerous attempts by the RIAA to make the Recording Equipment manufactures equip all consumer recorders with systems to prevent the copying of commercial recordings. While home taping merely irritated the RIAA Members P2P file sharing is really driving them Nuts!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    rockman123 (profile), May 3rd, 2010 @ 6:48pm

    3 strikes and off to rapidshare

    i don't guess the infringement cops have noticed everybody plus dog now finds a blog with links and most people use those search engines for stuff. i even found mikes murder up on some hong kong upload joint. which is why att has capped download at 675k. i think the three strikes is just a diversion from the real crime of selling 1.5m and delivering the above mentioned rate. only grannies are using piratebay and torrents, way behind the curve. besides they aren't going to cruise the hardcore porn stops where all the content is getting hidden now. whack a mole anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    gorehound (profile), May 3rd, 2010 @ 7:02pm

    the RIAA can suck dog dick for all I care.Their bloated greedy organization has complained to high hell every time we had a tech advance.Being in my 50's I owned a portable small reel to reel which is what you used even before cassettes.I could make reel tapes of vinyl and take them with me.this was a cool thing but not for RIAA.They did the same BS for cassettes and even screwed with DAT Tape.Now they want to screw with us.Well I do not and will never buy even one record from any ARTIST or LABEL who has signed with you.
    And thanks a lot for screwing up our US Radio.Every musical act I have played in since 1972 always thanked radio for the times we were played or interviewed live.We have a great respect for radio that is to say free radio.
    Performers do not need to get money because they were played on the radio assholes.This is not Europe this is the USA.

    Go To Hell RIAA And all you corporate big content companies.I hate you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jerry Leichter, May 3rd, 2010 @ 7:52pm

    Missing the point

    I classify AT&T's proposal as the equivalent of creating a blue-ribbon government commission to go off and study a problem. It's a way of "doing something" with little or no risk that anything that might actually offend anyone will actually happen as a result of your actions.

    The attempts to get telecoms to enforce these regulations are a way of getting the record and movie companies "out of the line of fire". The bad press that arises when grandmothers get sued would apply to the telecoms - they'd be the ones taking the action. AT&T is simply applying the same self-defense mechanism to push the blame off on someone else - specifically, the Feds. Realistically - AT&T has nothing to gain from enforcement of such provisions: Someone under a 3-strikes ruling won't be paying AT&T for service, and if it scares other people ... the might not buy all the services AT&T wants to sell them either. And they know that the last thing any politician wants is Grandma showing up in the papers complaining about how Federal legislation got her into trouble.

    Dumping this on the Feds is a great idea ... because it pretty much kills it.

    -- Jerry

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2010 @ 11:17pm

    "and blocking access to legitimate content."

    This is their intent, to block access to free legitimate content (like content released under a CC license), which is pretty much what they have accomplished outside the Internet. They want to restrict competitors from competing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    McRat, May 3rd, 2010 @ 11:55pm

    Hypocritic Oath?

    It's funny how software was pirated for decades, and the gov't did little about it.

    Now that it's something critical to the survival of our country like Rap Music or Toilet Humor Movies, the courts should fill the countryside with new prisons to cope with all the dangerous criminals listening to Louie, Louie on their notebook computers between classes.

    I do not steal software, music, or movies, but each year I get more and more hassle heaped on me so a bunch of fools can pretend to have a useful life by chasing down people singing Madonna songs in the shower.

    The record and movie industries are the prime movers in digitizing their content. They made it easy to copy. Sounds like they screwed the pooch. Should have left it analog. Oh? Then it would be harder to copy to sell? Wow.

    Let's see some real action taken about software theft before we edit the Constitution to keep ghetto-mouthed record producers and their lawyers rich by their parasitic existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    McRat, May 4th, 2010 @ 12:12am

    Attractive Nuisance?

    Any liability lawyers in the crowd?

    I wonder if you could counter-sue the RIAA in one of the on-going cases of copyright infringement by arguing the RIAA deliberately and knowingly created a scenario whereas it would be far easier to get their products illegally than than legally.

    It was difficult to copy LP records, and the pirate content was poor quality in general. Ditto for VCR movies. It was only after the RIAA members deliberately moved their property to easy-to-steal digital formats that these cases started appearing in volume.

    So the RIAA made no effort at protecting their property, and actually made it so simple to commit a felony that a 5 year old could do it in 3 minutes. It is easier than recording a song on the radio with a tape recorder.

    How many millions of dollars of the taxpayer's money have they wasted to try and get assistance fixing a problem they started deliberately? They ought to be sued.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    aicra, May 4th, 2010 @ 5:07am

    Use the copyright law to your advantage

    I concur with this. In fact, in a situation where something is allowed into the public domain and is commonly used as public domain items, there has been precedent set.

    This is a good argument.

    Also, there is a process - it is called the DMCA. While some may use and abuse this, the process should be the decisive factor in taking down service. Terms of agreement have often been used to terminate service. However, this is tantamount to guilty before proven innocent, which is a direct violation or our judicial system.

    In the same way the DMCA is being abused against users, this can be used for those accused and terminated.

    For example, the DMCA does state that the process must be followed for ISPs to maintain their limitations on liability.

    Well, if the ISP terminates and a counter notification is sent, if the ISP does not reinstate the materials within the time frame (if a court order is not issued by that time frame by the accuser) Then LIABILITY and action should be able to be placed against that ISP.

    Just my 2 cents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 6:36am


    Thanks for the links ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Sega, May 4th, 2010 @ 9:05am

    Commerical accounts

    I've had a business account from Comcast and I remember the details of upload and download speeds being close to even. And any notion of assumed inappropriate action in the contract was absent. Why, because I'm a business! So, I paid a little more for the service plan, but I was not throttled in any way I can remember, it was four years ago. It actually cost the same as residential service due to a promotion. It puts one on more equal footing with Comcast.
    The solution, everyone get a business plan instead and enjoy the benefits of being a business!
    "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!" ~ Jay-Z

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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