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?

Filed Under: blacklists, copyright, hadopi
Companies: at&t

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  1. identicon
    Jerry Leichter, 3 May 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

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