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I.S.P.?s May Be Getting Ready to Filter Content

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AT&T and Other I.S.P.?s May Be Getting Ready to Filter

By Brad Stone

LINK

For the last 15 years, Internet service providers have acted - to use an old cliche - as wide-open information super-highways, letting data flow uninterrupted and unimpeded between users and the Internet.

But I.S.P.?s may be about to embrace a new metaphor: traffic cop.

At a small panel discussion about digital piracy at NBC?s booth on the Consumer Electronics Show floor, representatives from NBC, Microsoft, several digital filtering companies and the telecom giant AT&T said discussed whether the time was right to start filtering for copyrighted content at the network level.

Such filtering for pirated material already occurs on sites like YouTube and Microsoft?s Soapbox, and on some university networks.

Network-level filtering means your Internet service provider ? Comcast, AT&T, EarthLink, or whoever you send that monthly check to ? could soon start sniffing your digital packets, looking for material that infringes on someone?s copyright.

?What we are already doing to address piracy hasn?t been working. There?s no secret there,? said James Cicconi, senior vice president, external & legal affairs for AT&T.

Mr. Cicconi said that AT&T has been talking to technology companies, and members of the M.P.A.A. and R.I.A.A., for the last six months about carrying out digital fingerprinting techniques on the network level.

?We are very interested in a technology based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,? he said. ?We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.?

Internet civil rights organizations oppose network-level filtering, arguing that it amounts to Big Brother monitoring of free speech, and that such filtering could block the use of material that may fall under fair-use legal provisions ? uses like parody, which enrich our culture.

Rick Cotton, the general counsel of NBC Universal, who has led the company?s fights against companies like YouTube for the last three years, clearly doesn?t have much tolerance for that line of thinking.

?The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status,? he said. ?The question is how we collectively collaborate to address this.?

I asked the panelists how they would respond to objections from their customers over network level filtering ? for example, the kind of angry outcry Comcast saw last year, when it was accused of clamping down on BitTorrent traffic on its network.

?Whatever we do has to pass muster with consumers and with policy standards. There is going to be a spotlight on it,? said Mr. Cicconi of AT&T.

After the session, he told me that I.S.P.?s like AT&T would have to handle such network filtering delicately, and do more than just stop an upload dead in its tracks, or send a legalistic cease and desist form letter to a customer. ?We?ve got to figure out a friendly way to do it, there?s no doubt about it,? he said.

UPDATE: Not all members of the panel endorsed network filtering. Microsoft has said it does not support the idea.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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AT&T and Other I.S.P.?s May Be Getting Ready to Filter

By Brad Stone

LINK

For the last 15 years, Internet service providers have acted - to use an old cliche - as wide-open information super-highways, letting data flow uninterrupted and unimpeded between users and the Internet.

But I.S.P.?s may be about to embrace a new metaphor: traffic cop.

At a small panel discussion about digital piracy at NBC?s booth on the Consumer Electronics Show floor, representatives from NBC, Microsoft, several digital filtering companies and the telecom giant AT&T said discussed whether the time was right to start filtering for copyrighted content at the network level.

Such filtering for pirated material already occurs on sites like YouTube and Microsoft?s Soapbox, and on some university networks.

Network-level filtering means your Internet service provider ? Comcast, AT&T, EarthLink, or whoever you send that monthly check to ? could soon start sniffing your digital packets, looking for material that infringes on someone?s copyright.

?What we are already doing to address piracy hasn?t been working. There?s no secret there,? said James Cicconi, senior vice president, external & legal affairs for AT&T.

Mr. Cicconi said that AT&T has been talking to technology companies, and members of the M.P.A.A. and R.I.A.A., for the last six months about carrying out digital fingerprinting techniques on the network level.

?We are very interested in a technology based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,? he said. ?We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.?

Internet civil rights organizations oppose network-level filtering, arguing that it amounts to Big Brother monitoring of free speech, and that such filtering could block the use of material that may fall under fair-use legal provisions ? uses like parody, which enrich our culture.

Rick Cotton, the general counsel of NBC Universal, who has led the company?s fights against companies like YouTube for the last three years, clearly doesn?t have much tolerance for that line of thinking.

?The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status,? he said. ?The question is how we collectively collaborate to address this.?

I asked the panelists how they would respond to objections from their customers over network level filtering ? for example, the kind of angry outcry Comcast saw last year, when it was accused of clamping down on BitTorrent traffic on its network.

?Whatever we do has to pass muster with consumers and with policy standards. There is going to be a spotlight on it,? said Mr. Cicconi of AT&T.

After the session, he told me that I.S.P.?s like AT&T would have to handle such network filtering delicately, and do more than just stop an upload dead in its tracks, or send a legalistic cease and desist form letter to a customer. ?We?ve got to figure out a friendly way to do it, there?s no doubt about it,? he said.

UPDATE: Not all members of the panel endorsed network filtering. Microsoft has said it does not support the idea.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

I won't make any comments here. I don't want the Dude to ban me for inappropriate language.

How-some-ever... if I was going to send something that I thought might be blocked, but that I was sure was legal to send, I'd simply zip it with a password. F'em.

Oh, yeah: God bless Microsoft's position on this issue.

Oh, yeah #2: The quote above is material that would probably have been filtered.

Colin :lol:

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At best this amounts to censorship via copyright.

A justifiable paranoid view might cite the possibility that it amounts to being a forerunner of political control, limiting the access to information for all.

I like your idea of zipping, Colin but I would think they will find a way around that, eventually.

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At best this amounts to censorship via copyright.

A justifiable paranoid view might cite the possibility that it amounts to being a forerunner of political control, limiting the access to information for all.

I like your idea of zipping, Colin but I would think they will find a way around that, eventually.

You're right Des, they could just block anything that was unidentifiable. No password protected/encrypted files of any kind, including zip and pdf files. Then someone clever will come out with a program for hiding text in tiff or jpeg files, and they'll start blocking those. :icon4:

The thought police are on the prowl. And they know who we are. :icon_tongue:

Colin :icon10:

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(This is how US law works. Do not apply to other countries)

Right now, if you post something grossly illegal (say a water buffalo having anal sex with a 10 year old), YOU are responsible. Your ISP cannot be held responsible if they act once notified.

The reason this has been upheld time after time after time after time is because if your ISP does NO CONTENT filtering of anyone, then they are not responsible what passes through their servers. That's why if you have USENET you can get alt.sex.deviant_raccoons and other groups*

Once an ISP begins filtering for ANY sport of SPECIFIC content, you have some very severe issues. I don't see it happening because the ISPs must know they will open themselves to hordes of lawsuits on pornography, copyright, and so forth.

* Some ISPs don't carry any BINARY groups but that is a blanket block for bandwidth reasons and isn't a filtering or content issue.

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