And You Want Me To Believe This Is Friendly?? ~ Late Evening Thoughts

An article in the news today allowed me to look back at an earlier article about the same subject. The article today was about Internet censorship ~ it involved several major players: AT & “We’re not the old/new ma bell” T, NB “how dare you post a show we’ve posted on YouTube” C, and Micro “we own the internet” soft.

At first I thought it was something that wasn’t going to go very far, very soon ~ then I read this paragraph:

“. . . AT&T has been talking to technology companies, and members of the MPAA and RIAA, for the last six months about implementing digital fingerprinting techniques on the network level.”

It was those lovely MPAA and RIAA letters that gave me pause. I have thought for sometime that when a major entertainment group is threatened by new technology and/or advances they react as a lumbering dinosaur. There is a lot of noise, fury and damage while desperately clinging to the old vines of doing business as the vines appear to be rotting out from under them.

While lamenting the decline of CD sales (and the profit they bring to the RIAA) the blame is being placed on the evil people who download. This has resulted in court cases involving elderly grandmothers and very young children … obviously the ring leaders determined to bring down the entertainment industry as they know it. The fact that artists have succeeded by using the Internet to showcase AND release their material seems incidental as they cling to an aged business model.

And recently the RIAA decided that uploading a song you purchased from YOUR music player to YOUR computer is a mortal sin worthy of death by flogging or another lawsuit. Heaven forbid that you would even THINK of burning onto a CD!

Here is the article in full (I’ve also included the link in the article to the previous story)…

January 8, 2008, 7:07 pm
AT&T and Other ISPs May Be Getting Ready to Filter
By Brad Stone

Tags: at and t, CES, content filtering, Copyright, digital fingerprinting, NBC, piracy

For the past fifteen 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 ISPs may be about to embrace a new metaphor: traffic cop.

At a small panel discussion about digital piracy here at NBC’s booth on the Consumer Electronics Show floor, representatives from NBC, Microsoft, several digital filtering companies and telecom giant AT&T said 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 MPAA and RIAA, for the last six months about implementing 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. Read the article about THIS lovely issue HERE )

“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 ISPs 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.

The article appeardin The New York Times today January 9th.

It was this from the article that gave me the title of tonight’s post:

“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 ISPs 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.

Oh yes, a friendly way to do it. Maybe they could hire consultants from MPAA and RIAA since they are having such success with what they are doing.

—more tomorrow

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