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Stunning new filtering plan contradicts its “Your World” marketing campaign

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed that the telecom and internet giant is “very interested” in a “technology based solution” to monitor data passing through its networks for rogue peer-to-peer traffic.

“It’s like being in a store and watching someone steal a DVD,” said Stephenson. “Do you act?”

Such a move would affect more than just AT&T’s subscribers, as the company’s network investments represent a sizable chunk of the internet’s backbone – which results in almost all Internet data passing through its network at some point. Given that AT&T has, so far, been pensive about the scope of such a project, many are assuming the worst.

More importantly, AT&T may forfeit its end of the deal in what Slate’s Tim Wu calls “the grand bargain of common carriage:” legal immunity from whatever claims might arise from data its network transports, in exchange for offering network service to anyone in a nondiscriminatory fashion. “AT&T's new strategy reverses that position and exposes it to so much potential liability that adopting it would arguably violate AT&T's fiduciary duty to its shareholders,” writes Wu.

In an absence of any official word on why AT&T wants to implement such a project, many people think that the primary motivator is an alarmed response to the growing percentage of traffic attributable to P2P activity; various surveys claim that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of all internet traffic is P2P related. Lately, ISPs both large and small have been testing the waters with a variety of traffic-shaping initiatives, including Comcast, which last year found itself in the middle of a scandal over how it handles BitTorrent traffic.

According to AT&T – as well as anecdotal reports and commentary from other ISP employees – Internet users should expect a more managed Internet experience in the near future, as technology is finally becoming sophisticated enough to allow for such large-scale projects.

“We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies,” said AT&T executive James Cicconi, “but we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies … to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

If anyone has the expertise to deploy such a large filtering project, it would be AT&T: the company was already caught red-handed with powerful data-mining hardware, which it used to gather information on the nation’s web traffic for the NSA.

“The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status,” said NBC Universal’s general counsel, Rick Cotton. “The question is how we collectively collaborate to address this.”



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RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/26/2008 2:50:54 PM , Rating: -1
> "...who you suspect but cannot prove stole something "

Eh? If you see copyrighted material flowing over the wire, and the copyright owner has informd you they haven't given permission for that act-- you don't "suspect". You know.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Alexstarfire on 1/26/2008 3:10:58 PM , Rating: 4
Too bad that the ISPs have no idea what is going over the wire. They monitor throughput and bandwidth usage, nothing more, until now that is. P2P is hardly illegal. Pirating? Yes. P2P? No way. Just because pirates happen to use P2P doesn't mean they should restrict P2P traffic. That's like restricting the OS or the CD/DVD drive just because pirates happen to use them as well. You'd never allow that.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/26/08, Rating: -1
RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 1/26/2008 4:03:06 PM , Rating: 3
I have a feeling this would result in many data streams especially of the P2P variety to start utilizing some sort of low level encryption, not enough to keep someone out, but enough to cause your systems to backlog if they had to decrypt every packet. Reading the number of packets in a short amount of time would require massive computational power if they were encrypted.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By kinnoch on 1/26/2008 4:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
Certain bitTorrent clients already do that. Azureus has a whole encrypted protocol and an option to only accept encrypted connections.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By ebakke on 1/26/2008 5:19:54 PM , Rating: 5
It seems that no matter what is implemented by AT&T (or Comcast, or anyone else), P2P technologies will adapt. Encryption, extra garbage packets, etc. will be used, and ironically, the effect will be more traffic, and a slower internet. Exactly the opposite of AT&T's claims.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mendocinosummit on 1/26/2008 8:31:47 PM , Rating: 5
When they should be spending all those millions increasing bandwidth.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Christopher1 on 1/27/2008 5:21:58 AM , Rating: 1
That is the blunt truth here: they should be focusing on increasing bandwidth instead of moaning about people actually using the unlimited service that they give them.

Same thing with the movie, music and game companies: stop turning to DRM to solve a problem that is more because you are making poor quality games or are charging too much for a good quality game.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By RonLugge on 1/27/2008 5:21:52 PM , Rating: 2
A good point only reinforced by the fact that Stardock Games -- responsible for Galactic Civilization and GalCiv II, and publishing Sins of a Solar Empire -- does extremely well selling games with no DRM. The only "DRM" involved is the need for a valid CD key to download patches.

The other half of their success is the fact that most torrent sites (they have specifically named Pirate Bay as being the exception) remove pirated copies of their games when asked. Most companies just throw a fit, they don't bother asking.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/27/2008 10:21:45 PM , Rating: 3
> "Stardock Games...does extremely well selling games with no DRM."

Stardock is a tiny 30 man company, with most of their revenues deriving from business software. Their best-selling game is a port of an old 1993 turned-based title that's sold all of 75K copies...about 1/100 of what a hit like COD or Halo does. And, quite frankly, it's not something that's going to appeal to those who typically pirate games anyway.

Trying to claim they've done "extremely" well by selling DRM-free games isn't a very realistic comparison.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By hedron on 1/31/2008 2:18:36 PM , Rating: 1
That's one good side effect of piracy. Is that cloned crap like Halo and CoD doesn't sell well. I'm an avid PC gamer and am tired of descent games drowning in a sea of over-hyped and over-produced FPS. Maybe one day the retail industry will collapse and the casual gamer will stick to tetris and the hardcore community will go underground.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By jconan on 1/27/2008 3:16:58 AM , Rating: 4
I agree. However on a different note. Can ATT decrypt packages legally without a search warrant? E.G. people's private communications like skype and VPN for telecommuter's (the future working class tend to be more of the commuter type) - wouldn't ATT be snooping/spying on company secrets if they did? Just by running a filter is technically like eavesdropping or spying?


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By jconan on 1/27/2008 5:49:55 AM , Rating: 2
doesn't the filtering technique work on the same principles as keylogging or wiretapping even though they are 2 separate techniques. (they are not working off a closed data but are actually tapping onto customer's line and gathering data without permission) keylogging storing information based on filter sequences and wiretapping listening or receiving communication signals from a voice/data device based on particular streams?


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Shoal07 on 1/29/2008 11:12:51 AM , Rating: 2
The government needs warrants. The Bill of Rights only protects you against the government and government actions. Corporations can do whatever they like, especially on their own networks, they just suffer when people no longer choose to use their services. Too many people think their protections in the Constitution are universal but they're only enforceable against the government.

Just like DailyTech could delete all of your posts, or all of the pro-sony posts, or anti-MS, whatever... You can't sue them for violating your First Amendment; they have no legal requirement to guarantee or provide you anything, unless you enter into a contract.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By thisguyiknow on 1/29/2008 7:54:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, they can, actually, because they're (supposedly) not the government but a private company with which the user has entered into a legal contract--after checking the "I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of service" box.

They'll have different contractual terms with fellow corporations--maybe explicitly permitting encryption, since you're right: legal departments would never allow their boards to expose company secrets wholesale. I'm starting to think that individuals who use encryption may start to get in trouble with the NSA someday.

I'm also thinking maybe the analogy is that every time you walk into a store some guy appears and sticks with you everywhere you go, keeping a really close eye on your hands and occasionally checking to be sure you're not palming something.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By MAIA on 1/30/2008 9:55:14 AM , Rating: 2
On the contrary: Can you send encrypted files using P2P ?

It all boils down to the meaning of "cryptography export". You actually need a license to use cryptography and be able to communicate globally.

Read this:
http://rechten.uvt.nl/koops/cryptolaw/cls2.htm#us


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By MAIA on 1/30/2008 10:00:08 AM , Rating: 2
About the usage of cryptography in the US:

1. Certain mass-market encryption software may be released from EI controls after a one-time review.
2. "Data recovery" crypto (meaning that government can access keys or plaintext with a lawful warrant) will be eligible for an export license to non-embargoed countries. The procedures for data-recovery licenses were simplified in September 1998, when also "recoverable products" were released for export (a recoverable product means that an operator can access plaintext without the user noticing).
3. After a one-time review, (up to) 56-bit cryptography can be granted a six-month export license, provided the exporting business commits itself to incorporating a data recovery feature in its products within the next two years. This provision was changed in December 1998, when all 56-bit crypto was released for export after a one-time review, with no requirement of data recovery.
4. All other encryption items may be eligible for encryption licensing arrangements; items not authorized under a licensing arrangement will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
5. Encryption "technology" may be licensed for export on a case-by-case basis.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/26/2008 6:08:23 PM , Rating: 5
Identifying content does not allow for a presumption the receiver does not have a license for it regardless of what the content owner claims.

Suppose for example I were a student who has bought rights to an MP3. It's at home and I just want to upload it to my computer at school since I'm not home often. While this scenario is not one we see with bittorrent and many communal filesharing groups, it is a P2P activity.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Etsp on 2/1/2008 3:27:14 PM , Rating: 2
According to at least one Sony rep, that is stealing...


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By porkpie on 1/26/2008 3:25:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Too bad that the ISPs have no idea what is going over the wire.
Did you even read the article? What do you think this new filtering will be based on? It has nothing to do with banning all P2P traffic.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/26/2008 6:11:36 PM , Rating: 4
The new filtering will be based on the presumption of guilt (with no option for "until proven innocent
") since the traffic is blocked.

The idea that no copyrighted work can be transmitted over the internet is erroneous. In fact it will be the preferred method of distribution in the future.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Christopher1 on 2/2/2008 12:42:50 AM , Rating: 1
Correction: It will be the preferred method if the studios get their heads out of a certain part of their bodies that would make their heads stinky.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By retrospooty on 1/26/2008 4:46:20 PM , Rating: 4
"Eh? If you see copyrighted material flowing over the wire, and the copyright owner has informd you they haven't given permission for that act-- you don't "suspect". You know."

Thats exactly the problem. It is an ISP's job to provide bandwidth, not to monitor what you use it for. They should not even know what you use it for, becasue it should not be monitored.

Its like as if the phone companies were listening in on your conversations, just to make sure you are not doing anything illegal. Its intrusive, and is the opposite of freedom.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/26/2008 4:55:57 PM , Rating: 2
> "It is an ISP's job to provide bandwidth, not to monitor what you use it for."

I'm not disputing that in the least.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By JoshuaBuss on 1/27/2008 11:13:39 PM , Rating: 1
but at the same time, that's like saying the people who build a new shopping mall can't monitor activity inside it to make sure gangs aren't using it for drug deals.

this is a tough case. personally, i think they should simply include a clause that says that since you're paying them to use THEIR private network, they reserve the right to make sure they aren't assisting in/providing the means for illegal activity among their users.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By retrospooty on 1/28/2008 10:41:28 AM , Rating: 1
"but at the same time, that's like saying the people who build a new shopping mall can't monitor activity inside it to make sure gangs aren't using it for drug deals."

I would assume that is the job of the local police, not the malls builder,owner, or manager. Also, its different if you are in a mall and see drug deals going down and report it to the police, and monitoring internet traffic. To happen see a crime and report it is fine, to monitor communications looking for crime is illegal (at least until good ol' George Dubbya).


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/28/2008 11:44:39 AM , Rating: 2
> "I would assume that is the job of the local police, not the malls builder,owner, or manager"

Point in fact, it's also the duty of the mall owner, up to a certain degree. Many hotels, for instance, have been shut down for not taking reasonable steps to prevent prostitution within them.

> " to monitor communications looking for crime is illegal"

To monitor on a common carrier is illegal. The public phone network is such. The Internet, though, is a grey area; there's not a firm body of legal precedent either way.

Personally, I hope the same protections will be accorded to Internet traffic...but as of yet, they don't exist.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Rhaido on 1/28/2008 4:17:43 PM , Rating: 2
> "I would assume that is the job of the local police, not the malls builder,owner, or manager"

Point in fact, it's also the duty of the mall owner, up to a certain degree. Many hotels, for instance, have been shut down for not taking reasonable steps to prevent prostitution within them.


I am not arguing against your point but merely curious. Were employees of the hotels charged with a criminal offense or was it a case where an owner/manager of a 15 room hourly rental motel who went to jail and thereby shut down? Loss of license from criminal charge maybe? I am no attorney but can a noncorporeal incorporated entity like a Four Seasons be shut down via a criminal charge generally speaking? Revocation of license or bankruptcy via some form of civil recourse in tort law perhaps?

> " to monitor communications looking for crime is illegal"

To monitor on a common carrier is illegal. The public phone network is such. The Internet, though, is a grey area; there's not a firm body of legal precedent either way.

Personally, I hope the same protections will be accorded to Internet traffic...but as of yet, they don't exist.


Can someone explain the courts on this one? What is the difference between my voice traveling getting certain protection (pre Bush NSA Narus STA 6400 hypothetical) and my data packets getting no protection? Just for simplicity, say I only use copper twisted pair on my end and the same for the other guy on the line receiving either voice or data via oldschool HyperTerminal from me.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Tamale on 1/28/2008 5:07:48 PM , Rating: 2
That's exactly why the internet is so tough to define legally. Some transport mechanisms go over regular old phone networks, while some go over privately owned data pipes.

When an ISP though is looking to crack down on ITS users, it really does have the right to do this. Every one of its clients is a user of their private network.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By Christopher1 on 2/1/2008 1:16:40 AM , Rating: 1
Sorry, but it's not really a 'private network' considering that most of the internet has been paid for by our taxes.

Now, if that wasn't the case, then I would agree with you - it's a private network if NO public funds are spent on it, otherwise it is a public/private network with the same protections on it as the phone lines (which were also paid for mostly by taxes).


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/28/2008 8:36:45 PM , Rating: 2
> "Were employees of the hotels charged with a criminal offense or was it a case where an owner/manager of a 15 room hourly rental motel who went to jail and thereby shut down"

The "bawdy house" cases I know of have included revocation of operating licenses and in extreme cases seizure of assets (the property itself). I'm not personally familiar with any where criminal charges were filed against the owner/manager, but I'm sure some exist. Quite obviously, the standard of proof is higher in a criminal case.

> "What is the difference between my voice traveling getting certain protection (pre Bush NSA Narus STA 6400 hypothetical) and my data packets getting no protection? "

Legal precedent. Also, remember the telephone network began as a public monopoly, and thus its common carrier status was never in dispute. The Internet began as a series of private networks.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/26/2008 6:04:15 PM , Rating: 2
That is incorrect. Suppose I sell you a car then tell someone I didn't. Is the car any less yours?

Now let's equate that to internet traffic. You can easily have the right to use software and no limit on how you *transport* that content, yet based on the word of someone who no longer has a right to add new terms to the original agreement you entered to secure right to use that content, a 3rd party is now allowed to block your data?

It is certainly true most of the traffic seen with P2P is copyright infringement, but creation of new policies and active filtering should not be restrictive of other legitimate data transportation.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By themadmilkman on 1/27/2008 2:05:38 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That is incorrect. Suppose I sell you a car then tell someone I didn't. Is the car any less yours?


Well, that depends. Did the purchaser neglect to record the title? And did you then sell the title to the vehicle again to the second individual, who then recorded the title? If that were the case (and it's more common than you would imagine, especially with real estate) in most states the second individual would then own the car.

(Yes, this is completely OT, but who cares?)


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/27/2008 7:07:11 AM , Rating: 2
What in the world? This is a simple concept you're getting confused about.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By eye smite on 1/26/08, Rating: 0
RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mcnabney on 1/27/2008 2:13:41 AM , Rating: 1
please
please
please
please, be a troll.

I don't want to imagine the world being full of people like you again...


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By hedron on 1/31/2008 2:46:08 PM , Rating: 2
Well, both Bainwol and Sherman are Jews. So is Dan Glickman. Those are the head honcho's of the RIAA and MPAA. Of course, Bram Cohen wrote bittorrent, their arch-nemesis of sorts. What does this mean? I have no idea.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/27/2008 10:22:58 PM , Rating: 2
Did you actually blame the Holocaust on "money grubbing" jews? I had to read twice to believe my own eyes :(


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By smitty3268 on 1/27/2008 11:56:55 PM , Rating: 2
It's certainly true that Jews had more financial success than most other groups, and that did cause people to resent them. But blaming the victims is never right, and blaming all of WW2 on them might just be the most idiotic thing I've ever seen on DT.

Also, there are plenty of people running the RIAA and MPAA who aren't Jews. They may be an influential group, but they don't control Hollywood.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By theapparition on 1/28/2008 1:52:16 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's certainly true that Jews had more financial success than most other groups

As with everything, most stereotypes usually have some basis for fact, even the ones that were not supposed to say are true (or were true many, many years ago).
In the middle ages, "Usury" (interest bearing lending) was forbidden for all Christians. As such, no Christian could loan money, or face the severe rath of the Catholic church. The Jew's stepped up and became the bankers of the time. The banking profession, was also considered one of the lowest occupations at the time. Amazing that after 1000 years, the stereotype has still existed as "money-grubbing", the "bankers", etc. Make you wonder what stereotypes of our time will be remembered in 1000 years from now.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By frobizzle on 1/28/2008 8:56:19 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
In the middle ages, "Usury" (interest bearing lending) was forbidden for all Christians.

So very wrong!! Usury is not just interest bearing lending, it is doing so with an exorbitant or unlawful rate of interest. Technically, at least in the US, it is still illeagal (though one wonders how some of the credit card companies bypass the law with interest rates of 29% or higher!)


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By theapparition on 1/28/2008 10:26:19 AM , Rating: 3
I suggest you read up on your history before making a definitive rebutal.

Usury in the middle ages refered to charging interest of any kind. Later, as the practice became widespread and adopted, Usury became known as it is now, "exorbitant interest".

But I do agree with one of your points though, I don't know how some credit companies get away with their intrest rates and fees.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/28/2008 11:49:04 AM , Rating: 2
> "Usury in the middle ages refered to charging interest of any kind"

Very true.

Interestingly enough, in the Middle Ages, many got around the charging of interest in much the same way people do today-- by creating bloated "fees" and unrealistic "damages".

For instance, a lender might charge you nothing to borrow money from him...but you'd have to pay a "carrying charge" for him to safely transport it to you.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 1/28/2008 2:04:50 PM , Rating: 2
Even more interesting, the Knights Templars were the only group allowed to charge interest and make loans bearing interest during that period. The Jewish nation may have adopted this practice because it was done during the Knight's control of Jerusalem. Some believe they started the modern day banking system. The History Channel (I think) had a very interesting documentary on the Knights Templar that discusses this subject.


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