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AT&T's Plan to Play Internet Cop

Zonk posted more than 5 years ago | from the sorry-i-was-surfing-too-fast-occifer dept.

Businesses 272

Ponca City, We Love You writes "Tim Wu has an interesting (and funny) article on Slate that says that AT&T's recent proposal to examine all the traffic it carries for potential violations of US intellectual property laws is not just bad but corporate seppuku bad. At present AT&T is shielded by a federal law they wrote themselves that provides they have no liability for 'Transitory Digital Network Communications' — content AT&T carries over the Internet. To maintain that immunity, AT&T must transmit data 'without selection of the material by the service provider' and 'without modification of its content' but if AT&T gets into the business of choosing what content travels over its network, it runs the serious risk of losing its all-important immunity. 'As the world's largest gatekeeper,' Wu writes, 'AT&T would immediately become the world's largest target for copyright infringement lawsuits.' ATT's new strategy 'exposes it to so much potential liability that adopting it would arguably violate AT&T's fiduciary duty to its shareholders,' concludes Wu."

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272 comments

How to beat it (5, Funny)

ProteusQ (665382) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080338)

We all send copyrighted emails to one another under a license that does not allow AT&T to retransmit the contents without written permission. We then start a class-action lawsuit. IANAL, but that ought to slay the dragon if the judge agrees that the case has merit.

Re:How to beat it (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080652)

We all send copyrighted emails to one another under a license that does not allow AT&T to retransmit the contents without written permission.
Hasn't the argument flashed on here that once something is created it's copywriten? Or would the timestamp [wikipedia.org] from the email server create a poor man's copy write [wikipedia.org] and therefor they'd be violating a copywrite anyway.

Re:How to beat it (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22080914)

You must be new. The law will just change to be in AT&T's favour before that ever happens.

but... (0, Offtopic)

blackdew (1161277) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080340)

Suing AT&T will mean you are a non-patriot (the A is for American after all) and land you in Guantanamo Bay.

we've already done this to death (2, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080344)

Last time this story came up (last week?) there were a lot of comments about common carrier status and how this proposal could endanger that.

Nothing new here

Re:we've already done this to death (2, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080410)

I think the point here is that AT&T is trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want the same law to apply, even if they start filtering. That's bad bad bad. The really bad thing for me is I choose between AT&T or Comcast. Guess it's back to carrier pidgins?

Re:we've already done this to death (4, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080474)

> Guess it's back to carrier pidgins?

I don't know about you, but I much prefer using carrier creole.

carrier pidgeons? nope. wireless p2p (1)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081030)

ya have to get off the government net to get away from government snooping

this means ya gonna have to resort to wireless p2p networks

tee hee -- this is a very interesting concept

the old linear amp. moves from the truck-stop to the geek-shop

Re:we've already done this to death (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081068)

Does Speakeasy offer DSL in your area? That's what I did until I could go with RCN. Speakeasy DSL costs more, but they have highly technically skilled customer support people, an expectation that their customers run servers, and a rock-solid network. I highly recommend them.

Re:we've already done this to death (5, Informative)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081414)

Does Speakeasy offer DSL in your area? That's what I did until I could go with RCN. Speakeasy DSL costs more, but they have highly technically skilled customer support people, an expectation that their customers run servers, and a rock-solid network. I highly recommend them.

Your packets will still likely go through an AT&T network and thus still be inspected.

Because AT&T is so large this will affect a good chunk of the Internet - especially US networks.

Hell their backbone runs the entire length of the us.

This map is from 2000 so it's probably much more invasive now:

http://www.cybergeography.org/atlas/att_backbone_large.gif [cybergeography.org]

Re:we've already done this to death (1)

Craig Maloney (1104) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081420)

Except AFAIK, Speakeasy resells DSL, which is under the auspices of AT&T. So, you're still on AT&T's wires.

Re:we've already done this to death (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081144)

about common carrier status

And as many replies stating that AT&T's internet service is not common carrier, dammit! They lobbied hard to make sure it was that way, because maintaining common carrier status is fucking expensive (what, you think having a dialtone every single time you pick up your phone without having a window where the phone company can say "ok! nobody make a call, we're going to reboot some switches!" is cheap?!), and because violating the common carrier rules doesn't mean you "lose common carrier status", it means you go to jail. Think about that, some guy at the post office reading your mail doesn't mean the post office stops being a common carrier, it means the guy goes to jail.

This is why they have to have special laws with exceptions written just for them that protect them from being sued!

Encryption... (4, Insightful)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080368)

Aside from the problem "fiduciary duty", it's also pointless.
True, most traffic is not encrypted, but with encryption technology more accessible than ever I think that the whole effort will be a waste of resources.

I can imagine whole sub-networks cropping up that uses VPN, exchanging traffic with immunity to AT&T's traffic analysis.

Re:Encryption... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22080436)

¾çäæfds

Re:Encryption... (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080438)

that doesn't work, all they have to know is that some ip address is serving up copyrighted material on a given port and shut of that port for that server.

What we need is something that cryptographially switches the ports around and the server all to have a copy of a few books from project gutenberg so the ISP can't be sure it the material is copyrighted or not.

Re:Encryption... (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080570)

that doesn't work, all they have to know is that some ip address is serving up copyrighted material on a given port and shut of that port for that server.

I think you misunderstand how a Virtual Private Network works. The first thing you must understand is that there is not spoon^W ports. Once you realize that there are no ports, then you only need to route packets over a secure channel that's indistinguishable from valid business. Is this user networking with his small-business employer, or a pirate spreading illegal wares? Impossible to tell from the traffic itself.

Re:Encryption... (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080762)

Impossible to tell from the traffic itself.

Don't most (all?) VPN systems rely on public-key cryptography and thus vulnerable to man in the middle attacks? It might not be possible to do a MITM attack against your VPN to work (presumably you have some system in place to verify the encryption keys) but how are you going to prevent it on a p2p network when you have no way to verify the keys of the hosts you are communicating with? A piratebay-type certificate registry hosted in a country that isn't friendly to copyright law? What happens when they block access to it?

Re:Encryption... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080918)

No. IPSEC can use several methods, and key are exchanged out of band. (Or e-mailed if you are sloppy) Now PPtP, or the McDonalds of VPN, is less secure, but it is generally not used for router to router tunnels. IPSEC is, and it is supported in most commercial firewalls, and most FOSS firewall projects. (like m0n0wall)

Re:Encryption... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081026)

and key are exchanged out of band

Unless "out of band" means exchanged through some other path then AT&T then I fail to see how that helps us.

I'm not denying that there are ways to securely exchange encryption keys with someone -- but you can't exchange them over an untrusted network without some sort of way to verify it. This won't stop piracy (I'm sure the warez groups can securely exchange keys) but it will render p2p as we know next to useless.

Your typical bittorrent client will establish connections with dozens or hundreds of peers. How do you purpose to securely exchange encryption keys with all of them?

Re:Encryption... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081102)

Unless "out of band" means exchanged through some other path then AT&T then I fail to see how that helps us.

Wow... Just wow... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-of-band [wikipedia.org]

And the original poster was saying "I can imagine whole sub-networks cropping up that uses VPN, exchanging traffic with immunity to AT&T's traffic analysis." To me that says a small private network between a few friends where everyone shares there content. Something Like I have a VPN to John, Steve, and Bill's house, and we all have FTP servers open to each other.

Re:Encryption... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081376)

Wow... Just wow... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-of-band [wikipedia.org]

Mind pointing out which section of that answers my question, because I don't see it? If you are transferring the keys across the internet then they are vulnerable to being intercepted and replaced with a different key. I fail to see how you stop this without a trusted source that can sign (or otherwise vouch for) the encryption keys used for that session.

Re:Encryption... (4, Insightful)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081192)

I wouldn't sweat it. If this sort of policy comes to pass, I'm sure it will take all of about a month for Azureus or whoever to write a modification to the BitTorrent concept, allowing for VPN style connections between peers. Yes, I imagine this would be complicated to set up from a programming stance, but releasing a patch with most largely available BT clients would immediately transform BT as we know it, and would send all these pro-DRM groups back to the drawing board for a while. IANAP, but in concept this seems to be the next logical step anyway.
This is the nature of the internet. The people that innovate in this field are problem solvers, often with a penchant for resiting authority and control. Whenever something like this happens, no matter how detailed or iron-clad the barrier is, someone eventually (or rapidly, more often than not) finds a way to overcome it. Bad code on CDs cause PCs to be unable to read them? Take a felt tip pen and mark the last 1/8" of the disk. DRM protection on DVDs? Here's about 2 MB of code that will overcome any known keys. It's all a matter of time.

Re:Encryption... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081584)

'm sure it will take all of about a month for Azureus or whoever to write a modification to the BitTorrent concept, allowing for VPN style connections between peers

You missed the point of my posts. That VPN is a moot point if you don't have a way to verify the key that you are using to encrypt the data. What stops AT&T from conducting man in the middle [wikipedia.org] attacks against your encrypted bittorrent sessions?

Re:Encryption... (4, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081120)

If AT&T actually goes so far as to automate man-in-the-middle and spoof all cryptographic key exchanges so that they can decrypt and analyze encrypted content... things are going to get interesting.

For one thing, I imagine financial institutions are not going to take kindly to that kind of action, and could probably mount a very successful class-action lawsuit.

The thing about encrypted traffic is that it could be anything, from confidential business data, to financial transactions, to launch-codes, to a screener of a new movie. As crazy as they are, AT&T will not start playing that game.

The blocking of IP addresses is a more likely counter-attack to widespread encryption, but even then solutions exist (e.g. the TOR network allows routing to servers that have no "non-tor" domain name, so the real IP address is never exposed). It will quickly become a ridiculous arms race...

Re:Encryption... (1, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080490)

but with encryption technology more accessible than ever I think that the whole effort will be a waste of resources

Sure about that? What's to stop them from using man in the middle attacks to decrypt the communications? Are we going to have a certificate registry for pirated material? Not very likely.

Re:Encryption... (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080860)

Sure about that? What's to stop them from using man in the middle attacks to decrypt the communications? Are we going to have a certificate registry for pirated material? Not very likely.

Not necessary. The DMCA provides this wonderful protection:


" 1201. Circumvention of copyright protection systems

"(a) Violations Regarding Circumvention of Technological Measures.--(1)(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.


Now I just need to find the escape clause that the corporations built into it for themselves...

Re:Encryption... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080940)

I don't have that much faith in AT&T following the law. Even if there isn't an escape clause, they'll lobby to have one put in the minute somebody tries to apply the DMCA against them. Hell, this is the company that's trying to get retroactive immunity for breaking the law.

Somebody needs to establish a central certificate registry for individuals. Then build something at the network layer (easy as cake in Linux, probably doable in Windows as well) that checks that registry before communicating with a host on the internet. If they have a certificate all traffic is encrypted (be it dns requests, irc, p2p, or what have you). I could see some problems implementing this (non fixed ip addresses for starters) but we should be able to overcome them.

Mod Parent Up (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081248)

That is a fantastic idea. The only problem is that the "bad guys" would have equal access to that DB, and would be able to manipulate it, rendering it useless. The Man would be able to listen in just as before, just having to go through one extra step to do it.

Re:Mod Parent Up (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081310)

Eh, you'd have to do it like any other certificate registry and you'd have to trust the registry itself. This is no different from how it works today -- there just isn't an (affordable) system in place to do it on an individual level yet. The current system also works on a protocol level -- I'm thinking of a transparent end-to-end system at Level 3 [wikipedia.org]. I think this was actually one of the original goals behind IPSec, but it never took off for whatever reason.

Re:Encryption... (0)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081326)

Sure about that? What's to stop them from using man in the middle attacks to decrypt the communications? Are we going to have a certificate registry for pirated material? Not very likely.

This was written, and then modded "insightful" by somebody who does not understand how encryption.

Encryption uses a "two key" system - a public key and a private key. Anything encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted by somebody with the private key. How it works is this:

Party A contacts party B, and gives out its public key. This can be completely, 100% "in the clear". Party B replies with its public key. Party A uses party B's public key to encrypt a random number, and sends it to Party B. Party B decrypts this random value, and re-encrypts this random value with Party A's public key, sending it on to Party A.

Party A can now confirm the random value, and this provides very, very strong assurance against a "man-in-the-middle" attack. Anybody watching this connection has ready access to both public keys. Yet, if you were paying attention, you'd notice that this fact is not particularly relevant.

The only way to get "in the middle" is to get the private key that matches the public key, and so far as is known, the only way to do this is with very, very computationally expensive brute-force attacks.

Re:Encryption... (2, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081514)

This was written, and then modded "insightful" by somebody who does not understand how encryption.

I know that ssh takes steps to store the public keys and warn you if they've changed. Why would it bother doing that if man-in-the-middle attacks aren't possible?

Party A contacts party B, and gives out its public key. This can be completely, 100% "in the clear". Party B replies with its public key. Party A uses party B's public key to encrypt a random number, and sends it to Party B. Party B decrypts this random value, and re-encrypts this random value with Party A's public key, sending it on to Party A.

My understanding is as follows:

Party A contacts Party B and sends it's public key. Party E (evil guy) intercepts this public key and replaces it with his own. Party B replies with his public key, which is also intercepted and replaced. Party A and B are now "encrypting" the traffic with the public key provided by Party E, whom decrypts it, and re-encrypts it with the original public keys provided by A and B prior to forwarding that traffic on to them. Party E now has access to the complete conversation between A and B whom are none the wiser, unless they have an outside method of verifying the keys they received.

I fail to see how an exchange of a random number stops this, when Party A never actually received Party B's key to begin with, because said key was replaced by Party E.

Re:Encryption... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081236)

I can imagine whole sub-networks cropping up that uses VPN, exchanging traffic with immunity to AT&T's traffic analysis.
Stop imagining [anonet.org]. It's small, but perfectly formed and functional. Please mod up.

Not just copyright .... (1, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080378)

If they lose the protection of just being a transmission medium, don't they open themselves up to liability for child porn, any crimes which may be happening over the transmitted data, and a whole slew of stuff?

It would suddenly become "if you can police this, you're required to police all of these other things". You can't selectively be enforcing what traffic travels without being responsible for all of the rest.

Hopefully, they'll figure out that if they start being the copyright police for all internet traffic, they're responsible for policing everything. Of course, I'm sure there are people who would like them to be the central censor for everything found objectionable.

Cheers

Re:Not just copyright .... (1)

kcornia (152859) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081284)

Maybe today that is true, but what's to stop them from crafting a new law just like the one mentioned in the summary. I think this assumption we all have that if they look for one thing they must look for all things is exactly that, an assumption.

We've seen far worse laws drafted in the name of protecting "commerce".

Dear ATT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22080382)


Fuck Cheney

don't like the law? They'll change it (3, Interesting)

axus (991473) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080402)

AT&T obviously has some deep government connections, they've got senators thinking that what's good for AT&T is good for America. They wrote the previous law, they can unwrite it. The trick will be how to include themselves and exclude their competitors... and I'm sure they'll try to stick people with open wifi ports too.

Re:don't like the law? They'll change it (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080948)

I don't understand how anyone can object to the previous law. If you build a method of transfering information, you are not liable for what people send over it. Should gun makers be liable for what people do with their products?

AT&T commit corporate seppuku? (2, Funny)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080404)

Good luck with that.

No, really. I mean it

Re:AT&T commit corporate seppuku? (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081306)

You know, one of their main buildings is right next to my office. Maybe I could walk over there with a sword and...

    Nah, maybe not. I've seen how those "guy walks into office wielding sword" news stories usually go. Don't tase me bro.

time to fund some campaigns (5, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080430)

at present AT&T is shielded by a federal law they wrote themselves

So they will just write another law. Do you really think that will be a problem for them to get a "children's internet safety" law passed. The government has been practically wetting themselves wanting a seemingly legal way to inspect all internet traffic, this is the opportunity. Nevermind "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" because this a non-government entity.

Re:time to fund some campaigns (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081476)

I hear you, but the consumer has some pretty good lobbying groups going for him these days too. Check out savetheinternet.com [savetheinternet.com]. You have these guys largely to thank for the fight for net neutrality thus far.
I'm not one for protests or taking part in debates, so I show support by donating. I give these guys and stealthisfilm.com [stealthisfilm.com] a little $$ now and then, because they speak in a voice that can be heard better than mine. It's a lot more effective than online petitions, but should also be used in conjunction with regular letters to your congressman, senator, etc.. See my sig, as it's actually appropriate to this discussion. Worrying about this problem in here does almost nothing.

Re:time to fund some campaigns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081542)

They wrote the law before, they'll write their own law again. It's a very beneficial relationship for both the government and AT&T. instead of creating a government agency of censorship, it's like they've outsourced it to the private sector. ingenious! this will be the way of the future!

Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (1)

edmicman (830206) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080432)

Dammit! I've been planning on looking into switching to AT&T DSL in the near future. I currently have a local cable provider for Internet and TV. The Internet access is OK, but the TV (specifically the HD content) quality sucks bad. Plus it's local so it don't even have the clout like Comcast to improve their offerings.

I've been looking into switching to AT&T DSL and a satellite provider to try and save money and get a better product. The DSL looks like it would be about $15/month cheaper, and the dish provider would give a lot better service I think. But now there's all this talk about AT&T messing with their Internet service....gahhhhh!

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080614)

Don't switch to AT&T DSL.

That company is evil. You're bills will be wrong. If you think you are saving $15 a month, you'll actually be saving more like $5, because of random fees and charges. Customer service will be incredibly slow and rude. Not to mention that even AT&T's Fiber service is capped at 6mbps.

Don't use AT&T. I tried out AT&T DSL about two months ago, just to see if they had improved.

Short story? I now have ongoing billing dispute with them, even though I only had service for 3 days, and they claim I owe them $100+. Absurd.

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (2, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081168)

Try getting dry loop DSL, it's even worse.

AT&T does offer dry loop, but they won't admit it, and most of their call center drones don't know that it exists. I ordered it a few months back, and after being transferred all over the place just to find someone that would admit that it existed and knew how to set it up, I finally got someone to actually hook it up.

After I got my first bill, I jumped online and set up automatic payment, and everything was fine. Then, two months later, I get a nastygram saying my bill was overdue. The notice had a completely different account number. So, I call AT&T and tell them I'm getting double billed with two account numbers for the same service. Two hours of transfers later, I get a lady who tells me that this happens "ALL the time" and agrees to close the past due account and credit back the charges.

A week later, my DSL is disconnected. Of course, when they closed that one account, they disconnected the service as well. After another couple of hours on the phone, I finally got my DSL turned back on under (I hope) the right account number. Good times.

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (5, Informative)

acoustix (123925) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080624)

This issue isn't just limited to AT&T customers. It affects everyone because AT&T is a tier 1 provider, meaning that they provide backbone access for several ISPs. They are looking to sniff *all* traffic, not just traffic of their DSL customers.

Nick

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (1)

computational super (740265) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080684)

Oh, you don't have to switch to AT&T. Just keep your current provider - as soon as AT&T gets this working, everybody else will follow suit.

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080974)

All consumer providers will have the same issues. AT&T and Comcast will continue to try an top each other in screwing the customer. To avoid this, you will either need to go to a business class provider (like Logix or C-Beyond) and pay a lot more, or invest in encryption. I have several clients with all of the above services. At home I use AT&T, and I trust them about as much as i trust a crack addicted stripper.

Re:Who do I use for Internet access now then?? (1)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081230)

Think bigger than that. Even if they aren't your ISP nor the ISP of whoever you want to talk to, your traffic will very likely flow through pipes they own. It's respectable to boycott them for this but it isn't going to keep them from watching much of what you do online.

robbIE's PostBlock censorship plan (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22080446)

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
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corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

How to tell your management structure is broken (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080470)

When really stupid ideas start seeing the light of day. That means most of the management team has insulated themselves from criticism by surrounding themselves with toadies and have, effectively, separated themselves from any semblance of reality.

Usually the case when you see corporate behavior and wonder, "How could they be that stupid?" Because on their little planet what they're doing makes sense. Just not on this world.

In my experience it also means upper management has divided themselves into warring camps.

Re:How to tell your management structure is broken (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080534)

Usually the case when you see corporate behavior and wonder, "How could they be that stupid?" Because on their little planet what they're doing makes sense. Just not on this world.

Of course, one could always be paranoid and start thinking the feds are working with them on this and trying to write in exemptions to the laws for the bug hunt against copyright infringement. After all, they made it illegal to sue them for assisting in widespread eaves-dropping on everyone's communications, so why not get them to help corporate interests?

But, that would likely be construed as cynical and far fetched and people would claim your tin-foil hat was too snug.

Cheers

Re:How to tell your management structure is broken (4, Interesting)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080560)

It's also a sign- the company has clearly chosen a strategy from the following two:

1. Side with the consumer. In the end it's their money that will make you surpass your competition.
2. Side with legislation. You can legislate yourself a consumer base, that's where the money will be.

It's sad when a company thinks they're so big that they can take option 2. It's fun when option 2 basically kills a company. I wouldn't be surprised if this type of move kills them. Think about it- they're talking about censoring the very basic service that's being offered. It's like they're trying to sell a damaged highway to people, expecting them to take it because the potholes are on purpose. People will vote with their wallets, I hope.

Even stupider than everyone is saying (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080646)

Okay, so I'm watching TV on my Verizon FIOS (carried over the internet) and AT&T blocks it (as it goes over their network) because I'm watching a copyrighted movie. Yeah, no problem there.

Re:Even stupider than everyone is saying (1)

slykens (85844) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081578)

Okay, so I'm watching TV on my Verizon FIOS (carried over the internet) and AT&T blocks it (as it goes over their network) because I'm watching a copyrighted movie. Yeah, no problem there.

FIOS Video is not carried on the Internet.

First, regular FIOS Video, your TV channels, are not even video over IP.

Second, any video that is IP (an on-demand service, for example) is carried solely on Verizon's internal network. How is T going to block what's on VZ's internal network?

Really, if you're going to comment at least have half an idea how the technology works.

The real issue, IMHO, is as the original commenter indicated... Such a move could potentially open T to massive civil and potentially criminal liabilities. Back in the old dial-up BBS days there were sysops charged in other states under the foreign state's indecency laws. What is to stop some podunk community from attempting to hold T criminally liable for not filtering material they define as obscene on the basis that T has shown the ability to filter content on their network.

Re:How to tell your management structure is broken (1)

rwyoder (759998) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080658)

When really stupid ideas start seeing the light of day. That means most of the management team has insulated themselves from criticism by surrounding themselves with toadies and have, effectively, separated themselves from any semblance of reality. Usually the case when you see corporate behavior and wonder, "How could they be that stupid?" Because on their little planet what they're doing makes sense. Just not on this world. In my experience it also means upper management has divided themselves into warring camps.
Are we still talking about AT&T, or did the conversation move on to the Dubya administration?

Re:How to tell your management structure is broken (1)

internic (453511) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081016)

Are we still talking about AT&T, or did the conversation move on to the Dubya administration?

They're closely [eff.org] related [opensecrets.org]. In fairness, though, AT&T is much more competent than the Bush administration itself, otherwise we might not have much to fear. "We know where the infringing packets are. They're on the internets and north, south, east, and west somewhat."

How much does this affect non-ATT people? (2, Interesting)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080486)

I assume that AT&T carries traffic across their network that doesn't neccessarily start or end with them. Somewhere in the middle? How much would this affect a Verizon subscriber accessing something from a server that's not neccessarily AT&T? Would AT&T likely get the traffic across their network somewhere in the US anyhow? If not, then could the rule be applied:

"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

I could see a massive boycott of AT&T if this is possible, but I admittedly don't really understand too much how the infrastructure works.

Re:How much does this affect non-ATT people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081448)

"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

The Internet is not a sentient and intelligent being, it's just a communication network and as such it doesn't have the capability to "intepret" anything. That sentence is just a nonsensical expression of wishful thinking by little naive kids who think that their internet subscription (paid for by their parents) somehow makes them special and part of some elite.

Content filtering, once enabled, will change the face of the internet forever and there's nothing you can do about it. You are users, not masters. The ISPs have you by the balls.

ATT is small potatoes (0, Troll)

jaredmauch (633928) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080496)

They're a small network compared to the other global players [renesys.com]. Even if you add up their SBC+ATT operations it's still not as big as other players in the market.

Re:ATT is small potatoes (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080664)

I dunno what you are talking about; they seem to be in the top 3 on both the retail/wholesale lists.

AFAIK, most internet traffic in the U.S. goes over AT&T's backbone, which is a damn shame. Hopefully Sprint, MCI, and maybe even Google will take over that load, and someday the behemoth that is AT&T can collapse.

Re:ATT is small potatoes (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080726)

And if they're in a better position to implement these newly discovered legal responsibilities, it would give them a significant advantage over their larger competitors when the government expects them to do the same.

If they start to block stuff and you get sued for. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080516)

If they start to block stuff and you get sued for upload and download stuff that did not get blocked can you go to court and say AT&T did not block it so it must be ok to freely upload and download it?

I think the Prodigy ruling applies as well... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080518)

Way back in the dark ages, before the Internet had cast dial-up online services from the home, Prodigy lost a case over content because they chose to moderate a forum.

They didn't even argue that controlling content meant responsibility for that content: their defense was that a volunteer paid in kind was not an agent because they were not an employee.

Well, they could ... (3, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080540)

To maintain that immunity, AT&T must transmit data 'without selection of the material by the service provider' and 'without modification of its content'



Well, neither of the criteria contains any mention of the transfer rate. They could limit "offending" downloads to 1 kB/s.

They just buy NEW LAWS (2, Informative)

computersareevil (244846) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080578)

Listen, they paid enough to get the common-carrier laws written so they would be immune from prosecution. What makes anybody think they won't just buy new laws that allow them to police traffic but still enjoy immunity? They are doing it for the children, after all...

Re:They just buy NEW LAWS (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080992)

Listen, they paid enough to get the common-carrier laws written so they would be immune from prosecution. What makes anybody think they won't just buy new laws that allow them to police traffic but still enjoy immunity? They are doing it for the children, after all...

Well, they're doing it for the copyright holders.

Or, did I miss the point where downloading copyrighted material kills babies?

Not that I disagree that they'd just buy themselves a new law they wrote.

Cheers

Just be glad... (3, Funny)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080608)

That it's only AT&T doing the looking...for now. Wait until the gov't gets Google on it. Then we're all doomed. We'll actually have to pay for music, movies, and pr0n again. The humanity!

Re:Just be glad... (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080890)

How do you know that the government doesn't already snoop Google's data?

Another Reason Why AT&T is EVIL..... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22080634)

Here's another reason why this company was broken up in the first place back in the 80's! How in the hell did the FCC and the American Public let this slip past us? Now we are dealing with it again. WTF? When will the FCC learn?

Re:Another Reason Why AT&T is EVIL..... (4, Insightful)

computational super (740265) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080834)

Remember, this is the same American public which allows (even cheers for) the FCC to decide what you can and can't see and hear.

Re:Another Reason Why AT&T is EVIL..... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081234)

Remember, this is also the same American public who voted for Dubya... twice!

Whatever tiny shred of integrity and rationality that was left in government/big business is gone for good. The day these shenanigans stop surprising people is the day we've already lost. Too late I guess, because no one is surprised by this. We've already lost folks.

Blind ignorance and greed have won the day and there's not a god damn thing any of us can do except bitch about it in a stupid forum that caters to people like us anyways.

We live in a world where conservatives believe Mass Effect is hardcore pornography and Grand Theft Auto incites riots and murder amongst teenage boys. I hate to say it folks, but it doesn't get better from here...

Intelligence is the new minority in the US.

Re:Another Reason Why AT&T is EVIL..... (1, Flamebait)

computational super (740265) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081434)

Wow, I'm psychic... I *knew* somebody was going to post something along the lines of "this is the same American public who voted for GWB". Don't you think Bush-bashing is getting a little worn out? And honestly, do you really think either of the two alternatives would have been any better? Gore would have signed the patriot act and Kerry would have authorized warrantless wiretaps just like GWB did.

I'd vote for him in 2008 if he was running again... if he were running against Hillary (actually, I'd vote for Osama Bin Laden before I'd vote for Hillary - at least you know where he stands).

The real point of the move....; (3, Insightful)

supersnail (106701) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080734)

"AT&T argues that it must get involved in stopping the flow of pirated content because much of this content is shared using peer-to-peer protocols, which eats up valuable network bandwidth, slowing network connections for many of its customers."

They just want to block file sharers!

The corporate weasels just dressed this up in a load of crud about copyrioght protection, protecting kittens from microwaves and otherwise keeping the planet safe for CEOs who havent yet earned thier first billion.

Thye dont need any fancy technoligy to do this -- just a list of port numbers.

Cops or Spy ? (1)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080766)

In the real world, "generally" cops are used as a response to incident rather than a pre-emptive measurement before an incident occurs. I think the correct term is spy.

How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this... (5, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080786)

Time-Warner cable supposidly has 50% of the bandwidth used by 5% of the users. Who wants to bet that of this bandwidth, it is almost all pirated material?

The strength of piracy on the Internet is the ease of getting the pirated material, and the ease of distribution. Thus pirated material must be easy to find. So all the MP/RI-AA has to do is find it, and do something about it. Rather than playing Whak-A-Mole on Torrent tracker servers (which are largely offshore), with ISP cooperation from AT&T it becomes possible to play Whak-A-Mole on the users of the torrents themselves...

So the MP/RI-AA or their contractor surfs the Torrent sites, and connects to the torrents with a manipulated client, verifies that a particular torrent is a copyright violation, maps the users of the torrent, and then sends an automated list of the nodes to the ISP saying "This graph is bad, any edge between two nodes in this graph should be killed", and the ISP simply RST-flood any edge in the graph which crosses its network, or just put in a router ACL to drop that pair for a while. Because the strength of the system relies on it being public and P2P, the MP/RI-AA can easily get this information.

AT&T has multiple incentives to cooperate, and can probably do it safely. It has a second party (MP/RI-AA or a company they create/contract for) do the deciding, so they dont' have the liabliity.

It keeps the content providers happy for when they are negotiating their compete-with-iTunes/Netflix video on demand and cable TV services.

It keeps the content providers from pushing through very draconian legislation, or at least draconian legislation you aren't happy with. (It can F-up your competitors, but thats just a bonus)

Its very easy to implement (short-lived router ACLs which are automatically injected and revoked).

And it drops their bandwidth bills by 30-50% by eliminating a large amount of deliberately-noncacheable (both politically and because of bittorrent encryption) traffic.

I wouldn't take it as a guarentee, but I'd almost be willing to bet that AT&T does something like this in the next year. Who wouldn't leap at a chance to reduce your costs by 30%, keep a group of "partners" you have to deal with happy, and without any real work on your part (just an SNMP-manager program)?

This won't stop closed-world pirates, but those are far less annoying to the ISPs simply because there are so many fewer of them, and less important to the MP/RI-AA because they are less likely to be users you can convert to paying customers if you make the illegal content sources unusable.

Re:How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this. (1)

Grax (529699) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081020)

"Who wants to bet that of this bandwidth, it is almost all pirated material?"

Without more evidence, I will not take your bet. Remember a lot of bandwidth is used by legal porn and legal streaming and media services.

Re:How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this. (1)

Pyrrus (97830) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081050)

Interesting idea, but I think they'd still be playing whack-a-mole, because they would need to infiltrate every single torrent they want to shut down.
There are a lot of torrents and a lot of torrent sites, and they'd never be able to keep up.

Re:How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this. (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081256)

True, but every dead link means more frustration for the pirates. People are generally lazy. A lot of people who can do 3 mouse clicks and get a pirated DVD download will just give up and pay for the thing if they have to spend an hour following dead links and downloading half finished torrents before they get something valid. Thats all they need to do.

Re:How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this. (1)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081312)

If Google can find it, an MP/RI-AA spider could find it and spider the torrent.

If Google can't find it, the pirate users can't find it.

Oh, on the liability: according to the original article, this messes up one set of liability protection AT&T has, but they might still be able to retreat to the DMCA safe harbor provision, because they actually aren't making a decision about copyright, just enforcing someone else's decision.

But since they are enforcing someone else's decision, they can probably avoid liability if the decision is bogus.

Re:How and Why AT&T probably wants to do this. (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081372)

Your post outlines a possible means by which AT&T will stop bit-torrent traffic. It seems workable and realistic, and AT&T may very implement it (despite the obvious ramifications: e.g. if they block everything listed on PirateBay they will block many sanctioned/legal file transfers).

But the P2P community will fight back. It will become an arms race. For example:
-Trackers inject all kinds of bogus data into the trackers, crafted so that humans skip over it but automated crawlers choke on the massive amount of data (and RST packets!) they must deal with. For added fun, the bogus data includes IPs of legitimate company services, so AT&T will be interfering with, e.g. Blizzard downloads.
-ISPs adjust their software to differentiate "real torrents" from "fake torrents."
-Trackers begin accumulating lists of IP addresses and other signatures that detect the ISP bots, and feed them bogus data.
-ISPs use their control of IP blocks to fake requests from different IPs.
-P2P software starts ignoring RST packets, and uses a different (encrypted) protocol to open/close sessions.
-ISPs give up sending RST-floods, and instead drop all packets.
-Trackers implement algorithms that keep track of "user contribution" based on swarm participation (transmitting valid packets), and block/throttle clients with no "reputation." This makes it difficult for the ISPs bot to browse the torrent listing without actively participating in valid torrenting.
-ISPs switch to checking what IP addresses a person connects to, and simply stalls any connection (all traffic) that connects to a tracker site.
-Trackers switch entirely to TOR: they have no public IP address or domain name. All tracking requests go through TOR routing using the ".onion" pseudo-TLD.

And so on...

My point is this is a crazy arms race, and one should not enter that kind of battle until analyzing all the possible counter-attacks. And the difference here is that hackers will view this as a challenge, whereas AT&T will be spending literally millions of dollars implementing technologies that become invalidated over and over.

There's a more insidious possibility (3, Interesting)

QCompson (675963) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080820)

Maybe by the time AT&T has it's filtering plan in place, they also hope to have a wide-ranging immunity law passed by Congress that supplants 17 U.S.C. 512. The new law, passed by a Congress that is nearly completely united on their love for telecom companies, would give telecoms complete immunity from any lawsuits while engaged in "efforts to combat copyright violations."

It looks as if there's a good chance the telecoms will get retroactive immunity for aiding in breaking the law and eavesdropping on customer's communications without warrants; it doesn't seem to be a stretch to imagine that they will plan on their congress-critters to help them out in their fight against digital piracy.

Re:There's a more insidious possibility (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081496)

There's not much conceptual distance (and virtually no technical distance) between data-mining for copyright violations and data-mining for security violations.

Maybe NSA plans to let AT&T use a portion of whatever mining tool they've got up in those secret data rooms as payback? Or, maybe AT&T saw what NSA put into those secret rooms, and figured, "oh, so that's how you can filter the entire Internet."

computer hackers: get out (-1, Troll)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080934)

computer hackers do not own the net. the net belongs to legitimate users

we have a lot of abuse going on which includes but is not limited to

  • distributing illegal software updates: virus, rats, spy ware, adware, keyboard loggers
  • spam, phishing
  • facilitating copyright violations, --p2p--
  • facilitating criminal communication -- "hushmail"


now it appears the government may be looking into the entire mess and there are some folks screaming about privacy violations

guess what kids: the supervision is warranted by the bad behavior and mis-use of the net. a done it to yourselves

the rest of us have a right to have computer running without virus codes so we can communicate and conduct business without ditzy-bopping hackers trying to get in our face or rob us

This all about the 'success' of MediaDefender (2, Interesting)

ifknot (811127) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080954)

This is really about making lots of money in a new market... 'beating the pirates'

They have seen how MediaDefender has made huge profits out of the rabid desire of the music industry & hollywood to stop the perceived 'theft' of music and movies to illeagal downloads particulary torrents through technological techniques.

AT&T see themselves in excellent position to tap into this market through traffic monitoring and MediaDefender's recent stock crash after leaked emails reveal they were pwned by a bunch of high school kids http://torrentfreak.com/mediadefender-stock-plunges-due-to-leaked-emails-071222/ [torrentfreak.com] and http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/01/14/Media-Defenders-Profile?print=true [portfolio.com] couldn't have come at a better time

This a big and growing market and one of its major players just took a nosedive, the market share is up for grabs.

I can't see big music & hollywood coming to their senses about the whole thing anytime soon so the 'fight' will go on and the likes of AT&T will be there to profit and drive the market.

So if you've got no morals and an idea for a good algorithm or counter-pirate technique give AT&T a ring...

Here's how it'll go down... (4, Insightful)

glindsey (73730) | more than 5 years ago | (#22080982)

AT&T will simply purchase a new law from Congress stating "communications providers are allowed to monitor everything you do and turn you over to the government, but if they happen to miss anything, they are absolutely indemnified." They'll make arguments like "Hey, if the police aren't able to stop a murder from happening, but are shown to be putting forth their best effort to prevent murders, you don't hold the police officer responsible -- so why should we be held responsible if we miss some illegal content?"

And all the legislators will nod their heads and murmur to each other "hey, yeah, they've got a point," while a bag of money passes quietly underneath their tables, and voila, they're allowed -- hell, probably required by the government -- to monitor all traffic and report any and all Violations of the Right to Corporate Profit, and completely immune from prosecution if they happen to miss something.

It'll happen, and the typical "America, Fuck Yeah" voter will grin and gleefully agree that it's for the Good of the Nation, and if you're innocent you should have nothing to hide anyway, so what's the big deal?

The legislators who draft and vote for the bill, meanwhile, will be hailed as patriots and re-elected, again and again, for Protecting the Motherland while simultaneously paying lip-service to smaller government and less federal intrusion into our private lives.

I abhor the fact that my daughter is going to grow up in this pathetic shell that America is today.

Re:Here's how it'll go down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081202)

> I abhor the fact that my daughter is going to grow up in this pathetic shell that America is today.

So when are you moving abroad? Or do you not abhor it enough to actually do something about it?

Death to the Death Star (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081000)

AT&T is already facing a mortal threat because it helped Bush/Cheney spy on every phonecall on its network for at least 5 years, in blatant violation of the FISA. Those crimes should get Bush/Cheney impeached (and it just might) - AT&T would be an even huger casualty. That's why it (and its also guilty "competitors" like Verizon - but not Qwest, which refused) is pulling in all its favors in the Congress (especially in the Senate), to get amnesty/immunity for having broken that essential law so much and so badly.

If it gets away with those many and flaming FISA violations, AT&T will write new laws to allow, even encourage, more spying like this one.

But if AT&T doesn't get amnesty (even if it convinces a court that it isn't liable for breaking the FISA, because "the devil^WExecutive made me do it"), then maybe it will be stopped. Not just from spying, but from doing whatever it damn pleases to prey on America, both regular people and the many people who've been trying for several years now to compete with new technologies like VoIP and other open networks.

Death to AT&T. Maybe a lawsuit right up its heat exhaust will do the trick.

Policy (2, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081048)

Nothing new. Just the usual corporate policy of "Why aim for the sky when you can shoot yourself in the foot?"

Just Remember Kids, it Isn't Censorship! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22081164)

As your friendly neighborhood libertarian free market absolutist, I'd like to remind you that this is, in no way, censorship or an infringement upon your liberties. Only a government can commit censorship, because governments are evil. If consumers don't like AT&T's service, they will vote with their dollars by switching to one of the numerous, highly competitive suppliers of internet access. As anybody who has ever taken Econ101 or listened to talk radio will know, nothing could possibly go wrong!

A different theory of why ATT wants to help MPAA (1)

ZeroHero0H (454423) | more than 5 years ago | (#22081180)

Look, if AT&T wants to curry favor with the MPAA, which is to my mind what they're trying to do, they are very likely trying to offer some service which needs the approval of the MPAA. What if AT&T wants to offer full-def streaming movies on demand with a release schedule better than the movie channels? And the MPAA says "no, not unless you guarantee there is no piracy." A marketing bozo would fall all over themselves trying to prove that they could filter intellectual property without having a clue how it was actually done or even really caring if they could do it or not.

I don't really buy the bandwidth argument -- it certainly is contributory but an ISP can mess with your packets without claiming to be a IP cop.
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