back to article AT&T to crush copyrighted network packets

AT&T says it's time to start filtering copyrighted content at the network level. During a panel discussion at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), The New York Times reports, the communications giant joined Microsoft and NBC Universal in arguing that internet service providers - like AT&T itself - should be …


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  1. Brian Miller

    OK, encrypt the streams

    So then the file sharing protocols will encrypt their streams, like some already do. Then what? Turn off, or severely throttle back, large usage of network resources? Anyways, they won't be able to block it. Presumably AT&T is being paid by somebody to create the sniffing software to do this. I don't think that they would be making that comment without someone funding the actual software development, and the addition of hardware that can handle the traffic.

  2. Tom

    Who decides what's legal?

    I'd be interested to see how such a system would effect legitimate uses of copyrighted material.

    I see no way that it could distinguish between a member of a band sending an mp3 of their own work to a friend or fellow band member (surely a legitimate use of copyrighted material), and someone else sending the same mp3 to a few friends, illegally.

    There's lots of other situations that such a system could cause problems with, I'm sure.

  3. Steve Roper

    And how exactly

    do they plan to deal with the surge in encrypted torrents? Are they going to throttle ALL encrypted traffic? All this will achieve will be to cause an even greater rise in the use of encryption to hide P2P traffic.

    This has all the effectiveness of stomping on a tube of toothpaste!

  4. Adrian Crooks

    It's not what you do, it's how you do it

    Or so I've been told. The large corporations whip themselves into a frenzy with brute force methods when they should really be considering social engineering more. In the end the law abiding people suffer.

  5. Jon Green

    Totally impractical.

    1. The privacy consequences of sniffing network packets routinely will keep lawyers in nice suits and fancy cars indefinitely;

    2. By doing packet monitoring and filtering of this nature, ISPs would surely lose their common carrier status, opening up a massive can of worms;

    3. What would the proposers of this daft idea suggest be used to (a) identify copyright material, and (b) distinguish between material that's being transferred with the owners' permissions? After all, the internet's used to copy media between producer and publisher, too!

    4. It wouldn't make any difference, anyway. Instead of downloading in the clear, common download platforms would just use SSL or similar to make the packet contents opaque to scanners, and other tricks to make it tough to identify packets that are being used to pass copyright material. This measure would damage legitimate network users through "false positives", without any significant effect on the copyright thieves at which it's targeted.

  6. Ole Juul


    There is something strange going on here. It's scary when these big companies get together to conspire against the public. Why would AT&T have any interest in P2P or copyrights? Do they stand to make any money from filtering, or do they just belong to the same church? Do they want to kill the fast growing P2P email?

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  8. Ray Simard

    Playing God

    What a can of rattlesnakes this is likely to become.

    Fingerprinting packets at the network level looking for the appearance of copyrighted material? Never mind if someone happens to have the right to transfer something; never mind if it's covered by fair use; never mind if the copyright claim (or conclusion of same by the fingerprinting algorithm) doesn't meet legal requrements; never mind that the accuracy of detection of "bad" traffic is likely to be highly uneven...

    That old aphorism, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely seems at work here: this reeks a lot more of lust for power and control than anything else.

    Oh, to be able to resurrect the end-to-end model...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    re: Who decides what's legal?

    Easy answer: No one. They'll just nuke all "suspicious" traffic. After all, to them you're guilty until proven guilty you miserable pirating naughty person you.


    This has nothing to justice or what's right or wrong. It's about power. The pigopolists have it and you don't. The plan is simple. Make the law so convoluted and preposterous that no one can survive without making some transgression. Then, since everyone is guilty, one can round up the ones that make trouble for the ruling elite. If you're rich, no worries, you can afford the protracted lawsuits and the DA probably won't bring charges anyway. If you're not rich, you're screwed.

    Is this state of affairs actually news to anyone? Didn't you read _1984_ or see _Brazil_? It's not like you haven't been warned. You're paying them to do this to you.

    It's going to take a hell of a lot more effort than whinging online to change what's going to happen to you all. It's probably already too late to start a real revolution, but you can start by stopping giving them your money. Don't buy CDs or DVDs, kill you TV, cancel your cable & satellite. Get angry, get active, join a political party and take over your local precinct. Start your own ISP. Get a law degree and take pro-bono cases for the EFF. Get off your ass and do something.


  10. Anonymous Coward

    This is totally out of control

    Sounds like the stupid government will move to outlaw/weaken encryption again. This will only help the identity theft crackheads break into our financial accounts. Hollywood and the elite's money is more important, after all.

    I've been expecting this and more for a long time: Digital cameras that "see" trademarks in the scene and won't record the image. (Try snapping a shot of the Eiffel Tower at night, the camera refuses to store the image.) Hard drives that look for images of known actors, trademarks in video/image scenes. Audio recorders that won't allow you to record your own piano playing and singing tunes that are copyrighted. These nightmares and more await us all. There's virtually nothing they can't put on FPGA's anymore.

  11. Ray Simard
    Thumb Down

    Self-fulfilling prophecies

    With threats like this, DRM litigation feeding-frenzies, debacles like the Sony BMG rootkit, bizarre tricks ostensibly intended to restrict pirating of material and the like but actually limiting people's choices of what they can and cannot do with their own systems, people will increasingly consider themselves presumed criminals. Quite a few of those who would otherwise choose to purchase materials legitimately by their own sense of right and personal integrity will resent the label and live down to the expectations already laid upon them. Why choose to respect the monoliths that have already scorned you?

    Absurdities like the $220,000-plus judgment against the woman who put some music up on file-sharing systems will polarize the public against the industries.

    Treat someone like an adversary and you will make him one.

  12. Jon Minhinnick
    Black Helicopters

    All your packets are belong to us

    'nuff said...

  13. Nexox Enigma

    Oh gods

    Looks like I'm going to be more and more interested in becoming an ISP. I wonder if you could get enough reasonable people to move into a neighborhood maybe you could all split the cost of a reasonable connection from a Tier 1 (possibly more than one for extra safety,) and do it so that one person gets to act as the ISP, with all the legal freedoms that provides.

    It sounds crazy, but wouldn't it be awesome if you could trust your ISP?

    Like I said, it sounds crazy.

  14. heystoopid


    Alas doomed to fail ultimately as for every action there is a reaction !

    So let the war of countermeasures begin in earnest !

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Common carrier

    As stated above surely this would be more trouble than it's worth?

    They have zero chance of actually being successful with this, but in making the attempt they surely lose any chance of claiming common carrier status?

    Why should they even think about bothering to do it, they have no particular need to do this, and I can only see downsides and no upside - unless various copyright holders are throwing big bundles of cash about?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    "Polarizing the public"

    The public is already polarized - you can see it on forums and websites posting their displeasure online, albeit not doing anything about it other than that.

    First you have the pirates, that believe they have the right to take everything for free - which isn't true.

    And then you have the copyright nuts, which either don't have the technical skills necessary to pirate something, or have more than enough money to throw around buying all kinds of filth comming from BigMusic or BigMovie, and thus believe that everyone can and should buy everything they use, at the prices dictated by others.

    All this, when the answer lies in the middle - there are some things which should be free - for example 128kbps mp3 versions of songs, which are decent quality to sample, but leave something to be desired ; or DVD versions of movies - which again, are nice to sample, but far from good.

    All these would act as "samplers".

    You get the mp3's, you listen, and if you like, you buy the physical high quality media, and promotional items, and of course - the experience of going to a concert.

    Or, you get the movie samplers, you watch, and if they're good, you buy the HD version, or go to a cinema to enjoy the movie with your friends.

    But, that would mean having the choice to filter what you like from everything being launched at the same time, and being able to make an informed decision on what you invest your money in.

    And that means the possibility of decreased revenue from the next "The Sequel of the Sequel 4", or the current airhead music celebrity...

    And we couldn't have that, could we ?

    I'll get my coat.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    100% Success, or Die

    This message has a copyright - it's not explicit but it exists merely by me writing it. So, how do *I* get AT&T to restrict distribution? Where do I apply?

    AT&T only has to fail once to block copyright of some rich artist and everybody will be meeting in court and only the lawyers will end up richer.

  18. Danny Thompson

    Market forces

    This will be a temporary state of affairs. Market forces dictate that once AT&T, or any ISP that follows in their tracks, put this plan into action and upset enough customers there will be an alternative spring up. It may well be a network of "community ISPs", or it may be one of the incumbent commercial giants.

    But for sure, the RIAA/MPAA (and their knob-sucking cronies in UK and Europe) will not win this battle for their own existence. Once their hostile intentions to the paying consumer become more publicly known there will be a backlash. What they need to remember is that we "like" music and video but we certainly don't "need" it to live!

    Put AT&T's pronouncement down to sabre rattling. It'll amount to nothing.

    Pirate symbol chosen because RIAA/MPAA support the stealing money from the performers by ridiculously high fees to "protect" them! Talk about self-interest.

  19. David Urmston

    Anyone noticed something ?

    Never mind "Return of The Machines", from over here in the UK the perspective is that many of these copyright protagonists have surnames which make them look like members of the "Mafia" !

    Remember the "Gansta" stories in the films,

    As they grew up in the hoods extorting dosh from the local entreprenuers, the big boys moved away from the dangerous passtimes of running illegal booze, gambling casinos and prostitution by pursuading the US government to legalise their various financial interests. The clever ones got fancy lawyers and bought their local and state Government Reps before buying into the Entertainments Business, which if you remember, is totally legit and a good cover for laundering cash from other illegal interests.

    In a few decades the hoodlum cretins have crawled out of the gutters of Chicago, New York, etc, and bought luxurious gafs in places like Montanna (read Jared Diamonds book, "Collapse"). Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha......

    Bye the way, isn't it possible to design new encryption algorythms that the file "copywrong owners" don't have. Web 2.0 anyone ?

    I am currently working on a taser that can detect folks who want to make money out of other peep's art. I'm following the train of thought that these suckers never actually listen to music or watch films, cos' they are too busy counting their dwindling unethical profits and don't have the time. There must be a missing common sense gene, or something that's detectable by it's absence, without having to ask them to "lick this sir", or "breathe into the bag sir" ?

    I'm outta here .

  20. Andy ORourke

    A simple solution?

    Look, we all know that pirated data is transmitted across ISP networks, there have even been a few successful law suits to prove it. Now right or wrong the owners of copyright material do have the law on their side but, IMHO if the ISP's are willing to spend millions of dollars and man hours to detect, block or throttle this kind of traffic surely it would be cheaper all round for each ISP to pay a levy to the recoding industry Ass and other bodies in various countries and forget trying to do this because, for all the reasons already stated it is probably going to be a huge mess.

  21. michael

    hold on a sec

    what about all the legail transfering of coprighted stuff ie amazon and itunes how the fudge will this tell the difference?

  22. Joe M


    Is there something in the water that executives at these large corporation drink? Or are they preselected for stupidity?

    I have tried about a dozen different encrypted feeds for various services. They all stink!

    I'm salivating at the thought of ISPs or backbone providers being forced to filter packets based on content. Quick as a wink large scale packet encryption will become commercially feasable, the technology will be refined and propagated, the server and other resources will materialise to support it and the DRM nightmare, as well as busybody government snooping and Bill Gates trying to own the airwaves, will fade to just a bad memory. Thank you AT&T!

  23. Claus P. Nielsen
    Black Helicopters

    AT&T Biting the hand that feeds it?

    As some of the above comments have stated, AT&T must have a not so obvious financial interrest hidden somewhere in this.

    Unless every other ISP are ordered to implement the same restrictions, AT&T would loose customers in droves immediately after implementing such a policy. Customers will see no benefit from this and the mere risk of loosing packets from false positives should scare away any sensible customers (if I were a competitor, I would surely find a way to inject a few rumours into the mill so the not so sensible users are scared away too).

    So either AT&T are just showing a nice front towards their friends in the Ass.'s or they think that they have a better filtering technology than their competitors and are betting that they can get legislators to make this type of filtering mandatory (legislation would take care of the risk of loosing common carrier status).

    It seems like a really long shot to bet on filtering technology to be that good, but they may think that the experience they have had with spam filters have made them experts at filtering.

    In the end, all will depend on legislation though. Any unilateral move by AT&T would bury them.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What if i download from Antigua? According to WTO rules they have the right to completely ignore any US intellectual property as the US screws them over online gambling.

  25. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    What plausible business model...

    the communications giant joined Microsoft and NBC Universal in arguing that internet service providers - like AT&T itself - should be sniffing your networks packets and blocking anything that copyright holders don't travelling over the wire.


    "Blocking anything that copyright holders don't" what?

    What is Microsoft doing in the censorship business? Who ever bought an operating systems package (or an office one for that matter) because they needed it to determine what copyright laws are throughout the world?

    Who's idea was that?

    One can understand an ISP's wish to be clean of whatever laws there are on copyright wherever they are based. One can see the point of NBC Universal being involved.

    Even if you twist things to include the fear Microsoft has that they can be scammed by the same file sharing pirates.

    But when you buy an OS, you don't expect to be actively involved in helping all these good people to sort out their problems -by default, do you?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    The end result of this is likely to be a public P2P internet. Everyone has a WiFi or WIMAX box and an aerial on the chimney/balcony, and the whole thing runs as an unmonitored uncontrolled mesh network, with ten million hops to go anywhere and torrents circulating all day. No need for public ISPs, because *everyone* is an ISP.

    Then those of us that want guaranteed QoS, no delays, and don't give a damn about sharing pirated DivX or MP3 files can just buy a pipe from the local telco and breathe in peace :)

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Further consequences....

    So if they implement this on the networks, what is the impact going to be on network traffic? Am I going to be able to play games with the same ping or will I be reminded more of days on a 56k modem?

    If blocking P2P is truly the be-all and end-all of what an ISP is supposed to do, why not set the main routers to block any and all incoming connections. It's not like web and email traffic require it, and ftp can be dropped to passive mode...

    Lot's of other stuff would break (hosting at home, remote admin, skype, WoW updateing etc...), but who cares about all the implications, we "got" filesharing!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Too late


    You are just too late, the stuff is already in place, they only want to legalise it.. Using the P2P as a front end for the job

    Please see, and also read the papers on dailykos (ext links)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Is there a patent lawyer on the site?

    Quick, quick.

    I've just thought of an idea (which I can patent) using existing (non-patented) technology and which will make me mega rich!

    All it requires is for "subscribing" users to "rent" line space off me and I'll provide them with the music they want to hear.

    Basically, take two empty tin cans, punch a hole in one end of each can, cut the end completely off the other ends of the cans.

    Thread a piece of very long string through one of the holes in a can. Knot the string. Lay the "line" to the other person. They then do the same with their end of the string. Add an additional hole and piece of string for each subscriber.

    Cover the open end of the can with tissue paper, stretch until it is taut but not torn.

    One of you digs out that old wind-up Barking Dog thing, and play "vinyl" discs.

    Take turns in playing tunes.

    Hey presto! A subscrier p2pnetwork.

    The wonga should start rolling in, as soon as I deliver the back of the fag packet to the patent office.

    Mine's the glitter jacket, by the way.


    PS Why Paris Hilton?

    Hey, babe! p2p Jockey's are the latest sexy thing (well, in my dream anyway).

    I'm outa here. ba-doing ba-doing ba-doing....

  30. adnim

    Am I missing something?

    Is data (movie files, mp3, anything) not chopped up into iddy biddy packets for transission? How can a single packet be Identified as copyright material?

    How do they do this then? Re-assemble all the packets into the complete data stream and compare it to a database of all, I say ALL copyright material that exists? That's one massive amount of data to compare your data stream to.

    Or is the technology so smart that it can pick up 1,480 bytes of IP data and determine with no doubt that this packet is part of a data stream that contains copyright material, and that the end points of this data transmission do not have the rights to transmit/receive it.

    I make music for fun and for pleasure. OK so nobody wants it ;) But I can say with all honesty I don't care who listens to it or gets a copy for free. I only object to others making money from my work. So it will be copyright. Now how will they distinguish packets containing copyright material which the owner approves of free non-profit making dissemination, from the copyrighted data of those who pray to the dollar and insist we pay multiple times for the same thing?

    I like high quality sound, I download mp3's to discover if I like the latest album from (enter name of "real musicians" here). then I go and buy the CD. I then rip that CD to which ever format (usually lossless) I want, so I can listen where and when I want. This is a habit I am considering breaking away from. The artists get next to nothing, whilst all the middle men take the big money. I may well start downloading for free and find a way of sending payment directly to the artist. I do not mind paying a fee for music I appreciate. I just want the artists themselves to get the biggest slice of the pie.

  31. Mark

    @John Green

    Have you thought about point 1: the lawyers are saying to AT&T "We're open to lawsuits because of copyright abuse. How about we block copyrighted works?" and then guess who gets money for lawsuits for reading confidential information or blocking legitimate content (EVERYTHING is copyrighted)?

    Yes, that's right, the lawyers.

  32. Ash

    Welcome to Dystopia

    Enjoy your stay; We demand it.

  33. Sean Ellis

    Remember, YOUR work is copyrighted too

    If you have a web page, if you upload your bedroom synthesizer noodlings, if you take a few snapshots and put them on Flickr, all of this is automatically your copyright.

    Is AT+T ready to filter everything, by everyone?

    It is time for a mass campaign of civil disobedience - anyone, everyone with a personal website should contact AT+T and ask them to filter this content as it goes onto their network. Impose bizarre and unworkable conditions. (... And *this* page is licensed only for IP addresses where the four values are solutions of this Diophantine equation...)

    How will they deal with this? How can they argue that your copyright is somehow unimportant, when the pre-eminence of copyright is their whole argument?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can get f----d along with any other ISP.

    Have fun sniffing my ecc ( perfect dark streams mother ------rs

  35. CSQuake

    Another Comcast scenario ...

    It'll never work ...

    Why did they even bother announcing it?! lol

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    anyway perfect dark and ecc aside.

    Seen as everything we write,draw, create etc is copyrighted it could be good fun as we control our copyright. So you can create a webpage and instead of securing it just tell all the ISP's that they are only allowed to let ip's x,y and z to connect otherwise they're breaching your copyrights.


  37. Anonymous Coward

    Why is it............

    That companies which alone are worth billions more than the entire record or movie industry put together feel the need to get on there knees and lick ass? When will techies finally grow a backbone and tell the RIAA and the MPIAA to go f*ck themselves?

    From where I am sat, techies in general are great at bitching and complaining but when it comes to actually standing up for themselves and what is right, they will crumble at the first hurdle every single time, whether it is P2P or having some poxy accountant butcher your department.

    If M$, HP, et al had mad a stand at the beginning of the P2P movement then the music industry would have either been bankrupted or forced to do what is right and we wouldn't have the DCMA and the other useless laws that protect the pigopolists.

    If the ISPs and Telecoms companies make a stand now and say, even THINK about taking us to court about this and we will filter YOUR websites and YOUR traffic, then the RIAA will curl up and run off with their tail between their legs. Instead you have a bunch of technical companies going with the whip in their own hands saying "here we go, whip us"! Pathetic!!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So from reading a little bit on this subject after reading this article and the comments it seems several solutions to utterly defeat this strategy already exist without the file sharers getting their sweat on:

    1. Encryption of traffic on p2p

    2. SSL encryption of the sites

    3. VPN file transfers

    4. IP camouflage

    5. Legal Issues

    So this here "network solution" doesn't seem likely and if it did then the kiddies in the p2p world will probably just implement the above or shock invent something else.

    Why do large companies spend money on this stuff, don't shareholders get upset about people spending money on designing stuff that wont work? Why are they even bothered what travels over their network. I mean i didn't sue the government for allowing the burglar who robbed me to use the roads to make his escape.

  39. Anonymous Coward





    Global Crossing

    Level 3

    Time Warner Telecom


    Customers would just ask to be routed through any other Tier1 provider for their torrent boxes or dedicated servers. Usenet providers already offer routing like this through port selection or control panels.

    Unless AT&T can offer dirt cheap bandwidth as a loss leader I would avoid increasing links to them, peering options could offer an AT&T bypass for an extra dollar a month which might make a lot of money for a Tier1 provider.

    Instead of net neutrality or non neutrality net the providers can offer a clear path through the internet from ISP to ISP travelling around the AT&T network. Also through balancing you could shove all your other traffic that doesn't involve this problem through existing AT&T links until you can finish the contract or renegotiate based on a lower price for restricted service.

  40. Billy Goat Gruff

    Pick your fight

    You know, Jammie wasn't a good postergirl for P2P. But she is probably typical of the sort of AT&T customer who hasn't got a clue but thinks she's anonymous. She will use encrypted packets if the software defaults to that, otherwise, she won't put any thought into it.

    I don't want my traffic filtered by RIAA cronies, but really, like Jammie, pick your fight and don't let them pick it for you.

    Fingerprinting packets is not really that difficult, even if they're zipped... if they're encrypted and the password isn't public knowledge then there's no need to fingerprint them. So this isn't any great hassle.

    Should AT&T filter traffic for RIAA? Yes, if they get paid enough. Will it affect anyone who sends their own music through P2P - no. Does it affect my copyrights - no. It only tracks the fingerprints of those files that the RIAA tags.

    Filesharing is obviously wrong - the **AA et al are also obviously wrong. But when you fight the pigolopists make sure *you* pick the fight. Stop levies on media (I only use writeable DVDs for data, never *AA stuff). Stop ISPs having to divulge personal details under some terrorist legislation.

    But allow them to charge whatever they want for their copyright and you decide whether it's worth it, or download it for free on the understanding they have to stop you and Jammie from taking the piss.

  41. Shonko Kid
    Black Helicopters

    Hate to be AT&T right now...

    If this is what they're trying to ply. Real bottom of the barrel stuff here.

    Utterly unworkable, as many have already noted. Technically unfeasible, you would need a monitoring point at each access node on the internet - and unless such was made law, then the market would see off any ISP that tried to pull off such a stunt. It relies on the end user being oblivious to such actions taking place, otherwise they will seek to easily circumvent (see above).

    Where (in the network model) do the plan on even implementing this - have a copyright bit on IP traffic? It would be trivial to get one of those nice little linux based routers and make it mask that off! At the application level - essentially force/encourage users to use crippleware? Good luck with that!

    And as for that Narus article on it-must-be-true-because-it's-on Wikipedia, the whole thing reads like it was written by some conspiracy nut whose had too much caffeine..

    Yes, AT&T must be in a very bad place right now, if this is there plan for the future.

    Let me now when the black 'copters arrive, I'll be listening to warez on KaZaa...

  42. Luis

    All about evolution....

    The main problem lies in the western way of doing things. We have created and invented lots of things including the internet, Cultural revolutions, lots of ideas. But when did they really created this inventions, 60s, 70s. We have gone to the moon on 1969 and now we cant even guarantee that the rockets work . The Internet still works on V4 IP's and we are running out of addresses. Virtual machine software like vmware has been used in the old mainframes for ages. So not really nothing new besides more of the same but with more colors (Look at Mac Leopard and Windows Vista lots of new old features), by the way the IPhone is a PDA we already had those too. The companies are getting money from old ideas and not spending on creating the advances, not real R&D, fast cash of the same stuff. We are even going back to nuclear power, really advanced, NOT. Now companies are afraid that they will loose control of the cash cows. If you had good new things to offer you wouldnt worry about the old ones. And now there is china we are trying keep them away from making the use of the same concepts on their products, and yes we dont produce anything anymore they do, all made in china. So the only thing we have in Copyright so we do everyhting possible to retain status quo. This is all very sad. This should work like some other industries, 5 year of esclusivity and after public domain, this will make them evolve and create new things. If we did this we would not need to block the internet traffic. I reminde everyone democracy is the power of the people, people can change things and it's up to them to make shure the change happens

  43. Steve Evans


    This must be utilising the little known "copyright" bit flag present in all tcp/ip packets.

    aka, how exactly do they plan on spotting copyright material?

    Do they plan on inspecting every torrent available on the net, and then telling AT & T the checksum? Blimee what a job that's gonna be. Although maybe I should apply for it... I'd be the only person on the planet authorised to download copyright material and paid to do it at work!

    Note to self: Get job, take huge removable USB drive into office each day.

    Oh, what's that? Encrypted torrents? Oh they can just block anything encrypted, after all, if you're encrypting data, you must have something to hide.

    Ferkin' idiots.

  44. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Why to the tech companies kowtow to the diddy media companies?

    'cos the media companies had the bright idea of "investing" in politicians, that's why!

  45. James Anderson

    Pointless to scan individual packets.

    I think we can give AT&T some credit for technical proficiency.

    After all some of that Bell Labs magic must have rubbed of on them at some point.

    So I think you will find what they are propsoing is not scanning every single packet on the web. Instead they will probably be looking for protocols that are SOMETIMES used by copyright violators and blocking then (BitTorent anyone).

    This seems likely as AT&T can make a business case for this:-

    If we block file sharing we can put off upgrading our 50 year old cabling for another five years.

  46. Peter Mc Aulay


    If they break into my encrypted traffic streams they are violating the DMCA and/or the Computer Misuse Act!

  47. David Wilkinson

    They will just detect and band entire technologies.

    traffic looks like p2p - block it

    Nevermind that I use p2p all the time to download Ultimate Boot CD, Knoppix and other Live Linux DVDs ..... I am sure that legitimate use is less than 2-5% maybe a bit more ...

    Probably about the same percentage for content on blank DVDs, mp3 players

    I started getting upset about this stuff when I had to use DVD Decrypter to copy my uncles wedding videos. Then they sued the free utility out of existence.

    If they are going to start banning products that have significant illegal usage, how about starting with guns.....

    The problem is that people would probably roll over on this. What percentage of customers has Comcast lost? What happens when everyone is equally bad?

    What if they decide blocking websites and forums next, just the really bad one's mind you....

  48. Billy Goat Gruff
    Thumb Up

    @They will just detect and band entire technologies.

    Isn't the point that they *wont* do this, leaving P2P free for non-RIAA stuff?

    To scan P2P it's as simple as scanning emails for viruses, or spam.

    You know the initial packet to start a P2P, you know the initial packet to initiate a file transfer, you know how to identify the first block of data - all you need is the **AA copyrighted data fingerprint.

    Sure, it's easy to bypass *but* it won't be easy to find anything that has a tagged fingerprint and the nature of P2P is that unless the checksum matches you will never be able to find genuine copyrighted files that have been tagged. Or at least from AT&T.

    This means that the P2P will be free to use for anything that isn't tagged by the *AA such as personal music. Whether anyone will want to download your music from P2P when they can do equally well from your webpage or myspace is something you will find out later.

    Otherwise I agree with many sentiments that society is being dictated to by commercial organisations but there are much better fights than genuine attempts to stop the freeloading Jammies of the world. As long as we're not all treated as criminals (ie banning P2P or making DVD copying illegal, or paying a levy for each DVD) then I think this is reasonable.

    I would appreciate it if they didnt fingerprint mp3s that you can no longer buy, though.

  49. Steve Medway

    Postal Law v's Electronic law.

    It's against the law to intercept a letter or package in Blighty and I suspect the same is true in the good ol' USA.....

    If I send a .tgz file which may or may not contain copyrighted material to myself or a friend via P2P (or any electronic means) no company should have the right to peek into the file to check..... Do that with a snail mail and you'd end up in jail!

    Another case of technology being used to steal our basic rights............. :(

  50. CynnicG

    The End Of Civilization Is Nigh ...

    If you want to take this to its logical conclusion, think about deep packet inspection for copyrighted material, and automated infringement notification to the RIAA etc., being pervasive across all network connected infrastructure/appliances ...

    Read "The Mouse That Ate Civilization" by Steve Poling in the early October edition of the sublime Raygun Revival at ....

    When will YOUR internet-enabled toaster (or fridge!) start informing on you?

  51. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    What a complete crock and waste of time...

    I can personally think of independant methods of encoding data where

    it is utterly useless to anyone and junk material when in crypto form,

    The sheer scale of the Internet as-is makes any kind of systemic filtration for a specific

    piece of content unworkable (you can NOT control from a single point the entire network),

    you only ever control your own domain,

    I would recommend AT&T along with M$ and notable US based companies re-read the

    first constitutional amendment rights to free speech,

    Government is administration of the agreed bill of rights, those rights are not given by the

    administration...(I welcome debate to this point, I accept I *may* be wrong),

    Does the Microsoft EULA still read with the disclaimer about actual usage?

    Ive always wondered what suitable purpose the disclaimer does NOT apply to...

    Maybe thats a question for the El-Reg legal dept :)

  52. Anne Bokma
    Thumb Up

    let's make some money :)

    First produce something with copyright, tel AT&T to filter it and have a contact with an AT&T account download it. Then sue AT&T for not filtering it. Of course your contact has to be sure they can't be found or sued, but if that's sorted, lets start making money :) who is to say My work isn't worth in access of 200.000 dollar? I know that about 3 pounds nowadays :D

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Billy Goat Gruff

    hmm wait a moment

    You've got something there.

    I hate all that holywood, music industry junk... I hate most new games.

    So if all of that junk is blocked it will leave me free to use perfect dark, irc and ddl to get fansubs!

    Do it!

  54. Dirk Vandenheuvel


    We all know that there will be a way to avoid this filtering this approximately 3 hours later published on the net. There is no way to block information on the wire... why can't the big money grabbing copyright freaks get that in their heads?

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Ass. of America

    Recording Industry Ass. of America

    i think u got it right, at least the ass part lol


  56. Benedict

    RE: Flickr

    "if you take a few snapshots and put them on Flickr, all of this is automatically your copyright."

    Doesn't Flickr automatically put your snaps into the creative commons?

  57. Eduard Coli

    In our humble opinion: James Cicconi is a wanker

    AT&T seems to have drunk the kool aid or at least snorted the coke at the RIAA/MPAA parties because it seems to think that it is now in the spook business.

    How can you be "friendly" about mass censorship and mass intrusion?

    As AT&T attempts to do deep packet inspection to recognize "protected content" who knows what other treasures will they find to sell to the the US government or any government (AT&T is a multinational) for taxpayer dollars?

  58. Jeff Dickey

    @David W and friends

    Of course the only way that Comcast, AT&T et al stay in business is that they *only* do business where they have effective monopolies, or cushy oligolopolies with close friends. They're banking on the idea that consumers (they're not 'customers' any more; customers have choices) won't want to unplug their 'connection to The World'.

    The guy who said it was already too late.... you're an optimist.

  59. Ed

    @Steve Medway

    For the last five years, my job consisted of intercepting email transmissions. This past year, my group intercepted and blocked around 98% of the email which was sent to addresses my company controls.

    Was this illegal? I don't think so. I am actually quite popular at work for my success at blocking this traffic.

    Note that, while the numbers are much less, we also redirect a certain portion of traffic, instead of sending it on to its original destination - and, again, I've received kudos for this work rather than being charged with crimes.

    Admittedly, I am acting as a representative for the corporate entity to which 99% of the intercepted (blocked or rerouted) traffic was sent. However, other places, traffic is blocked by companies who are not representatives for the recipient. For example, I've so far thanked Google for every email they've blocked which was sent to me (at least, I've not been made aware of any false-positives yet.)

    Thanks to the scourge of the modern internet, the precedent is out there: blocking traffic is not necessarily illegal.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think of it like this:

    AT&T = Frankenstein

    RIAA= Dr. Frankenstein

    The angry public = The angry villagers armed with flaming torches, who storm the castle and kill/burn/destroy everything in sight.

    As I've said before, the labels and the RIAA have nobody to blame for the position they've put themselves in. Had they been able to respond similarly to what Apple did with iTunes, maybe they'd have a little bigger pot to piss in.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Next Up...

    We "copyright" all the names of Democratic and Liberal/Socialist candidates and politicians. We "copyright" all movie star names. Then we say we don't want our "Intellectual Property" which includes all those "copyrights" used for any news we consider "bad". Which means then all you hear are happyhappyjoyjoy puff pieces about Senator Palpatine Clinton and her Minister of Propaganda, Michelle Moore. Anything sounding like criticism gets "filtered". Which means, the only bad news is from their opposition, further spinning the belief that somehow it's the "other side" that's really the Bad Guys.

    Then we register all the non-western country names. No bad news about them either. And everyone still goes on about this supposed free press. Free from only our government's interference. Everyone else's government can bribe and interfere all they want.

    Kind of like mainstream media today. Find a story *without* Bill or Hillary in it. "Hillary wins" or "Hillary loses" or "Hillary didn't even play". Hell, Bill gets as much or more coverage than Obama and he isn't even running. You'd think Obama was a Republican or something...Guess all that Chinese cash for weapons technology really paid off...

  62. Steve Medway


    I've no issue with blocking traffic to a *private* network, hell I don't like Spam either.

    Would you find it acceptable for your firm's ISP to snoop your private email sent over the net to a colleague in another firm? Get a grip mate. Packet inspection should be illegal.. in the UK it is...... well sort of......

    Check out

    Basically an ISP can snoop on your packets in the UK because of section 1.3.A - An ISP can claim that that packet inspection is to prevent the network falling over - it's a deliberate loophole.

    You get away with what you do because of section 1.2.B.

    So don't be a muppet and actually read what I write in future.

  63. Tyler


    use P2P file sharing for patches

  64. Morely Dotes

    @ Jon Green

    "ISPs would surely lose their common carrier status"

    This is a common misconception, fostered by the big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, so that they can claim they "can't" do anything about malicious users (spammers, virus distributors, spyware users, etc.). However, they try to have it both ways; Verizon, for example, claims that their ISP business is totally seperate from their telecomms business, thus avoiding ISP customer help offered by the Public Utilities Commission for telecomms users, when the ISP business screws the consumer.

    ISPs do not *have* common carrier status. Common carriers are very strictly regulated, and becoming a common carrier is both very difficult, and unattractive to the business operator, since it means a tremendous load of expensive paperwork, and constant regulatory scrutiny.

    ISPs are regulated only to the extent that any other business is regulated; that is, outright fraud, if it's big enough, and public enough, will earn a slap on the wrist.

  65. Luther Blissett


    Now we see the reason for this: Ofcom's radio carve-up could cut out mesh -

    Business as usual, in this case MIC 2.0 - the Media-Information Complex.

  66. Nìall Tracey

    I've got Berne on the line...

    ...they said something about a convention and how it precluded copyright registration? They reckon you'd be setting up something called a "de facto copyright registrar" if you were to start filtering internet traffic for copyright material.

    They want you to call back when you've got a moment.

  67. James Butler

    @Tier1 & Jon Green

    In the USA, AT&T owns nearly all of the loops that make up our network. For example, if I buy T1 service from Megapath, they lease access from Verizon, who leases their loops from AT&T. So, it's not about creating a new ISP or finding a way to work around AT&T's cabling ... they have access to all of it because of their unique position in this country. Maybe even in your country.

    This makes Jon Green's comment about losing "common carrier" status more relevant, because AT&T is classified as a common carrier, here. It just might force a showdown over the classification of the Internet itself ... private enterprise or public infrastructure? Paid for with taxes and usury fees, or by subscription? Required by fiat to be available to the public to freely use, or restricted by policies drafted by a single corporate entity?

    This type of incident may be a grand opportunity to finally equate the Internet's wiring with the asphalt upon which we drive our cars. Where it has been the property and under the control of those who built it, now may be our chance to force its classification into the public realm, and force AT&T to give up any control it has over the system, making them publicly-funded stewards rather than privately-controlled overseers.

  68. Red Bren


    The Buggy Whip Ass(ociation) of America would like you to know that while buggy whips are now obsolete, you must still pay them a levy for accelerating your vehicle...

  69. Michael

    There has to be a money angle...

    Obviously, there has to be a financial reason they'd want to do this. Either they have some kind of deal with the entertainment industry that will make/save them money, or they are hoping to reduce file sharing (network traffic) as yet another alternative to investing in infrastructure or being honest in advertising...

  70. Anonymous Coward

    Aren't AT&T still

    on the hook for illegal billing inflating charges I believe, and aren't they still worried about all those illegal wiretaps I think they are, this is just a very legally vulnerable pastiche of a company trying to find legal allies in it's corner like mpaa or the riaa.

  71. peter

    @James Butler

    AT&T don't own any where near all the fiber in the USA or anywhere else.

    Look Hibernia who have proper transatlantic cables and USA networks covering Atlanta to Montreal all the way to London. For their Atlantic system they won't carrying AT&T traffic prior to this news.

    Or Level 3 who have 47,000 miles compared to AT&T with about 40,000 max.

  72. Ian Michael Gumby

    Man are you guys slow...

    First, lets clear the air. How will AT&T know which packets are carrying copywritten material, and which packets are not?

    Do you not think that they know this?

    Do you not think that there's been enough pressure by the RIAA and MPAA (or whomever) on Congress in an *election* year to force them to do something?

    By having AT&T say that they're willing to work on a solution, that they're buying time?

    Do you also not think that AT&T also know that if they quash based on content that they *may* lose their common carrier status?

    Note: They could just block bit torrent and damn the rest of us who use it to download utilities, software and data... (legit uses of bit torrent).

    And as the anonymous poster points out, you can switch carriers. (Wouldn't this filtering be a material change in their contract which would allow you to break any contract early?)

    So until they start doing this, be patient. Plan your next move, and then move on.

    AT&T is probably considering that if there's FCC pressure and they're the first ones to cave, others will too.

    The reality is the reverse. AT&T and comcast cave, you then go WiMax or to a different T1 carrier.

  73. This post has been deleted by its author

  74. Anonymous Coward

    HAHAHA. Network Neutrality opponents, reap what you've sewn!

    My, what a large Singer you have!

  75. Lee Jenderko
    Thumb Down

    Quick way to loose ma as a customer

    The day they try content filtering is the day I cancel my DSL, Phone, and long distance and move to another vendor.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    This is just an excuse

    This is just an excuse to install packet monitoring boxes and software just about everywhere on the US internet. The UK equivalent is the Internet Watch Foundation list that all UK ISPs have "volunteered" to check every browser request against. No ISP would want to be "named and shamed" for "catering for perverts" now would they? But we "just happen" to end up with the infrastructure for logging all those requests, as will be legally required in the near future. Just like the man from Sun said: Privacy's gone, get over it! (I paraphrase 'cos I'm too tired to look it up). As someone said a long time ago now, Nineteen Eighty Four was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual!

  77. Anonymous Coward

    Speaking as a firewall dork

    Filtering by header is really quick, really cheap in terms of resources. When my evil corporate masters market their product, the throughput figures quoted are for header-based identifiers. No mornitoring of mime types, content file types is possible.

    Actually opening up the packet and making decisions based on this reduces possible throughput by up to a factor of ten, depending on the efficiency of the software doing it.

    I'd rather be with an ISP that won't be slowing down my traffic to spy on me.

    And to echo many others, how the hell are they going to determine copyright? look for DRM tagging?

  78. Aubry Thonon

    I wonder...

    ...what this would do to Video-on-demand businesses? What about the BBC's iPlayer?

    Could this be the **AA's way of making sure the above never see the light of day?

    My hat's the tinfoil one - I think I'll need it.

  79. oliver Stieber

    it's all about ports and servers

    if jow is serving up copyrighted material on port 1234 all you have to do is block port 1234 from joe's server. no need to look at the packets, just download the torrents &co and look at what servers the tracker starts serving up.

  80. dave

    @Lee Jenderko

    Whose ma?

    Mine, for one, is really not all that bothered about bootlegging pop songs...

  81. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Climate change

    Just think of the increased processing power that will be required to enforce this, is it really worth emitting yet more CO2 just to pander to the dinosaur execs of the media giants?

    People copy stuff, get over it. Just because it's more visible it doesn't mean it never used to happen.

  82. Matt Hawkins
    Gates Horns

    What Other Packets Would M$ Like To Bury?

    I can see Bill Gates rubbing his hands with glee as he starts destroying Open Office and Firefox packets whizzing around the Globe.

  83. Anonymous Coward

    Prohibition ahoy!

    As with the sex and drugs, there are two ways of dealing with the distribution of copyright infringeing material - either ban it or liberalise it. The US government is a serial banner of anything it doesn't approve of, and is why the US is now an alcohol-free nation where no-one does drugs or has pre-marital sex. The UK has a rather bi-polar attitude and flips between liberalism and authoritarianism, and unfortunately we heading towards a Stalinesque 'every citizen must report five law-breaking citizens in their housing zone' type society at the moment.

    However, the old system of physically controlling the distribution of music and multimedia content is now obsolete. Just as society has to adapt to the tens of billions of pounds lost every year to drink, drug and sex related illnesses and crimes, so it will have to adapt to the losses incurred by copyright infringement. You can make file sharing illegal, but you can no more stop it that you can stop people looking at pr0n, drinking alcohol or smoking dope.

    Note: one of the arguments against prohibition is that by criminalising drugs, sex etc you put money into the pockets of criminal gangs. Strangely, the 'money for terrorists' argument is made AGAINST infringing of copyright! Ironically, stopping people file sharing will drive UP demand for pirated material and increase funding for criminal and terrorist organisations. A victory for DRM is a victory for terrorism!!!!

    p.s. Notice how the big RnB acts are going all dancey? I wonder if this is anything to do with the large underground (copyright infringing) dance remix scene?

  84. Gilbert Wham


    "It is time for a mass campaign of civil disobedience - anyone, everyone with a personal website should contact AT+T and ask them to filter this content as it goes onto their network. Impose bizarre and unworkable conditions. (... And *this* page is licensed only for IP addresses where the four values are solutions of this Diophantine equation...)

    How will they deal with this? How can they argue that your copyright is somehow unimportant, when the pre-eminence of copyright is their whole argument?"

    They will say, 'Because you do not have any money. Now fuck off, lawyerless peon.'

    Also, on a side note, I have a statement for some of you: It is 'LOSE' not 'LOOSE'. For fuck's sake. Please do not make me tell you again.

    I am convinced this spelling mistake is entirely the internet's fault. If I could, I would go back in time and ensure that the first network packets were a vehement diatribe on the misuse of the word 'loose'. Not that it would do any good, but at least I'd feel better.

    And yes, I AM drunk. What of it, you boot-faced puritans?

  85. James Butler


    AT&T is one of Level 3's top 3 partners, so while they may not own those loops, they control them. Not to mention that they are Level 3's #1 wireless partner. You'll discover the same sorts of partnerships with every major backbone provider, here in the US. And Hibernia doesn't even count, unless you live in a very small sector of the country. I realize that there are other providers on the partnership same level (Comcast, etc.), however AT&T is by far the biggest, and that's not even counting the loops they were forced to divest which were picked up by Level 3 and others. Are you sure AT&T has no opportunity to apply this plan to those networks? I'm not.

    Aside from that, I agree with those who are coming out against this type of packet spying. While the speed issue might come into play at some point, it is far more irritating to know that any packets are being analysed for these types of indicators.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Stop dreaming

    >First, lets clear the air. How will AT&T know which packets are carrying >copywritten material, and which packets are not?

    > Do you not think that they know this?

    There are many ways for this.

    This easy way is to do like comcast: stop uploads.

    Then you can filter by IP address. Probably 99% of p2p traffic is between residential ips.. ( lot of blacklists already available, and ISPs do not even need blacklists.. just whitelists! ).

    Then you can filter tagged packet: when amazon / iTunes delivers copyrighted content, their packets are marked & signed as copyrighted ( so they have a priority, and At&t can bill them for "improved service", that's where the money comes from ).

    When the content is on your vista 64bit computer, the OS recognizes the content ( the document is not encrypted, not drm-ised, just flagged as being copyrighted ), so when you want to upload it, your network driver marks the packets as "copy of copyrighted material".

    Anything not copyrighted going on the ISP network is not flagged as such, so easy to filter. Eventually if you ripped your CDs vista can flag the mp3 files as being "ripped" and run some fingerprint algorithms to retrieve the legit copyright holder..

    Your crypto packets sent from your linux box will just be dropped or at best throttled to a 33.6K modem line.

  87. Mark

    And if you own the stuff?

    I send loads of copyrighted material over the internet on a daily basis, in the form of words, pictures and video sent to clients who've paid to receive them. Even if the packet sniffers could figure out what material was copyrighted, how on earth are they going to figure out who does and who doesn't have the right to send/receive it? Or are they perhaps suggesting that those of us who are not (last time I looked) large corporations go back to Royal Mail Special delivery? Or maybe that we should pay to have our own material delivered. Given half a chance, I think the knuckle scrapers would probably make the net illegal.

  88. Jim Ladd


    This seems like a smokescreen. They know it is unworkable. AT&T can use the excuse of "copyright scanning" to delay packets from rivals VOIP and other applications.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @And if you own the stuff?

    No problem!

    You will be able to subscribe to the Trusted Publisher Service (c), allowing you to publish your copyrighted content in a great diversity of ways ( http streaming, 3G streaming, ftp, even sftp or https downloads ! ). You will be able to host yourself the distribution platform ( which will have a specific range of ip addresses and run some tool to flag your traffic correctly ), or upload your content to a platform managed by a trusted AT&T partner ( of course this upload will not be throttled ).

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