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January 10, 2008

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It's like an alliance between all forces that oppose the internet.

Note that if we change the law to make networks responsible for content, the era of blogging, and particularly blogging with comments, will come to an end.

Thus forcing more users to use encryption for all their torrenting, thus improving the quality and access of encryption for nefarious purposes, thus impelling governments to insist on back-door access to commercial encryption and the ability to pry continuously and pervasively into low-level network communications, thus forcing users to turn to non-legal encryption as those same governments increasingly abuse those powers, thus basically making the internet a safe haven for genuine scumbags like kiddie-molesters, terrorists etc.. All so that NBC can continue to offer a crappy, DRMed, region-encoded, low-rez version of their worthless shows, without even giving their writers respectable residuals.

Firsts of all the technology is not there*. Filtering for copyrighted content at the network level is simply impossible. The software could be developed, but using it would cripple the Internet. Easier just to shut down the Internet.

So you’ve got some network packets you’re passing along… What does a packet contain? What’s the payload?

Is it text: email, HTML, whatever? Is it binary: picture, video, software?

Now my packets and your packets and a billion other people’s packets are interspersed. You can’t tell anything about the content I’m receiving from a single packet. So now you have to build up a snapshot of the actual content I’m receiving. You have to buffer that somewhere and build up this snapshot: for me – and everyone else.

Once there is enough of a snapshot to analyze, then the fun part begins. I’m receiving text. Is it an email from my friend or some kind of published work? If it is a published work – is it in the public domain or is it the latest Harry Potter book? I’m receiving binary. Is it a picture? Is it video? Is it the teenager with the light saber video or the latest Star Wars flick or video of my nephew’s latest escapades? Does the NSA have a bunch of super-computers they are not using?

Now once you know what it is the doctrine of fair use kicks in and things really get interesting:

The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Now this HAL like software program has to make a decision concerning fair use.

And all that has to go on real time: for me, for you, for a billion other people.

So your point that “NBC’s copyright concerns gives AT&T an excellent pretext for the right to monitor packets” is 100% correct. This is nothing more than a pretext and a laughable one at that.


*I am not a network expert so this is not a 100% accurate depiction. It’s close though.

Yet the technology seems to be there for ATT to pipe low-level network traffic to the NSA, if reports are to be believed.

what OCSteve said. it's utterly impossible to do this in real-time.

want to make it even harder? ZIP your content with a strong password (20+ characters, punctuation, numbers, misspelled words) - it takes days to break even simple mass-market encryption. completely impossible to do on the fly.

Yet the technology seems to be there for ATT to pipe low-level network traffic to the NSA,

AFAIK, the NSA computers search audio from specific sources for specific sounds, then flag interesting bits for humans to inspect manually (aurally).

and again, that's just audio. images add another dimension. video adds yet another. and then you can add an audio layer on top of that.

that's a lot different than scanning network traffic on the fly, detecting the content type, making a copyright-or-not decision in real-time.., without crippling the internet completely.

So, when these two parties finally have a falling out, who will be Molotov and who will be Ribbentrop?

The residual copyright value of most television shows is close to zero. NBC's major television concern has to be to deliver eyeballs to the advertisers, just as it always has been. TIVO is a far bigger threat to that income stream than internet piracy is. If NBC could find a way to keep the ads integral to the show, they would not care a bit about piracy of TV shows -- they would be offering high resolution versions for download themselves.

Yes, Universal does have a lot of movies that can be rented or sold and has had a very good income stream from home viewing, but it would be nice to think that the members of the MPAA would have learned something from the RIAA about trying to nail their customers.

Ever since the technology was available, people have made copies of music and videos. Historically it was done because of budgetary concerns. These were not substitutes for purchases, they were done because the fan couldn't afford to buy everything he wanted. Alienating your market strikes me as a particularly unwise approach. Alienate enough middle class fans who feel threatened by the MPAA and RIAA and we might see even the most big business Republican voting for a Citizen's Copyright Fairness Act that tells the RIAA and MPAA to shove it.

AT&T made big promises about broadband that it isn't delivering on. I see no reason to tolerate more promises from them when we know they cannot be relied on. NBC Universal would be able to deliver their shows on the internet using broader bandwidth if AT&T hadn't betrayed the consumer. Is GE really so stupid that they cannot see that AT&T is absolutely not their ally or do they have other reasons for playing with them?

Wow, I've never posted anonymously before.

(No) Free Lunch

OCSteve, you're assuming they care about fair use. Has there ever been a technological "solution" to enforcing copyright that respected fair use? In fact, killing fair use seems to be one of the intended purposes of such technologies.

KCinDC: I’m sure that killing fair use would be a bonus. My point was pretty much that a software program could never make decisions that IP lawyers struggle with. The technology could never make that decision so the only option would be to block any copyrighted material.

The technology could never make that decision so the only option would be to block any copyrighted material.

Aside from Project Gutenberg, what will be left?

(No) Free Lunch: The MPAA companies ARE the RIAA companies. It's all owned by about six companies.

And yes, killing fair use and charging users every time they

Huh. It cut off my post.

And yes, killing fair use and charging users every time WE watch, listen to, or read something has been the companies' goal for years. They've become enormously profitable from re-selling people their music and movie collections again on new formats (CD, DVD) and want to keep that rolling. (See the HD DVD wars)

So this is just another example of their rent and profit seeking behavior on the works they already have, just like perpetual copyright. Which is the opposite of what copyright was originally intended to do.

I actually believe the technology is there, it just requires substantial horsepower and a liberal (i.e. illiberal) attitude to privacy. You will naturally acquire a great deal of non-copyright data in your efforts to find copyright data.

The reform needed to return to the original goals:


  • Only the people who developed the material or their estate can be owners. Groups who develop copyright material must allocate ownership by contract.

  • Default ownership rule for copyright is equal shares.

  • Copyright is inalienable.

  • Initial copyright is for seven years. It is free.

  • Copyright renewal is for ten years. There is a fee and it can be renewed up to three times.

  • The strong fair use ideas of the nineties become part of the law.

  • Damages are:

    • 3x revenue of the violator;

    • zero if the item is not currently offered for sale;

    • proven damages if the violator did not receive any revenue for the violation;

    • zero if the proven damages are less than 20% of alleged damages.

I'm sure I missed a few things.

This alliance of convenience reminds me in some ways of the lead-up to DMCA when the ISPs opposed the Act right up until they got their way on liability issues and then bailed on their former, civil libertarian allies.

Anything that reminds me of the DMCA is probably bad.

I’m sure that killing fair use would be a bonus.

Rather shortsighted of them:

Q. Have you seen any good movies or TV shows lately?

A. Yes, but I'm not allowed to tell you about them . . .

"to structure the network in a way to facilitate access tiering, which is really what the net neutrality battle is about"

Great thread, but could someone please explain "access tiering"?

They won't filter for IP -- they'll block peer-to-peer traffic instead, for legit and illegitimate users.

Encrypt it? Doesn't matter -- you can STILL sniff out peer-to-peer traffic.

The only way to "filter" it is to block certain very obvious uses of packets, and doing so would more or less create both the justification and the basic architecture for tiered delivery service anyways.

But OCSteve is right that even if they DID have some method to actually sniff for IP infringments, even the simplest encryption scheme would screw it. Solutions for distributing shared keys over an insecure network are well known, after all.

What a reminder of the good old days. Pre Bush II I used to spend a lot of time worrying about copyright and patent, writing my representatives in congress urging them to support more reasonalbe intellectual property laws, reading books by Lessig, etc.

GW put an end to that by giving me much more urgent issues to worry about / annoy my congressmen about.

Good luck, but I think Edwards is right, we're not going to change the current big business tilt of government without fundimental change.

Brian: access tiering is the internet equivalent of a toll-road. A Web-site that pays a premium would have its data (packets) delivered faster. First Class postage if you will.

There is a one case in which access tiering is somewhat justified. In cases where an enormously popular real-time datafeed (Superbowl? I am not American....) is being pulled in by very many people simultaneously it requires a dedicated "backbone" to distribute it, above and beyond the vanilla Internet technology. That means that specific technology, ie big pipes and lots of storage, has been made available by someone and they are entitled to a return if you wish to benefit from that facility.

Otherwise I am inclined to disbelieve that any form of real-time pakket policing is practical and that the noises made by NBC and AT&T are the thrashings of large creatures who's time has past...

Content responsibility including blog comments has become a topic in Germany. A court has decided that a blog owner has to check user comments before making them public on his site. The case was one blog that attracted neonazi comments. The owner killed those in the morning (when he got online and saw them) but they had been posted in the middle of the night, so they were visible for a few hours. Since freedom of speech has certain legal limits over here (mainly limited to instigation of violence and extreme cases of racial hatred though), there was formally a violation of law.
As far as I know the case is currently appealed and the final decision (and possible legal remedies) are open.

I can understand the impulse behind the hate speech laws in Germany, but I'm glad I live in a country where they would be unconstitutional. Hartmut's story is one of the reasons why.

Amos: We had the same case about a peadophile site posting pictures of one of our young blond princesses. One of the commenters posted it and they moved it after warnings, but too late.

The final verdict said that the owners of the forum were responsible because due to the 'special character' of the website they should have taken better precautions.

The hate speech is illegal in Germany (and the Netherlands), but the main point in Hartmuts example is that the blog owner was responsible for the comments made. If those comments are illegal (in the US other things would be illegal, but there still are things illegal) can you legally sue the owner of the public forum?

How, pray tell, are you going to sniff out peer-to-peer? No IP (address, not intellectual property) in the wild wacky world of the net has a server sticker on it or a client sticker. You can block ports, but people will just switch ports.

OCSteve is right. It's a pipe dream (or a pretext). Why aren't more people in the tech world calling them out on their BS?

"If those comments are illegal (in the US other things would be illegal, but there still are things illegal) can you legally sue the owner of the public forum?"

No, you can't (with some caveats). You actually are more likely to get in trouble if you police it and something slips through than if you don't police it at all.

Hmmm, maybe we need a statement around here saying something about how we aren't able to frequently monitor for content, but will be happy to remove certain things when brought to our attention.

How, pray tell, are you going to sniff out peer-to-peer? No IP (address, not intellectual property) in the wild wacky world of the net has a server sticker on it or a client sticker. You can block ports, but people will just switch ports.

Explaining it is rather long and drawn-out, but the short version is "You can analyze network traffic flows and determine P2P connections with a high-degree of certainty."

And then you can block them. And you can do that in real time. Even if it's encrypted. It's not that complex to implement.

Morat20: Seriously, a hyperlink please. I'd like to read about this technique.

P.S. You going to also throttle the distribution of all those Linux distros by blocking P2P?

P2P is used for a lot more than just piracy.

The battle between content providers and pirates reminds the dynamic in the war on terror. Media providers spend millions of dollars on technology to block this stuff. Hackers spend a fraction of that money to adapt and circumvent. Media providers spend another load of millions. And it goes on and on and on.

No IP (address, not intellectual property) in the wild wacky world of the net has a server sticker on it or a client sticker.

Tell that to all the people who used to run mail servers on their home IPs but now have to send everything through their ISPs' relays because people kluged together a way to refuse mail from IPs they didn't think should be servers. Sure, it hits people it shouldn't, but nowadays no one cares because it's worth it to block the spam.

"The battle between content providers and pirates reminds [me of] the dynamic in the war on terror."

Two words of parallel you left out: "collateral damage."

Sebastian (about suing blog-owners for content in comments)No, you can't (with some caveats). You actually are more likely to get in trouble if you police it and something slips through than if you don't police it at all.

That is why I was rather happy that the final verdict in *our* case was that this specific forum, being pedophile, should have taken better precautions. That implies that you don't have to do more than removing after being warned in other cases. I seem to recall that they convicted a telephone-operator owner to jail in Switzerland because they carried porn-lines - which would make the owner of the medium responsible for all content. But I don't have time to look it up now, it is early morning here and I should go to bed ;)

P.S. You going to also throttle the distribution of all those Linux distros by blocking P2P?

P2P is used for a lot more than just piracy.

I never claimed it was a workable approach. In fact, it's a very stupid approach because you cannot tell legitimate from illegitimate peer-to-peer operations.

A simple google search of "identifying peer-to-peer traffic" and "network analysis" would have garnered you all the information you wanted, but here you go:

Passive Network Analysis has some entry level stuff. A more indepth and specific paper is here.

I don't see why you're so suprised. Peer-to-peer network behavior is quite unique. There's very few (if any) other applications out there that would be sending file packets from so many sources on the same port.

And for the record -- Cisco actually sells routers and firewalls designed to identify and block p2p stuff automatically.

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