AT&T asks government to create national censorwall and system for disconnecting accused infringers

In its comments to Victoria Espinel, the American IP enforcement czar, AT&T calls on the government to hold tribunal in which accused infringers will lose their internet access. It doesn't want a full court to evaluate claims of infrigment, just a high-speed, traffic-court-style process by which entire families will lose their lifelines to the electronic society.

AT&T also wants the government to establish a list of banned websites that all ISPs are ordered to block.

But that doesn't mean AT&T is opposed to various forms of "three strikes" or "graduated response" programs meant to deter online copyright infringement; it just wants someone else to implement them. If the government wants to get into the enforcement business, AT&T would be fine with that. Actually, the company would be more than fine with the proposal--it suggests that the government get into the business of adjudicating such cases and dishing out penalties.

This might sound like a role for the courts, but AT&T and rightsholders argue that the current legal process is simply too slow and too expensive to deal wisely with online copyright infringement. Instead, AT&T proposes a "streamlined and reasonable adjudication system for rights holders to resolve civil infringement claims against end users." Call it "court lite..."

Also, AT&T thinks that getting the US government into website blocking would be a pretty terrific idea. AT&T suggests that the Department of Justice "create and maintain a list of international websites known to host and traffic in infringed copyrighted works."

AT&T wants 3 strikes tribunal, government website blacklist


  1. Wow another reason to hate AT&T! Makes me glad I dumped them as my cell phone provider.

    Here’s hoping someone with a brain in Washington tells AT&T to get lost.

  2. As much as I disagree with the idea of censorship and blocking infringers, I’d much rather have the government controlling it instead of some private company that is basing its success on profit (imagine being blocked for using too much bandwidth, since ‘only infringers’ could have that much usage…and a little bit gets added to the bottom line because of it).
    As for terms like ‘court lite’–isn’t that already what things like traffic court and small claims are in comparison to the full court system? The biggest issue I have here is that there seems to be a push for something new instead of trying to take advantage of the already existing system. Why don’t they just find a way to use something like small claims courts to execute their goals…or are they trying to avoid the costs of filing and serving, too?

  3. I’m not too worried. After all, the government let ATT do illegal wiretaps and then made it illegal to sue them. I’m sure the gov will extend the same courtesy to all of ATT’s customers, too. At least, I’m pretty sure it will work that way.

  4. It reminds me of the Phoenix Wright games, where trials are cut down to a maximum of three days. “Coincidentally” in those games the justice system is also essentially guilty until proven innocent (or in some cases, guilty until someone else is proven guilty!)

  5. Uh, oh… Looks like AT&T is trying to have the USA implement their “three-strikes” program, just like what the French government did with Hadopi: content filtering, a special tribunal and disconnection of users found “guilty”, etc. What they don’t seem to realize is that here, the political and technical nightmare that is Hadopi has given more grief to the government and the content industry than anything the pirates could have done, left to their own devices. People are getting both more resentful of copyright and content control, and more savvy at getting around electronic hurdles. Maybe the Obama administration will get a good hard look at this mess and turn away in disgust.

  6. This has been in the works for a while and trials have been conducted in Australia and elsewhere.

    The internet is built on principles that conflict and often expose the institutions that rely on tyranny and enslavement to thrive. It is only logical that this conflict will be escalated to a point where the internet will no longer be a free-flowing pipe where an ordinary citizen can be heard along with everyone else and where it is possible to expose criminal corporation or government activity.

    We are reaching the turning point and unless we realize that politics is not a spectator sport but a participatory one, we’ll have the big equalizer removed forever.

    Sure, there are the reasons of the middle men who want to maximize profits and only support customers who support the monetizing of everything who intend to gradually minimize/slow down non-profitable traffic and make not-paying a crime.

    What a collusion.

    Maybe we need new, un-censorable communication tech?

    Surely that would be easier than making our public servants act in our interests!

    Any ideas? Sci-fi? Corey?

    1. Just wait for the official 802.11s spec and compliant devices to become mainstream. It will be the most democratic network on the planet.

  7. Wait a minute, do the fat cats want more government now, not less? I wish they’d make up my mind!
    Get back to me when its all in a soundbite with a snazzy graphic.

  8. I’ve seen a lot of links from tea party types on my FB wall lately about how the FCC needs to be prevented at all costs from regulating the internet, because it would infringe on our precious free-speech rights. I assumed it was astroturfing by the cable and phone companies as a way to left-handedly defeat possible net-neutrality regulations like the ones recently struck down by the courts. Call me cynical, but this strikes me as just the sort of crap they might start in order to create plausible deniability on that charge and/or generate a backlash against any regulation that might prevent them from charging customers and providers alike extra for bringing certain content into our homes.

    Or I could be completely off-base. After the crap Comcost pulled in Michigan a few years back (PA480, 2006, a deregulation bill that they swore would result in increased competition and lower rates, but predictably had the opposite effect), I’m very willing to believe the worst of the telecos.

  9. I love my iPhone, to use it I’m forced to use AT&T. I love DSL, to use it I’m forced to use AT&T. I want my dollars to go elsewhere but I’m trapped. Where the hell is that magical vibrant capitalist competitive market when you need it?

    1. No, you’re not forced. I jailbroke and unlocked my iPhone, and use it with a T-Mobile SIM card. They’re not great, but nearly as awful as AT&T. And my DSL line, though owned by and leased from AT&T, is provided by Cavalier. They’re actually not too bad, for a phone company.

      Choices are often out there, and worth pursuing.

    2. @catcubed:

      That magical vibrant capitalist competitive market is around, you’re just not looking in the right areas. I’d suggest looking 10,000 miles west, over in Japan.

  10. Hahhahhahah, the new administration that screams at the top of its voice about the digital divide will institute a digital divide and make it stick with the power of law. A few things you folks have to finally admit to yourselves. 1 people in the government read Machivelli as a manual, not a warning. 2 to politicians, nothing is a right, everything is subject to patronage. The more things can be metered and controlled the more use of that resource can be doled out subject to merit as defined by the patron. This is ATT doing the dirty work for the G and taking the hit if the trial fails. We will see no end of this, they will come at us year after year after year until they get what they want, and no administration, congress, or court will defend our rights unless we remain eternally vigilant against these power grabs.

  11. It’s interesting that the Ars reporter starts out quoting in full the good things AT&T said, including something I swear was copypasta from Cory himself, but paraphrases the rest with scattershot quote fragments.

    AT&T is a certain kind of evil — the kind that wants all money coming in and none going out. This actually makes their behavior very predictable.

    They will *not* stand behind disconnection, because that would lose them revenue. Port blocking, throttling, every-other-minute remote router reboots, sure. But cutting off the money hose? Never.

    AT&T has less content interests than the other ginormous ISPs, so especially not them.

    So TL;DR — the headline should read: AT&T tells gov, you do it if you really want it!

  12. What’s AT&T’s angle here? How would they benefit from a three-strikes law?

    They don’t benefit if people are forced to stop being customers. I suppose that they may view torrenters as bandwidth hogs, so the three-strikes thing might be sort of an end-run around net neutrality.

  13. When do Americans start boycotting AT&T? You guys got nothing else? It’s this kind of companies which sink the economy, not the “copyright infringements”.

  14. Every now and then I ask myself, “Is it safe to unblock AT&T IP ranges from my computer now?” Today the answer is still no. Thanks for the information.

  15. It’s a different story when it comes to government “bureaucracy” when the issue isn’t Net Neutrality to protect OTHER people, isn’t it AT&T?

  16. so out of my isp choices: comcast, at&t and RCN which is the least evil or has the best policies on net neutrality?

  17. If AT&T were *only* doing phone and internet service, I doubt they’d come up with this totalitarian proposal – but since they’re selling media services (U-verse), they’re taking up the sides of the Copyright Fascists and their Mickey Mouse Copyright laws.

    Perhaps a way out of this is to have different grades of copyright – one – good for 7 years (renewable once) comes with the full power of legal threats, etc. Others, such as the current Mickey Mouse law – are only good for takedowns on YouTube (when used in their original form.)

    Of course, if most of the media people are “sharing” is recent pop-culture stuff, this doesn’t really help much.

  18. Sounds like AT&T are justifiably concerned about their common carrier status.
    If they attempt to censor what’s going over their network, they can then become liable for failure to censor something.
    Basically, they seem to be refusing to do the government’s dirty work – saying “if you want to do this, then YOU do it.”

    Looks like they’re trying to have it both ways – supporting the MAFIAA’s wish for an end-run around due process and the constitution, and (having been burned over phone tapping), demanding that the state openly take responsibility for what is, after all, the state’s job.

  19. AT&T Needs To Be the One Banned From all Internet They Have The Slowest Service Of All Internet Providers

  20. Hmmm, this proposal reminds me of someplace… someplace with a government controlled firewall… I seem to think it’s in Asia somewhere…

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