Accused of infringement? AT&T will take away YouTube and Facebook and send you to Copyright Reeducation Gulag

David sez, "According to TorrentFreak, a leaked AT&T training doc indicates that starting on Nov. 28, if a customer is flagged 4-5 times for copyright infringement, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will block access to unspecified "popular sites" until the customer completes an 'online education tutorial on copyright.' No, there's nothing even remotely Soviet about continuous surveillance that judges you via a faceless bureaucracy without appeal, and punishes you by blocking access to information until you come back from re-education camp. Nothing Soviet at all, comrades!"

The documents inform AT&T staff about the upcoming changes, beginning with the following overview.

“In an effort to assist content owners with combating on-line piracy, AT&T will be sending alert e-mails to customers who are identified as having been downloading copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner.”

“The reports are made by the content owners and are of IP-addresses that are associated with copyright infringing activities. AT&T will not share any personally identifiable information about its customers with content owners until authorized by the customer or required to do so by law.”

The papers further reveal the launch date of the copyright alerts system as November 28. A source connected to the CCI previously confirmed to TorrentFreak that all providers were planning to start on the same date, which means that Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are expected to have a simultaneous launch.

AT&T Starts Six-Strikes Anti-Piracy Plan Next Month, Will Block Websites (Thanks, David!)


  1. Oh, cry me a river. If you’re still taking other people’s work after getting caught three or four times, you’re lucky to be forced to sit through some “course.” If it were any other crime, you be hit with a fine and, perhaps, stuck in jail. Shoplift three or four times? That’s jail time. Speed three or four times? That’s extra fines. 

    There are so many legit files around from artists who desperately want the exposure, but as all of the studies show, 99% of the torrent activity is focused on new, unreleased movies from studios. If you don’t like the movie, fine. Don’t watch it. If you think Hollywood only makes crap, fine, don’t watch it. But if you’re watching it without paying for it, you’re not a freedom fighter, you’re not some copyright hero, you’re just a cheap jerk. 

    If we don’t have a functional way of spreading the development costs of a $100m movie around fairly, we’re going to be stuck with cat videos on YouTube. If you like blockbusters, you should pull your weight and contribute your fair share.

    1. I get your drift with new movies and that’s fine.  Frankly I haven’t downloaded a movie, any movie in well over a year.  But here’s a different situation.

      I have basic cable, I miss a TV show I like, but it’s not offered for streaming from the broadcaster.  Now legally I can own a VCR/DVR and record said show for later play back at my discretion, but yet it is against the law for me to download a torrent of that show.

      Here I am still breaking the law, but I have a legal and paid for source of the original material. 

      I more or less have the same legal loophole issue with Netflix vs. torrenting.  If I can watch a movie on instant view from my Netflix account why legally can I not torrent the same movie…(does Netflix only pay per movie view and pocket the rest of my month subscription or is theirs a blanket payout to the studios?)

    2. While your argument is emotionally valid, the fact is that blocking websites arbitrarily will damage websites such as youtube and facebook unjustly. What did these websites do to warrant traffic reduction. This is a violation of Net Neutrality and is ILLEGAL for an ISP to act this way. 

    3. except that an IP isn’t a person, and an accusation isn’t proof.  Leaving aside that you’re forced to pay to defend yourself from the accusation, from a limited list of defenses, from which “fair use” is conspicuously absent.  Also leaving aside the abysmal track record of their evidence gathering.  

    4.  I think you’re missing the point. This isn’t the penalty for being “caught” infringing on copyright law. This is the penalty for being *accused* of violating copyright law. Actually, it’s worse than that: it’s the penalty for being accused of having your Internet connection used to violate copyright law.

      Worse still: it’s the penalty for sharing a household with someone whose subscribes to the Internet, and whose Internet connection is alleged to have been implicated — without any proof, without a trial, without the chance to confront your accusers, see the evidence against you, and rebut their accusations — in an act of copyright infringement.

      Studies (like this one: , undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCooper for the UK government) show that Internet access delivers numerous quality of life benefits, including improved educational and health outcomes, superior employment opportunities, etc. When you confiscate someone’s Internet access on the basis that some faceless corporation using secret methodology alleges that they’ve undermined the  business’s profit-maximization strategy, you deprive them of those benefits.

      1. Quick question: does temporarily confiscating someone’s Internet access till they sit through some stupid lecture (awful idea BTW, just so we’re clear) have the exact same negative consequences as imprisonment and (often deadly) forced labor?

        1. Quick question: does it have any negative consequences?  (Cory is a writer; he’s allowed to use metaphor.  And in fairness, it’s not a particularly stretched metaphor.  There have been people actually in jail in Russia because copyright law gave the Russians an opening.)

          1. That’s not a metaphor; all it does is trivialize what people in actual gulags went through. Totally gratuitous and guaranteed to make ‘normal’ people ignore what you say.

          2. It could easily harm the accused. 

            For example, if I’m a freelancer working on deadline – it could cost me future business. If I’m job hunting, I could miss an application deadline, and miss a shot at a job.

            Then there is the basic unfairness of it.  I’m paying AT&T for a service. They decided to suspend that service based on an accusation (whether justified or not) from a third party.

            What compensation do I get if the complaint is unjustified?  Or if the damage done to me (through lost time and/or money) is disproportionate?

          1. Not even close. Might be if it was in any way comparable, which it just isn’t, neither in nature nor magnitude.

      2. First, the IP address is very good evidence, at least compared to the evidence we use to convict people of far worse crimes. Eyewitness results are fraught with errors. Fingerprints are often misread. DNA can be confused by contamination. Yet people are put in jail for life with all of these.

        If a family shares an IP address, I bet that the family can figure out who caused the trouble very quickly. If the family is so dysfunctional that it can’t, perhaps the loss of the Internet will give them more time to talk and get to know each other.

        And I realize that everyone wants to hire Charlie Nesson and stop the world so they can have a long, drawn out trial, the world doesn’t have the time. HEck, we don’t devote that much time to much more serious crimes. 

        I think they should let the accused file some kind of protests, but I don’t think very many innocent people will get caught by the dragnet. While the copyfighters loves to focus on the 0.01% of the legit content at PirateBay, ISOHunt or the USENET sites, the fact is that almost all of downloaded content is high-quality, copyrighted material that is unlicensed.

        For that reason, I think the ISPs can offer a simple appeal process and 99% of the people won’t bother. 
        The ISPs false conviction rate will be much lower than the false conviction rate for rape, murder and what not. That’s not really saying much, I realize, but it suggests that this system is a practical solution. The world can’t afford to have Charlie Nesson and Lance Ito adjudicate every person accused of downloading unlicensed material. 

        1. And I realize that everyone wants to hire Charlie Nesson and stop the world so they can have a long, drawn out trial, the world doesn’t have the time.

          You know, your assumption that due process is just an inconvenient formality on the way to punishment is a big part of what reminds people of the Soviets in the first place.

        2. On the contrary, an IP address is terrible evidence. Copyright infringement is individual tortious conduct. The copyright holder must sue that actual infringer. The IP address holder does not have to prove that they did not commit infringement, the copyright holder has the burden of proof. It would be akin to an eyewitness saying, “it happened in this house where 5 people live” and then trying to convict the homeowner.

          Furthermore, your justification is terrible. To paraphrase, you are saying, “Well, we accept all sorts of bad evidence, and this isn’t the worst evidence, so it is ok.” That shows that your premise has not leg to stand on. 

          Based on your justification, I have a great idea. Let’s terminate the voting rights of anybody who lives in a home where someone has been accused of a felony. We get stuff wrong all the time, and this won’t be the worst thing he have gotten wrong.

        3. “If a family shares an IP address, I bet that the family can figure out who caused the trouble very quickly.”

          ….and if the family doesn’t secure their Internet connection? Before you say that it’s their ‘duty’ to do so, realize that some people might deliberately want to leave it open.

        4. In addition to what others have said IP addresses are not fixed or infallible. They can easily be spoofed. As was proven by a university research team managing to get a movie downloading infringement letter accusing the IP address of their laser printer.

          And I know people personally that have not infringed copyright but were accused of such. Guilty until proven innocent, except there isn’t even a process to try proving that innocence.

    5. The problem is that the RIAA at least has issued take down claims for material they didn’t hold a copyright for.  When a group of musicians made a song, not copyrighted by the RIAA to protest the DCMA, the RIAA claimed copyright infringement and had it taken down.  It’s all well and good to say that if you pirate you deserve to be cut off, but the copyright holders only have to make a claim, not a SUBSTANTIATED claim.  Plus I am very leery of cable and other broadband service providers simply taking on the decision to throttle bandwidth at a time when they are trying to convince me that I really should pay them $30-$50 a month for more and quicker Internet access.  I can see where these companies have a reason to SAY they have gotten complaints that don’t exist and then force the supposed pirate to pay for larger bandwidth to get back their regular service.

      The problem is vigilantism.  These companies are talking about depriving people of a service they pay for WITHOUT any due process or even a chance to deny the claims.  That is flat out wrong.

      1. That reminds me of a story.  Three times in the last decade, I have lived with friends, and all three times, when the lease was over and we cancelled the Comcast service, one $14 porno movie showed up on the bill.  All three times.  At least one of those times, we were absolutely sure that nobody was home when the movie was supposedly ordered.

        Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  Three times is enemy action.

        And if there is money to be made accusing former customers of piracy…?

      2. The alleged copyright holder should have to pay something like $1000 to accuse anyone of copyright infringement. One of the huge issues right now is that there are no consequences for being wrong for groups like the RIAA. They get to go on their merry way when they file a false accusation so why not file a bunch of DCMA requests and see which ones stick.

    6. J’accuse, j’accuse, j’accuse, j’accuse, j’accuse. There, I’ve accused you of copyright infringement five times. Whoever owns your internet connection should cut you off and send you to internet re-education school…you dirty pirate.

    7. I pirated when I was a kid, but I don’t pirate now.  I got older, got a degree, got a job, and now make enough money where if there is any legal way to simply buy what I want, I buy it.  Pirating is tedious and my time is worth way more than the couple of bucks it takes to buy most things.

      That said, I have three roommates on top of the constant stream of guests visiting from out of town that jump on the wifi.  The intertubes is in my name.  If I am simply ACCUSED having a violation from my fucking IP address I get my internet cut?  They don’t even need to pirate, just have some fucking robot decide that fair use isn’t fair use.  Are you completely bat shit insane?  Do you have any idea how utterly screwed I would be if that ever happened?  I would have my ability to do my job crippled.  That would be almost as bad as cutting my electricity.

      If I ever get one of these asinine notices I am going to instantly change my provider to one that isn’t a fuck off.  If the only other viable provider in my city is a part of this bullshit, then my router is going to get pointed to a VPN.

      The only thing this asinine policy is going to do is get techno illiterates (mostly families) cut off from the ‘tubes. Anyone who knows what they are doing are just going to shell out the paltry $50 a year for a good VPN and be done with it.

      If your goal is to punish families and techno-illiterates, this is going to be awesome.  If your goal is to punish a serious pirate, you are just going to give an extra $50 a year to VPN services and utterly fail to punish said pirates.

      1. “Pirating is tedious and my time is worth way more than the couple of bucks it takes to buy most things.”

        Except a lot of the time that’s not quite true. In many cases — to no small degree because mainstream content creators have fought against online distribution since day one rather than realizing it’s financial potential and exploiting it — the pirate world is way ahead of the curve and it’s FAR more convenient to go to the pirate source than the legitimate source… In my experience it’s almost always way more effort to do it by the book — you have to go through payment gateways, you have to register accounts, you have to use proprietary software and/or DRM, you may have to go to the post office to pick up physical copy (after waiting weeks), you may have to go to a bricks and mortar store, and so on… If you can even find what you’re looking for in your market — this is especially true in non-primary market nations or rural areas.

        Pirate channel? That’s as simple as typing in what you want into any number of convenient sites, and making a single click…

        That’s the biggest problem the media producers have — they fought against this for so long that they let the pirate scene get way, way, way ahead of them.

          1. Of course they can. Netflix does it successfully, so does Steam for PC games. They just need to offer higher quality products than the pirates that’s easier to find for a good price. If you could go to a simple website, just type the name of any movie and instantly get started downloading a 1080p version of it with no (or at least invisible) DRM with no ads for $7, a lot of people would do that.

            Instead, studios will make you search through multiple sites to find the movie you want, make you pay $20 for it 3 weeks after the movie is available on DVD, insist on malware-like DRM that doesn’t work half the time and you’ll have to sit through 15 minutes of commercials before you can start watching the movie. That’s if you’re American of course, citizens of other countries just won’t have any way to get the movies. Then they’ll complain that nobody buys their shitty products.

      2. Change your provider NOW, go to DSLreports and find a local ISP that does not have these practices. in the Bay area (Where I am) there are a handful of them. There’s usually at least one non AT&T non comcast provider in your area.

        1. Sadly, DSL sucks.  My plan is to wait for a single nasty letter.  Once I get it, I’ll dump Comcast, tell them exactly why I am dumping them, and move to RCN.  RCN is also the spawn of evil and I am sure has the same policy, but I’ll just start off from day one with them using a VPN.  It isn’t ideal, but at least I get to vote with my dollars at least once.

          The preferable solution would be a for a fucking ISP that offers serious bandwidth and wasn’t run by a bunch of assholes.  I would kill for the Boston area to have someone who could offer cable like bandwidth (or better) and whose only job was to be a dumb pipe, not try and sell me shitty cable TV, phone services, or their own crap Netflix rip offs.  I just want a big dumb pipe that does being a big dump pipe well.

          Well, you know what they say, wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.

      3. I think part of the idea is that you have to police you friend’s and guest’s behavior.  They want to turn everyone into a copyright cop.

    8. Hi ehjxgcth (what’s the pronunciation of that name by the way?), you appear to be missing a few important facts about media distribution, copyright in general, and the impact of downloading copyright protected material.

      I’ll just cover some basics:

      1. Subverting a copyright license is not the same as, nor can it be compared to, stealing a physical product or endangering the lives of other road users.

      2. Depending on what country you’re in it’s also not even a criminal matter, but a civil one.  Copyright is a form of licensing – when you download something without the license holders permission you’re infringing on the terms of the license, not committing a theft.

      3. Time and time again it has been shown that the impact of file sharing will have absolutely no impact on your ability to watch Hollywood trash.  No more than the ability to record radio with a cassette tape destroyed music.  There is no tangible loss, cost or inconvenience – at most there’s a ‘lost sale’.  Even this concept is relatively variable and is totally dependent on the principle that the item would have been bought if not pirated and that peoples media budget decreases while pirating – and considering that pirates tend to be large purchasers of media I don’t think that this really applies.

      Anyway, enough from me, how’s the shill job going?

    9. The “content industry” are obsolete middle-men bribing politicians to set up a permanent rent-seeking relationship. The first step is claiming it’s territory as the legitimate owner and overseer of all ‘content.’ Of course, when you account for everyone who is NOT the “content industry,” WE create thousands of times more content than they do. Nevertheless, this .001% of content producers are given the power to determine the shape of copyright, the power to censure the internet, and in due course, the power to restrict the human right to access the network. (People need the internet to work. House arrest would be more humane and less damaging.)

    10. Oh hello there MPAA representative. Nice of you to join the discussion. Please be aware that starting Nov. 28 your offices internet connection will be down indefinitely as you’ll be accused of about 10’000 copyright infringements per day.

      This friendly service brought to you, by you. Have a useless day now, said everyone, ever.

    11. I am so moved by your argument that I’m going to use the same standard for accusations of astroturfing.

      1. If you ask me, this venue is filled with people astroturfing for the search engines, the hard disk manufacturers, the USENET sites and everyone else who makes money off of unlicensed content. Why do you think the billionaires at Google give so much money to the EFF? 

        So you can consider this the first strike against most of the folks around here. :-)

    12.  “as all of the studies show, 99% of the torrent activity is focused on new, unreleased movies from studios”

      And 99% of statistics are made up. This one certainly is. Come on. Even a cursory glance at Torrent Freak’s top-10 download lists make it pretty obvious that the dominant movie violation is on new DVD releases. Not unreleased movies. And as others have pointed out, TV downloads, which may well be legal in many jurisdictions, are also a dominant share of downloads. Fabricating “studies” just outs you as an industry troll that is simply being paid to make these silly posts.

      1. is on new DVD releases.

        Agreed.  If I have the option of paying $10 to watch something in the theater or pay nothing but have to endure someone’s shitty video camera taping of it…I’ll be $10 poorer.  Now from time to time you do see those non-official DVD rips show up for things like award shows, but still I can wait to the real thing gets here.

        And I can wait the week or so for Netflix to have it.

    13. If you’re still taking other people’s work after getting caught three or four times, you’re lucky to be forced to sit through some “course.”

      I’m not taking other people’s work, I’m copying it.

    14.  In theory, your plan works, but I point to the frequent and recent instances where 100% legitimate streaming of live events was cut off because of bad copyright systems. There are far too many points of failure in such systems.

      The content industry needs to figure out better methods of getting their product to people, at which point pirating will significantly decrease. The Canadian RIAA’s own study showed that people who pirate the most also paid the most for content.

  2. As long as there is no penalty for falsely asserting content violations, I see a simple way to eliminate this system within half a year.  As part of a national protest, let’s all start filing claims against commercial publishers.  Expose the system for the farce it is…

    1. A day after this “service” goes online, mysteriously the MPAA/RIAA offices are unavailable for comment. Hastily dispatched reporters find the offices empty, track employees down to copyright training gulags of AT&T.

    2. I suspect that won’t work because it’s likely that the only entities able to make such accusations will be the giant media corporations.  I seriously doubt individuals or even small media companies will be allowed into the system.  The service providers will claim that, purely for practical reasons, they can only respond to accusations from “trusted partners,” which is no doubt true, but the larger issue remains – big media companies won’t allow a system to be put in place that benefits anyone but themselves, much less that can be used against them.

      1. Hm. What about …

        1) post a cat video
        2) have a bot repeatedly send content violation claims to commercial publishers.
        3) when the number of claims reaches N, then contact their ISPs and get them cut off
        4) when told to stop “taking advantage of the system”, keep doing it.

  3. um, if AT&T’s copyright policy bothers you, you are free to not do business with them. “if they catch me stealing content, they take away my Facebook! IT’S JUST LIKE TEH SOVIETS!!!!”

    1. AT&T got the FCC to strike down its line-sharing rules, then successfully lobbied to have state laws passed prohibiting the provision of competing municipal network services, even in territories where they provide no high-speed broadband, or where broadband is substandard (cf North Carolina, including the research triangle, which ranks as one of the worst-connected states in the union). In many territories, AT&T is the only broadband option — or, at best one of two options (the other being a cable operator, and all the cable operators have opted in to nearly identical plans).

      Who should you give your money to, if AT&T has lobbied to prohibit all competition?

      1. Being an NC resident I’ll vouch for our shitty selection of services.  At least TW finally rolled out something beyond 10mbit down speeds.  AT&T still does DSL, but I think it tops out at 6mbit.  No matter where you live there isn’t any real competition.

        In and near the major cities things aren’t that bad, but choices are limited.  Head out to one of the more rural counties and yeah you’ll be lucky to get anything high speed.  Hell in some places there isn’t even cable (TV).

      2. go to dslreports and find an alternative provider. even if it’s an AT&T reseller there’s usually someone out there who’s willing to give you better customer service and respect. Independent ISP’s can’t always compete on prive/speed (although you’d often be surprised) they’ll almost always win out on customer respect.

      3. I’m aware of the lack of competition in most areas (including mine) but if there’s only one place in town to buy beer and they decide that they think you are shoplifting, they can choose not to do business with you. This isn’t the same thing as a situation where the water company thinks you’re growing pot in your closet so they shut off your water indefinitely with no evidence. I don’t see the internet as a service that one has the right to access just by virtue of the fact that there is only one local provider – I see it as a product that you choose to buy from the provider, and the provider can choose not to do business with you as long as it’s not violating your rights by doing so, and you yourself can choose not to do business with the provider if you don’t agree with their policies. The fact that you don’t have an alternate provider for the service that you like better doesn’t really enter into it. You could just choose not to have internet at your house, or only access the internet from public wifi spots. The fact that it would be inconvenient to do so doesn’t mean that you have the right to dictate the terms of the contract with your internet provider, any more than it means that you can dictate the pricing…

        1. Public Wifi spots? Spoken with true naivety. If households can accrue accusations by any member of the household, how long to you think places are going to offer public WiFi?

          So, you are okay with the companies involved lobbying to restrict competition and then conspiring to make their service worse for the consumer? Ford and GM should lobby to get their meaningful competition disallowed and then build whatever terrible cars they want and sell them at outrageous prices. You don’t need a car, you can walk or take public transit, where it is reliable and available.

        2. If I had to pick between not having internet and not having water (or beer), I would skip the water. I can buy bottled water in bulk and work has a shower. The internet on the other hand is essential to my job, social life, and pretty much all aspects of my life. The internet is not needed about as much as electricity wasn’t needed in the 1920s, which is to say that there are hicks that don’t have it and live just fine, but the rest of the civilization is now completely and totally dependent.

          The fact that the internet providers often got a government sponsored monopoly and subsides as they rolled out their infrastructure also makes your OMFGBUTTHEMARKET argument rather moot. I live a couple of miles from mother-fuckin’-MIT. Outside of Silicon Valley, you can’t find a more tech-centric area in the WORLD. Do you know how many ISPs we have that offer decent broad band? Two. The “market” is completely and thoroughly fucked and broken.

        3. I think the big issue here Joe, is that due to the nature of the technology it is really dicey proving who did what, and punishing the subscriber for what someone, whether a guest, spouse, kid or whomever did. 

          This is punishing the crime, not the perpetrator. In certain tribal societies and under some forms of feudalism, punishing the crime was the norm. If the other village, the feudal lord or some other party believed that someone in a particular village or family committed a crime against them but were not sure who, they would damage something belonging to the village commons, let them know why, with the expectation the villagers would be pissed enough to exact revenge on the perpetrator and or his or her family, or whomever the villagers believed deserving.

          An example of this on the sub-village level was when a Pashtun 14 year-old girl and boy were found to be taking walks together. This was not liked for many reasons, the main one being the girl’s family was of much lower rank. Part of the punishment demanded by the boy’s family and approved by the elders was the gang-rape of the girls’s 11 year-old brother in addition to the rape and beating of the girl. Similar examples happened in pre-revolutionary war America, the Wild West and Jim Crow South.

          Yes – an extreme comparison, but this is the sort of stuff societies that punish the crime do. Often those who are at the receiving end of this had no perpetrator of the crime in their midst anyway. 

          Societies that use this form of punishment tend to be very repressive, closed, intrusive and brutal. After all, if you thought something your daughter, son or neighbour did was going to get you punished, you might just turn in to an intrusive nasty control freak and instil the same in your kids.  

          Last, but not least – your beer store analogy doesn’t wash. So many important necessities for life are tied to having reliable high-speed service that having it _is_ on the level right below (or no more than two) of having running water or electricity – and many many levels above the beer supply level. I challenge you to show me a high school school in a major or even third tier metro area that doesn’t simply assume kids have access at home (‘slums’ excluded.)  And oh, I like beer as much as the next guy ;) 

          As for your last bit about how the companies have a right to do whatever they want and people have to put up or shut up — I think you should re-examine your philosophy, and the way our government and society is (at least for now) structured. 

          I seriously doubt that you are wealthy enough for such crap to benefit you…I doubt you are in the 1 percent of the top 1 percent of the wealthy. 

          Here’s a great article by David Frum that nicely sums up my drift. Yes, it is off-topic to this post, but I respectfully request that you please take a look anyway (I originally read this in Newsweek)   :

    2. I’d love not to do business with AT&T . Who exactly am I supposed to switch to? My other ISP option in the area is Comcast, who apparently also have signed onto this malarky. So I can jump ship to the other game in town that’s also going to do the same thing and is much worse in every other way.

      So…what exactly is my option? Go back to dial up? Only use the internet when I go down to a coffee shop?

      If the major ISPs which have monopolies and duopolies in virtually every market are colluding in this manner, it’s not as simple as just telling me to take my business elsewhere. The only way this can be fixed is legislatively.

        1.  I just checked there doesn’t seem to be an independent provider in my area.  Glad you have one, but not everyone has the option.

        2. The ones in my area that aren’t ATT or Verizon are only business providers, not residential.

          1. Antinous has mentioned b4 where he lives – and if where he lives is a gulag, please tell me which benevolent despot I have to annoy to be sentenced there. 

      1. Point of curiosity: most ISPs these days are also cable companies. Cable companies will do pretty much anything to keep you from dropping them. Retention departments will bend over backwards. Couldn’t one just respond to any threat by calling up to drop your cable subscription?

        For purposes of your conversation with them, it doesn’t matter whether you did or did not download anything: you have no internet, so why would you keep paying them? It doesn’t matter if the other guy does this too: so far, only they, your current cable company/ISP have inconvenienced you. It doesn’t matter if there is no alternative: if they’re not going to provide service, you should not pay them. There almost has to be a bypass available to them to get around the test, and probably to expunge it from internal records. As an example, I doubt TWC is going to make someone at the offices of Apple or Dell take such a test to clear one of the IP addresses assigned to them. The measure is completely toothless.

        This, of course, doesn’t make this crazy scheme any better. They’re still spying on your downloads, and still punishing you based on accusations, and still doing someone else’s job in trying to keep you away from copyright works. But it’s also going to be the sort of dramatic flop that accomplishes nothing and is quietly phased out after the industry reaches some enforcement milestone. “Over 2 million downloaders warned! Only a 2% re-warn rate! Mission accomplished!” And nothing more is ever heard again.

    3. Oh really?  What if they are the only provider in your area?  Everyone knows this is very little competition or choice when it comes to internet connectivity.  Except you apparently.

        1. Well living in NC, you put up that nice map earlier of the LightLeap service, and that was nice but really it only covers the Hickory area.

          In my part of the state you only have:

          With Clearwire and Windstream both being wireless and both receiving horrible reviews.  Some places have choices, and some places don’t.  I happen to live somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of choices because TW and AT&T put enough pressure on the independents and resellers that they can’t turn a profit.  You happen to live in a place where that doesn’t matter as much.  Customer service is one thing, but if the connection is working and running at the speed I’m paying for then I don’t need to talk to you…ie I don’t need the customer service, I’m just paying for peace of mind.

          Like everyone else has said the difference between going with TW/AT&T versus an independent could be used to pay for some type of VPN/proxy service (at least where I am, even if you can find an independent).

  4. Luckily Megabox will solve all of this soon. Artists get 90% of the sales and get paid for illegal downloads from advertising revenue, Everyone wins except for the middleman. Sorry Chris Dodd. ;( ;( ;(

  5. This is crazy. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Oh, that’s right. This isn’t the government; it’s a private corporation, so we have no constitutional rights or protections if some corporate entity decides to use copyright to censor us.

  6. This is actually nothing new in spirit, if nothing else. I’m in the UK and several years ago (well before all this pirating paranoia from Big Media emerged), my ISP here sent me an e-mail, accusing me of downloading copyrighted material and threatened to cut off my service. I responded by enquiring as to what right they thought they had to police the net in this way (bearing in mind that they alone instigated this – not any copyright holders snooping on IP addresses and the like) and promptly took my business elsewhere.
           I presume that USA providers will probably integrate (if they haven’t already) their draconian rules into their terms of service so customers will not be able to retaliate if they don’t adhere to them.

  7. Speaking of VPN services, can someone recommend a good one?  Preferably one that doesn’t keep logs. 

    1. Tunnel Bear is what I use.  It is quick, cheap, and easy.  The only real issues with it is that it doesn’t support Linux (if you need that) and the Android app is technically still in beta.

      1. Thanks for the tip. Just started using it!

        I’m not familiar with Linux (mac user here), so correct me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t you just use a exe wrapper of some sort if you needed it for Linux?

  8. Cory,
    How do you see fighting this?  It feels like it is already too late even for legislation. The days of the small ISP are done, and it seems like all the big broadband providers are acting in concert specifically so that there is no alternative. You can’t “speak with your money” because there is nowhere else to go. 
    The only interesting thing I can see is to head for starbucks for internet..It is a win-win-win.

    A) You use their internet in relative port-blocked & throttled peace (and they assume the liability).

    B) Everyone else has the same idea (and behaves): the coffeeshops bandwidth & table space  become overwhelmed.

    C) Everyone else has the same idea (and misbehaves): The coffeeshop internet becomes locked down and unusable. The coffeeshops lose that huge chunk of their client base as they are forced to migrate on.

    I think the best outcome would be mega-corp. vs. mega-corp: Starbucks, McDonalds, Hilton, etc. vs. Comcast, TW, Verizon, etc.

    1. The days of the small ISP are most certainly NOT done. lots of the infrastructure being built is being done by small ISP’s (well, smaller than AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner) in Santa Rosa are pushing fiber builds and ADSL2+ rollouts, and the ISP I work for is turning Santa Cruz, CA into a Gig city. The smaller ISP’s just don’t have the deep deep pockets that the big boys have, so it’s happening on a slower more fragmented basis.

      1.  SO glad I found out about and signed up for it. Fuck AT&T, Comcast, and any other company that would *build infrastructure* to give my data to my government with a warrant. Let alone this latest batch of nonsense.

        We don’t have to put up with it, and we need to put our money somewhere we are not putting up with it.

  9. I am curious how sites like Google and Facebook, companies whose revenues are driven by access, will respond to nationwide carriers threatening to arbitrarily block access to “major sites.”

  10. Allow me to also recommend in the Bay Area. They are superb, and not just technically: Their legal policies and procedures are top-notch, too. No business connection with them except being a happy customer for a decade.

  11. Sounds like a good reason to drop AT&T and get another service provider.  I don’t think I’d want to do business with someone who’s willing to cut off my service based on a few accusations.

    On top of that, does anyone really read all the email they get from their ISP?  I get tons of junk email that I never look at.

  12. Wow the FUD about this one is deep.
    This plan is being run by a “company” headed by a PR agent for the **AA’s – obviously qualified to run an extrajudicial system.
    The board is filled with content holders and the leaders of some of the ISPs involved.
    The company “gathering” the IP addresses is a rebrand of Dtecnet.
    Dtecnet proved in writing they did not understand BT and how it works.
    They were purchased by MarkMonitor, but Dtecnet is being maintained separately, possibly to avoid the liability when they get sued.
    The secret system has no legal basis, despite the attempts to make it appear as such.
    This is corporations making law, make no mistake about this.
    AT&T’s claim that their TOS makes you responsible for activities 3rd parties might do with your connection ignore current federal court rulings.
    To challenge one of these notices costs the consumer $35, and then it is reviewed by an arbitrator paid for by CCI.  (No possible way that they could be biased.)
    The challenge to these notices is limited to certain options.  There is a 1 time pass for my connection was unsecured and you can never use that again.  They also believe nothing made since 1929 can be in the public domain.
    You have to prove they were incorrect and invest time and money to fight an automated system that at best is flawed.
    One merely need look at any DMCA complaint sent by the **AA’s to know that the systems they employ are “perfect”.
    When you collect the full set of these notices then the ISPs are supposed to take some actions, but because this is a private agreement between corporations (one of whom gets direct government subsidies for their networks) we aren’t allowed to know what they might do.  The **AA’s want the speeds of these connections cut to dialup speed, I don’t think they understand in some areas that is faster than the connection offered to begin with.
    Because slowing down an net connection would never screw up someones VOIP connection, I look forward to the first time a 911 call fails and they try to spin the whole don’t violate copyrights and you won’t die in your home angle.

    They were unable to get every ISP to join this program, but they hope they can force it onto every ISP.
    I would suggest suing your ISP at your first opportunity, the letter of agreement lets them bail once they get sued.  They have such faith in the system they built in an escape clause if someone stands up to them on legal grounds.

    They plan to keep a database of notices issues to customers and then turn those over to CCI with a court order to help prove your an evil pirate.  They might sue you… but then most likely in DC where Judge Howell has decided that copyright holders deserve super special extra rights placing them above the law.

    As to the whole pirates steal money from the mouths of children, the carcass of EMI was sold for just over 4 billion dollars paid for by an industry that pirates have “stolen blind”.  While it is a nice way for the execs to tell the small people why they are being paid less, the exec is making more than ever.  Something doesn’t add up.

    Many of the ISPs get federal, state, local help to put their networks into place and enjoy monopoly standing in several areas.  It might be time to remind them we can open their pipes up to competition, we did help fund them after all.

    We have people living in cardboard boxes, people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from… copyright is not and should never be more important to these things and it is damn well time we remind corporate america of these things.

  13. First, AT&Terrible pulls their monetary contribution clout with D.C. and won the perverted “right” to listen to my even more perverted hairy booty-calls, and NOW you are telling me AT&Throw-up can TELL me which sites I can md cannot see?

    Okay now……H O W did we allow this most hated company to get this HUGE?

  14. Man, this got way WAY tldr. Here’s hoping you’ll still skim it at least….

    Cory previously linked to a book by Jason Mazzone, arguing that we need accountability for rights holders (a good example would be putting some kind of penalty on baseless subpoenas or subpoenas where a plaintiff doesn’t actually turn out to own the rights to a work).
    Technically, there are some penalties for these shenanigans already, but they’re tepid:
    1. Rights holders are required to swear on penalty of perjury that a subpoena for customer information is only to obtain their identity, and that the information is only going to be used to enforce copyright interests [512(h)(2)(c)]. So, in theory, you could wind up in prison for abusing copyright subpoenas. (This never happens, though).
    2. And rights holders can be on the hook for attorney’s fees if they don’t take reasonable steps to prevent the subpoena from imposing an undue burden.[45(c)(1)] (This penalty also rarely happens).

    AT&T’s new extrajudicial system still won’t really do anything about subpoena abuse. But it doesn’t aggravate the problem either. In fact – and I’m going to get flamed intensely for this, I’m sure – AT&T’s upcoming policy seems BETTER for customers than its previous one. Or at least, better for customer privacy.

    AT&T’s policy has ALWAYS been to withhold customer information until a federal court tells it otherwise (i.e., through a subpoena, or maybe a court order enforcing a subpoena). This new system is NOT an exception to that rule. In fact, AT&T is adding EXTRA conditions (five strikes).

    But AT&T doesn’t actually have the authority to add these conditions. The RIAA and the MPAA brokered the various ‘six strikes’ deals, so they’re probably going to comply with AT&T’s tit-for-tat policy. But this is an agreement between those trade groups and the ISP. Any rights holder can still independently subpoena AT&T based on a single ‘strike’. AT&T is saying, up front, that it’s going to refuse to comply with any ‘single strike’ subpoena from now on. Great, but AT&T doesn’t get to rewrite federal law. If a rights holder is able to get a court order enforcing a ‘single strike’ subpoena, that’s all she wrote, and AT&T’s new policy will be neither here nor there.

    SO HERE’S THE PROBLEM: everyone here is confusing ‘six strike e-mails’ with unmasking customers. And the difference is huge. AT&T is not going to dole out customer information just because someone sends them a six-strike notice. They’re not even going to give that information after the fifth or sixth time a customer is flagged. Instead, AT&T is going to refuse to comply with subpoenas for that information, as a rule, like it always has, and then, if a customer is independently flagged five times by the same rights holder for copyright infringement, AT&T will…do nothing. Again.

    AT&T’s policy-to-be seems to say, “hey film studios, if you jump through this extra hoop, we agree not to resist a subpoena for customer information…If that subpoena is backed up by a court order.” But this would be meaningless. AT&T can resist any subpoena for customer information with a simple letter from its attorneys, explaining why AT&T thinks it’s unfair. And once this happens, a rights holder is completely stonewalled from the information unless they can convince a court to help them out. But if a court agrees a subpoena is valid, and once that court has issued an order enforcing that subpoena, the matter has been completely decided. AT&T could only meaningfully ‘resist’ a court order like that if it were willing to go into contempt.

    And note what AT&T’s policy DOESN’T say. It doesn’t say, “AT&T will reveal the names of customers who infringe five times without a subpoena.” It doesn’t even say “AT&T will comply with subpoenas after five flags.” Instead, it says, “after five flags, AT&T is STILL going to resist subpoenas, and require rights holders to open a federal lawsuit and tattle to a judge before revealing customer information.”

    Practically nothing will change, except certain rights holders will have signed away their own rights to immediately subpoena AT&T. And what will the RIAA and MPAA get in exchange? Alleged infringers will be sent doctrine e-mails and forced to do corny “copyright courses.” Sure, that’s completely pedantic, and it would be infuriating to get one of these e-mails if you didn’t actually infringe. But consider the alternatives. Throttling? Knee-jerk subpoenas for one-time infringements?

    On AT&T’s part, this looks like a customer privacy coup – the two biggest players in copyright litigation just signed away the right to zero-tolerance subpoenas. And however you feel about RIAA or MPAA, the agreement prioritizes some kind of ‘proselytization’ over
    actual enforcement of IP rights. It prioritizes generalized DETERRENCE over individualized RETRIBUTION. That was the non-troll call. And I’m happy to see the groups made it.

    Remember, only AT&T is going to know when an AT&T customer has been flagged five times, under five different IP addresses. AT&T could simply choose not to report a five-flagged customer to a complaining studio, and no one would ever know. But let’s say AT&T does hold to its end of the bargain, and actively lets a studio know when five of the studio’s complaints about anonymous IP addresses happened to have been directed at the same underlying customer account. The studio would still need a subpoena – and because AT&T is STILL going to resist that subpoena – a court order to obtain that information. And then, if the studio decides to sue based on that information, it’s going to be on much surer footing. This is because the infringement has been independently verified five times. And it’s ‘double blind’, so to speak.

    If a film studio lets AT&T know that it thinks an IP address is infringing its work, AT&T says it’s going to send an e-mail to the customer associated with that IP address. I GET IT, this sucks, because an IP address is not a person, and so there might be situations where infringement actually happened, but AT&T e-mails a customer who had nothing to do with that infringement. Or worse, there might be situations where no infringement happened AT ALL – but someone still gets an e-mail about it.

    But these are different from the ‘false positive’ situations Mazzone thinks we should police, in two ways. First, there appears to be no penalty whatsoever if a film studio sends AT&T a six-strikes false positive. BUT, second, since there’s no ‘risk-reward’ analysis going on, the rationale for penalizing this kind of false positive doesn’t apply.
    What do I mean by ‘no risk-reward’? If a studio files a subpoena based on a ‘single strike’, there is a chance that the customer responsible for an IP address was not, in fact, the infringer. This is the risk. The reward to be gained by the studio from taking that risk is that sometimes – if not most times – the customer WILL be the actual infringer, and the studio can deter infringement directly. Mazzone argues that if we don’t attach any real consequences to the ‘risk’ part of that equation, then studios are not going to go out of their way to avoid false positives. In fact, they’re incentivized to overreach here, because the reward will always outweigh the risk. And this is why we should penalize false positives with regard to SUBPOENAS.

    But with the six-strikes stuff, there’s no payoff. There’s nothing to be gained by risking a false positive. Say studio S complains about IP address I at a date and time when customer A was responsible for I. Now say person B, who has nothing to do with A, actually did the infringing, using A’s Wi-Fi, for example. If A – who did not infringe – receives a six-strikes notice, S gains nothing. This would not put S any closer to identifying, deterring or suing B. And in the EXTREMELY unlikely situation that A is independently misidentified across five separate IP addresses as having infringed S’s work, S still doesn’t benefit. If S’s goal is deterrence, S’s ability to now subpoena AT&T for the identity of A – a person who doesn’t need deterring – is useless.

    Let’s consider the ‘traffic laws’ idea. Don’t you sometimes feel like speed limits and various rules of the road are put in place so that police will have a plausible reason to pull over just about ANYONE? Have a hunch that car contains drugs? Forget the warrant, just follow the driver for five minutes until he forgets to use a turn signal.

    Subpoenas don’t work that way. Or even if they did, the idea that S BENEFITS from a false positive against A in the abstract would require the ridiculous assumption that because P2P is so ubiquitous, A is INEXORABLY going to infringe S’s work anyway. Yes, the MPAA could just send out a billion complaints to put everyone at five-flag status. You just blew my mind. Moving on…

    If a film studio sends an IP address to AT&T, and says “this address infringed at X date and time,” the film studio will have no idea who is responsible for that IP address. Now say that film studio sends AT&T another complaint, and says “the exact same IP address infringed the exact same work again 30 minutes later.” It’s entirely possible that the IP address refreshed during that time, or that a completely different person performed a second infringement using the same IP address.

    Contrast this with so-called ‘SLAPP’ litigation – where a company decides they don’t like something someone says on a thread, and even though the company knows that comment doesn’t rise to the level of defamation, they sue for defamation and subpoena an ISP for identifying information to scare the person into taking the comment down with the threat of high litigation costs. There, armed just with an IP address, a company can abuse the subpoena power to get a result they shouldn’t otherwise be able to get. That’s why many states have laws against SLAPP litigation.

    But six strikes is more like that scene from Spartacus. With a six-strikes plan, there’s no way to use an IP address to directly ‘vindicate’ anything. A film studio bound by this agreement can’t just send five consecutive complaints about a single IP address, hoping to fast-track someone to their fifth strike and discover that person’s identity, because different people will be behind the IP address for each complaint. There’s no way a studio can ‘pick on’ any particular customer. They’ll have no idea who any of their complaints are about.

    This is what I meant by ‘double blind’. An IP address is not a person. And that’s exactly WHY false positives are – I think – a little more forgivable in the context of a five-strikes regime than with subpoenas. If the MPAA complains about customer A when person B actually infringed, that sucks. But now, that’s going to result in a cheesy letter, instead of a lawsuit. And more importantly, if A didn’t actually infringe, the truth will out.

    Imagine that on five separate nights, S sees five people trespass on his land. Each of the trespassers was wearing a different costume. And at the time, each was unidentifiable under his or her costume. For all S knows, all five were the same person. Now imagine all the costumes were of different Tintin characters, and Abdullah, Thomson & Thompson (AT&T) is the only shop in the universe that rents any form of Tintin get-up. (In fact, there’s an organization that makes sure AT&T can’t rent anything but Tintin costumes, and that no one else can rent Tintin). The AT&T shopkeeper keeps a record of all the customer accounts used to make rentals, but tells S it would be impossible to know for certain whether the account holder of record was actually wearing the rented costume at any moment. The costume could have been borrowed or stolen, after all.

    “And really, trespass isn’t such a big deal,” AT&T added.
    “Maybe for you, but the world’s largest ball of twine is on that land, and I make money from entrance fees,” S moped.
    “Well, I want my customers to stick around. And my customers value privacy. I run a costume shop, after all. So I can’t just show you the rental log. Instead, how about this? You tell me which costumes you see each night. I’ll cross-reference that with the log. I’ll note to myself whoever’s responsible for that costume. Then, if five separate costumes all point to one account, I’ll let you contact the sheriff, and he can force me to tell you the name of that account holder.”
    “Wait, you won’t just tell me?
    “But I can just go to the Sheriff right now. Why would I agree to this?”
    “Because in exchange for keeping the sheriff out of this, I’m going to lecture all of the account holders you implicate on the importance of trespass laws.”

    “But what if it’s a stolen costume? That account holder doesn’t need a lecture.”
    “My customers rarely ever wear the same costume twice within a month, and they exchange costumes often, generally somewhere around three times a day.”
    “So even if I occasionally give a lecture to someone who’s innocent of trespass, the sheriff’s involvement – the more extreme measure – is a lot more likely to involve the actual trespasser.”
    “How do you figure?”
    “You won’t know who’s in the costume. I won’t know who’s renting that costume until I check the log. So any pattern we start to see between costume rentals and the trespasser will be more reliable.
    It won’t prove anything, of course – that’s between you and the sheriff – but it makes it less likely that you’ll get the sheriff involved on a false alarm. We’re talking about five separate costumes on five separate nights. Seems like more than coincidence.”
    “What if there’s another relationship between the trespasser and the customer? Like what if the trespasser only steals costumes from one person over and over? Maybe he lives nearby that person or something.”
    “I would hope that after the first lecture, that customer would start locking his costume closet. And, I mean, you could just get the sheriff involved every morning if you cared to, but you know as well as I do that the costume renter won’t be the same person as the trespasser EVERY time. This way, you can save face and only bring really solid hunches to the sheriff.

    “I still have to take a lot on faith, though. If they’re going to stay anonymous, how will I even know that you’re actually lecturing these customers? And if someone gets lectured five times, and I’m allowed to finally get the sheriff involved, how will I know if you don’t tell me?”
    “You won’t. But you have to ask yourself – do you care more about punishing the people who have already trespassed on your land, or about convincing people not to trespass in the future? If you want the second option, then these are your terms, because I’m never going to voluntarily give you this information.”

    I just don’t understand why a policy that seems to put MORE obstacles between my online conduct and the cold light of day is a bad thing. Sure, it’s not the most elegant solution. It’s kind of demeaning, even. But if Tor required me to watch a lecture titled ‘Shame on You,’ before each session, I’m pretty sure I’d take that deal.

    I’m disappointed this needs saying, but I have no affiliation with any of these organizations. No one paid me to write this. I think this stuff is interesting. Cory’s a celebrity in this field, and whether or not he ever reads this, it’s fun to feel like I’m in dialogue with him. If you’re going to take the time to call me a shill or concern troll, maybe ask yourself why that’s your first instinct. I’m sure there are plenty of things in here that I’m just plain wrong about. But if I am wrong, it won’t be because you impugned my motives.

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