AT&T threatens to disconnect users accused of copyright infringement

AT&T has started sending letters to some of its customers, threatening to disconnect them because they've been accused (without trial or a chance to rebut the evidence) of copyright infringement. AT&T is doing this voluntarily. There is no law or regulation requiring them to do this. It's part of the controversial Copyright Alert System, whose overseeing body had its company status revoked last May.

We are sending you this alert as part of our participation in the Copyright Alert Program — an industry-wide initiative intended to help users understand their rights and responsibilities in the distribution of copyrighted content online.

Digital content owners routinely monitor file-sharing networks to determine if copyrighted movies and music are being distributed illegally over the Internet. Through the Copyright Alert System, we’ve recently received a notice from a movie studio, record company, television studio or other company that owns copyrighted material that your AT&T Internet account was used in connection with possible infringement of their copyright protected materials.

Your account was identified by its IP address. However, in keeping with the AT&T Privacy Policy, we have not released your name or personal information, and we will not do so except as required by a lawful request for records. But at the request of the content owner, we are sending this alert — which applies to all users of your account — so that the issue may be resolved without further action.

A copy of the original notice can be found at att.com/copyright-infringement, but summary information is available at the end of this email.

AT&T Threatens Persistent Pirates With Account Termination [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]

(via Consumerist)

(Image: Halifax Gibbet, Paul Glazzard/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

Notable Replies

  1. It will be interesting to see what happens once the erroneous and false accusations begin resulting in people being cut off.

  2. I can't believe I'm defending an ISP, let alone AT&T, but I don't think that's fair at all.

    Its notice reads:

    Using your Internet service to infringe copyrights is illegal and a violation of the AT&T Internet Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy, which apply to all users of your account, and could result in mitigation measures including limitation of Internet access or even suspension or termination.

    Pursuant to Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, AT&T’s policy is to terminate services to repeat infringers under appropriate circumstances.

    Based on a quick look, the relevant bit of Section 512 seems to be:

    (i) Conditions for Eligibility.—
    (1) Accommodation of technology.— The limitations on liability established by this section shall apply to a service provider only if the service provider—
    (A) has adopted and reasonably implemented, and informs subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network of, a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network who are repeat infringers; and
    (B) accommodates and does not interfere with standard technical measures.

    (emphasis mine, to highlight the language AT&T's mirroring.)

    It looks to me like AT&T's just giving the very warning the DMCA says it must give if it wants to retain its ability to avoid liability for a user's infringement.

  3. I still don't understand how it's legal for anyone to monitor/spy on my packets and report what is contained in them. Expectation of privacy?

  4. The issue isn't about upholding terms of service or the law, but in the inherent flaws in this system. In short, it boils down to punishment without evidence, trial or appeal.

    Someone hacks your AT&T (or any other ISP) account and proceeds to pirate stuff and you lose your service.
    What happens when an employee of the ISP makes a mistake? You lose your service.
    And don't forget all those fine examples of media companies yanking YouTube vids through spurious copyright infringement accusations. Another way to end up losing your service
    What happens if you end up pissing off some tech who then talks to his buddy over in the anti-piracy department so he can "show you who's boss"? You lose your service.
    What if your kid ticks off some other kid, who then makes an anonymous call reporting you for infringement? You lose your service.

    And there's bound to be a lot more ways in which this system can be abused. There's no checks or balances. Its all based on the accusations of a corporation.

  5. The issue is the inherent unjustness of a corporation acting as some sort of law enforcement agency for 3rd party corporations, and acting in that manner without due process of law. It does not matter how the notices are worded, its the fact that they are being sent. And the notice is only the first step. And all as part of a system that is NOT enacted as a law, but is simply a policy and procedure.

    All on a mere accusation.

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