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AT&T to block pirated content


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AT&T on Wednesday became the first major U.S. telecommunications carrier to announce that it was taking steps to curb Internet piracy on its network.

The move marks a surprising reversal for AT&T, given that telecoms and cable companies have traditionally stood behind legal protections to avoid responsibility for copyrighted movies and music flowing through their pipes.

“What we’re trying to do in our piracy initiative is to try to come up with a network-based solution,” AT&T head of external and legislative affairs Jim Cicconi said during a panel about rights management at the Digital Hollywood conference in Santa Monica.

Mr. Cicconi did not specify how AT&T would detect and block individual copyrighted files, but he did say the carrier would not start blocking web sites used to distribute illegal content.

The carrier’s entry into piracy protection comes after AT&T was asked to partner with the Motion Picture Association and Viacom, according to reports. Record companies have long complained that music piracy was hurting CD sales, while Hollywood studios claim they lost an estimated $2.3 billion worldwide from Internet piracy in 2005 alone.

But Mr. Cicconi said AT&T, the largest U.S. broadband Internet provider with almost 13 million lines, came to the realization that pirated material was clogging the network and costing the company money.

“Somebody running a server in their basement on our network and uploading illegal copies movies raises the costs for everybody else and jams the network in ways we’re not compensated for,” said Mr. Cicconi, whose company is also one of the world’s largest providers of Internet-based corporate communications services.

He said AT&T is spending about $18 billion on network maintenance, a significant chunk of which is required just to keep up with tremendous growth of traffic on its backbone. “And a sizable chunk is traffic that is illegal,” he said.

But music industry veteran Jay Samit, who has led several major music companies, questioned AT&T’s sudden change of heart. He said that Internet service providers have benefited for years from the pirated content flowing through their networks, and are only now reversing course after noting that media companies are starting to stream content on the Internet themselves.

“The sizable reason why people bought broadband is to get to that [pirated] content, so you’re making money off that,” Mr. Samit told Mr. Cicconi.

Others said that the prospect of AT&T implementing filtering will inevitably bring up privacy concerns.

“Having this big faceless entity blocking content could make people nervous,” said attorney Kraig Marini Baker, in an interview. Mr. Marini Baker represents media companies, including Viacom, in digital rights issues.

Mr. Marini Baker said he expects media companies to welcome AT&T’s entry into the piracy protection space, as long as AT&T eventually comes up with a system for content owners to make some money off their circulating content.

“Content owners are always going to want as many tools and as many people filtering to the extent that they can leverage that and monetize it,” said Mr. Marini Baker.

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Sounds like they're going to do an AOL and make everyone use their interface so they can control things :D

My office was with BellSouth which is now AT&T and I'll have to try to steal something to see if it works. Any ideas? :lol::P:lol:

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The usual 'block' that they use is to target ports in common use by 'pirating' programs - but most of those will let you set up an alternative port for transfers and, if that gets blocked, you use another one. They can't block all 64K of them (very counter-productive and nobody would be able to do anything) :lol:

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