AT&T's New Copyright Protection Plan: Read Everyone's Data!

AT&T has announced a plan to keep pirated content off their network by peeking at everyone’s data to see if it contains copyrighted material. The plan, which the telecom somehow claims will “not violate user privacy,” will only target repeat offenders.

AT&T’s recently launched television service has made the telecom hungry for content, and pliant to the RIAA’s and MPAA’s wishes. Like a KGB agent in need of rubles, The New AT&T is willing to become an equal-opportunity mole, spying not just for the people via the NSA, but for the entertainment associations as well.

Despite the FCC’s claims of a vibrant, bustling market for internet service, switching ISPs will not help you escape AT&T clutches.

In addition to running a massive network of its own, AT&T runs a good chunk of the backbone infrastructure in the US. It’s a rare bit of traffic that can make it to its destination without passing on to an AT&T-owned network. If the company deploys its anti-piracy technology to all data passing through its networks, AT&T’s “solution” could affect most US Internet users. In addition, many US residents have limited broadband choices.

Poor AT&T. All they ever wanted was to offer television service, but those perverted entertainment associations twisted the telecom to their will. You just know RIAA head Mitch Bainwol left a meeting with AT&T thinking: “The force is strong with this one.” — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

AT&T willing to spy for NSA, MPAA, and RIAA [Ars Technica]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ancientsociety says:

    They already listen to our phones conversations, so I guess this is the next logical step….2007 going on 1984.

  2. wakebrdr says:

    is packet sniffing even legal if they are only the backbone provider? should the privacy provisions in one’s local provder prevent them from doing this?

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s crazy. It’s as though the US Post Office declared that it would no longer send sealed letters. Post cards only. For OUR protection.

    Except that, of course, the Post Office could never do that, since it’s a public entity. Our system only allows private companies to rape us so completely.

    AT&T is the new evil: how’s THAT for a tagline?

    Any ideas on how to screw AT&T out of money, customers, etc?

  4. timmus says:

    Well, this ought to cause a massive, fast migration to the use of encrypted packets. You didn’t think MPAA/RIAA would actually do anything -smart-, did you?

    Also AT&T doesn’t own all the backbones… a huge amount of data still goes through Level3, Qwest, Sprint, etc. My connection to Consumerist goes through Sprint. No AT&T on any tracert.

  5. tonkyhonk says:

    AT&T should consider itself lucky that all copyright-infringing Internet traffic has the copyright-infringing bit set for easy identification!

  6. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    Nice! Just one more reason not to use them, ever. For anything. iPhone or not, screw you (the new, but pretty much like the old as far as evilness goes) AT&T.

  7. banned says:

    Thank God I’m Canadian, AT&T does not exist here. So watch me all you want, you can’t get me :)

  8. bpotterr says:

    If they check everything that passes through their networks, won’t it cause some serious backup in the tubes?

  9. calvinneal says:

    Att does not listen to phone calls. That is a violation of federal law. They do allow NSA to listen to phone calls which may or may not be a violation of federal law. Packet sniffing should be illegal, write or phone your congressional representative or state legislator.

  10. a_m_m_b says:

    AT&T will never be welcome in this household. This continuing antiprivacy-assupmtion-of-guilt campaign is getting beyond absurd. How soon before the only secure conversation is f2f in a Faraday cage. . . ?

  11. dextrone says:

    The best step to take in this situation is to write a book:
    101 Reasons Why Your Privacy is Safe Due to the US Constitution

  12. BillyShears says:

    I’m no expert on this corner of the law, but wouldn’t this threaten their common carrier status? Or are you allowed to pick and choose what kind of data you’re willing to consider “too illegal.” Like, on a hypothetical AT&T-owned web hosting service, could they now be liable for kiddy porn placed there?

  13. @trai_dep: “Any ideas on how to screw AT&T out of money, customers, etc?

    Unfortunately my options are AT&T or Comcast locally. It’s like being stuck on a desert island with Donald Trump, Star Jones, and a gun with one bullet.

  14. endless says:

    isn’t bit torrent able to encrypt its sharing?

    if so how would they be able to tell what it was?

  15. Plaid Rabbit says:

    @BillyShears: You’re probably right. We discussed this in my Entertainment Law class the other day, and its a possibility. The learned ignorance they have is what allows them to enjoy their Common Carrier status; if they actively engage in trying to control what’s going on, they step from nonfeasance into malfeasance (when they eventually let someone’s copyrighted stuff sneak through, or realize they can’t do what they thought they could.)

    I don’t know what their counsel is thinking, but they probably have a bunch of them, instead of me who’s still in law school. Perhaps they know something we don’t?

  16. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Of course, the next logical step will be to deputize AT&T employees, who will then come into your house and personally check all your hard drives for copyrighted materials, and then maybe install a rootkit on every computer you own, just to make sure you don’t stray from the path of enlightenment.

  17. royal72 says:

    @ancientsociety: seems 1984 is already here… we’re all guilty till proven innocent, you cannot live without the government’s protection, and big business dictates your family values. face it people, we are cattle in a herd that only cares about eating, distraction, medication, fucking, bitching (like i’m doing now), and collecting more shit than the fucker next to us… the scenery has changed over the years, but fundamentally were still the same losers since the beginning.

  18. shdwsclan says:

    I doubt that this will ever pass over….since this would require a massive ammount of computing power, and not to mention that it would interfere with the data itself.
    It would be possible to sue ATT if they block something wrongly.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    @calvinneal: “AT&T doesn’t listen to phone calls… They allow NSA to listen.”

    Well that’s a distinction without a difference. Thanks!

  20. chipslave says:

    Just wait until CALEA is in place, then you will see some real snooping.


  21. ShadowFalls says:


    Yes, exactly. As you go through Sprint, I go through the AOL backbone that is owned by Time Warner.

  22. chipslave says:

    crap… here is the link


  23. DudeAsInCool says:

    Hmmm… It’s not ok for ATT to spy on the American people to find terrorists, but it is ok for them to spy on Americans for copyright material. Huh?

  24. Chicago7 says:

    Did John Ashcroft go to work for AT&T?

  25. Eh, I don’t have AT&T… but what the fuck?
    @trai_dep: indeed.

  26. Ola says:

    Let me switch ISPs! Oops…my small ISP was bought by a bigger company, which was bought by AT&T?

    Y’know, if Consumerist wanted to start up its very own ISP…:D

  27. Angiol says:

    @endless: Yes it can. As for how they can tell, I don’t know, but I’m guessing we might start seeing ‘your packet is encrypted, therefore you’re doing something illegal’ or possibly a repeat of the Clipper chip fiasco.

  28. Gev says:

    @angiol: I think we’re going to see that along with, “The only reason why you’d be moving more than 2G of data in a month month is because you’re doing something naughty.”

    • AnthonyC says:

      If they did that, I’d advise you to find a way and a reason to sue them.

      As usual, IANAL, but the AT&T TOS say:
      9b. Copyright Infringement & Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You are prohibited from infringing, publishing, submitting, copying, uploading, downloading, posting, transmitting, reproducing, or distributing software, video or audio content, or any other material that is protected by copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, any other type of intellectual property rights, trademark laws (by rights of privacy or publicity) or other proprietary right of any party unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consent to do the same. This prohibition includes the use of any material or information including images or photographs that are made available through the Site or Service(s). AT&T assumes no responsibility, and you assume all risks, regarding the determination of whether material is in the public domain, or may otherwise be used by you for such purposes.
      10b. Content. You, and not AT&T, are entirely responsible for all content that you upload, download, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available via the Site and Service (“Content”). AT&T does not generally pre-screen or control Content that is posted by users of the Site, and, therefore, do not guarantee the accuracy, integrity or quality of such Content. AT&T shall have the right (but not the obligation) in its sole discretion to pre-screen, refuse or remove any Content that is available via our Site that is illegal, violates these Terms or the AUP, or exposes AT&T to any risk of claims, lawsuits or liability. As the providers of the Service, we are only a forum and are not liable for any statements, representations, or Content provided by Site users. Any opinions, advice or recommendations expressed therein are those of the users providing such Content and not those of AT&T. We do not endorse any Content or any opinion, recommendation or advice expressed therein.
      AT&T may preserve Content and may also disclose Content if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process; (b) enforce this Agreement; (c) respond to claims that any Content violates the rights of third-parties; or (d) protect the rights, property, or personal safety of AT&T, other end users and the public.

      And the Security and Freedom through Encryption Act says encryption is entirely legal. So, unless AT&T has some other reason to suspect you of illegal activity, I fail to see how they could have reason to stop encrypted packets.

  29. Lula Mae Broadway says:

    I have AT&T – they bought sbcglobal which was only DSL option for me back in the day.

    For last few months I’ve had an impossible time getting anything from file sharing sites.

  30. swalve says:

    I do pass through AND

  31. IC18 says:

    @ Lula Mae Broadway

    Same here, even sometimes downloading from legit sites. I think they cant cleary identify the contents rather are estimating using large file sizes.

  32. Imhotep says:

    @Ola: Yeah Buddy! BEST ISP EVER!
    Please Consumerist, won’t you be our ISP?