AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/06/break-up-att.html


#2

Huh, so they’re actually disconnecting people now. When the policy first started, and they began sending out copyright infringement nasty-grams, they said they might cut off internet access as a result, but when reporters interrogated company representatives, they admitted that it wasn’t policy to disconnect people - but they could do it. So the policy has changed, but I wonder what the policy actually is. How many “strikes” are actually necessary to get cut off?


#3

Now that streaming has become entrenched as the default way to consume digital media, the file sharing infrastructure that pirates built has been neglected and pirates and their friends have become easy targets. It’s no coincidence that this is happening at the same time as massive vertical mergers. The copyright holders control the pipes. It’s time once again to normalize piracy, and do away with the popular notion that our current model holds any ethical legitimacy.

If there’s some sort of media you enjoy, and it’s produced by a large corporation, steal it. Go out of your way to rip them off. If there are artists that you want to support, donate money directly to them. If you need a justification for it, count the dollars you give your ISP every month, compare that with global rates, and see if can steal enough to make up for it.


#4

Always use a VPN.


#5

I wonder about ISPs being able to accurately connect a particular IP address on a particular date with particular customer. Easy to get right, but easy to get wrong too. Before I changed my ADSL box, my IP used to reset several times a day, and I still have a program logging that.


#6

So, piracy compelled the industry to provide streaming.

I can now watch most Movies online within a few weeks of their debut in theaters. I can watch BBC and foreign dramas I never new existed. I can go back and watch old shows I’d forgotten about. I can binge watch ever Stargate, Star Trek, The Office, Parks and Rec, whenever I want, wherever I want.

I don’t have to worry about shaky cams, viruses, malware, or other crap from the torrent networks.

THIS is the time to complain about what the corporations have done?

From what I can tell they ignored a market, piracy showed demand, they monetized that demand and provided a better product. Can I watch everything I could possibly want? Nope, I still can’t find Reacher, just the sequel. F you Sony or whoever holds the copyright on that. I guess I’ll watch Taken instead.

How do you take what you’ve presented, or the article, and turn that into some kind of ethical demand for piracy? Oh noes, they are cutting people off after SIX INFRACTIONS. What? SIX? That’s ridiculously generous given their evil corporate nature.

Will they probably trim the fat? Yes. Cut us off at 3, or 2, or whatever? Probably. Maybe then piracy comes into play. Will they over-reach and start doing what Hulu did on their free plan, which was basically turn it into a stream of commercials with clips of your video thrown in? Yes. So switch to Netflix or Prime video like a good consumer and exercise your choice which you now have in the market. Everything has a time and a place. Video piracy today doesn’t make nearly as much sense as before. Between streaming and $1 DVD’s at Redbox, what’s the motivation anymore?

If you want to support Artists, donate money to them. If you want a retirement fund, put your money into the large corporate company stocks and hope that the outrage army finds something other than a mostly healthy and competitive streaming market for videos to protest.


#7

What’s the cost to the ISP of a false positive disconnection compared to the cost of the infrastructure required to prevent that false positive? I don’t know but I would bet that the ISPs have done the analysis to determine the exact optimum, or something pretty darn close.


#8

Back in the day, I remember record companies hitting grandmothers with massive copyright lawsuits because they were mistakenly fingered as pirates.

Maybe ISPs have it right now, but I wouldn’t trust them not to make mistakes, especially when they’re also the copyright claimant.


#9

AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

Considering whole families usually don’t pay for more than one Internet connection, this does not seem so extreme…? (Now, if they were doing something like terminating cellular data plans, that would be hair-raising, but I expect they’d quickly start running into false positives in trying to determine who is related to who.)

The internet is not a video-on-demand service, it’s the nervous system of the 21st century. Terminating someone from the internet terminates their access to family, education, employment, civic and political engagement, health care information, and virtually everything else we use to measure whether a society is functioning well for its citizens.

All the more reason to be exceptionally careful when it comes to deciding whether to download copyrighted material, no?


#10

Cory, I agree 100% that ISP’s have too much power and that their virtual monopolies are a huge problem we need to address. There’s no doubt it’s rotten.

But is this particular story going to convince anybody? You mention the risk of “false accusations or sloppy bookkeeping,” but I don’t see evidence of either in your post or at Axios.


#11

But is this particular story going to convince anybody?

Tons of people believe fake news every day, without any proof of what’s being suggested.


#12

Well, given that there is no requirement for them to report their findings, evidence or process, where is that evidence supposed to come from? As Cory pointed out, judge, jury and executioner. If there’s ample opportunity for abuse with no oversight, you have to operate as if there is abuse.


#13

There’s only one name on the contract. It’s not like the ISP can selectively cut access to people in the house. The “whole families” thing is a canard, as true as “disconnects whole neighborhoods” if someone leaves their wifi open.


#14

I think the point is that it’s not about streaming movies. It’s not about ACTUALLY pirating something. It’s about being accused and being punished without being able to face your accusers or defend yourself. Nevermind being accused of crimes for the actions of others.

This is like being locked up for theft because someone said someone in your house stole stuff.


#15

This is clearly symbolic. You think AT$T likes losing money (subscribers)? Absolutely not. Even those that use a lot a bandwidth, no maxed out residential plan can even come close to ruffling their bottom line.
This will blow over or Comcast will see a dramatic upturn is subscribers.


#16

Most people are pretty bad at securing wifi networks… I’m sure some congresspeople and ISP execs are running networks with easily-guessed keys or outdated WEP/WPA1 security. Drop a raspberry pi running a torrent tracker with a pringles can antenna somewhere near their homes and see how they like being accused of piracy and summarily disconnected from the net.


#17

Internet is a utility, just like electricity, gas, water, sewer, etc. It’s rediculous to consider that the electric company would turn off your electricity b/c someone thought you were listening to DRM music without a license – a someone who didn’t even have to prove it and from whom you could not demand proof. And yet…


#18

What is the alternative to this? AT&T tracking (and charging for) each user in a household? Something tells me this would be even less acceptable…


#19

Watch some Leonard French videos on YouTube. He’s a copyright attorney that often fights cases that hinge on said bookkeeping. It’s pretty broadly acknowledged by people who work these issues that sloppy bookkeeping is the norm, not the exception. If you think about it, it makes sense, especially if you’ve ever worked for a large organization. Copyright policing doesn’t make AT&T any revenue. They half-ass it so they aren’t sued, and because there is little counter-incentive to “doing it wrong.” They don’t have to do it “by the book” because there is no book. Sometimes that breaks in favor of infringers. Most of the time? It’s a mess. But the trends are there and there’s no reason to assume that they wouldn’t apply here.

@_osivot kind of has the right idea that AT&T isn’t likely full-hearted in pursuit of any banning policy because they have no incentive to be beyond a Viacom/Disney/Whatever lawsuit. They’re wrong that there’s sufficient competition in the market to swing anything dramatically, however.


#20

While I use the streaming services and like them and appreciate how much they’ve improved so far, calling it a better product is still a bit premature. They still have a long way to go.

Cost
Pirating: Free
Streaming: Not bad individually, but several services add up, some shows or movies charge per watch. ^1

Search
Pirating: Basic search field, as simple as Google
Streaming: Login to each of a half-dozen different services and then awkwardly navigate your way through each one’s clumsy user-hostile UI.

Quality
Pirating: Typically excellent; usually has subtitles available.
Streaming: A bit of a crapshoot, though gradually improving. Still has problems with buffering, artifacting, audio/video/subtitle streams getting out of sync, and ads.

Reliability
Pirating: Once you have a file, you can consume it anytime and easily pause/bookmark and pickup where you left off, minutes, days, or years later.
Streaming: Content that you find today may no longer be available tomorrow. Internet issues may interrupt your consumption. App upgrades may break the system and prevent it from working. Resuming from pause is like a new feature that mostly works but not always, and bookmarking and returning to that point isn’t an option yet.

Consumability
Pirating: You can consume it whenever you like on whatever you like, using the player of your choice configured as you prefer.
Streaming: You’re limited to consuming it only while you’re online, on limited devices, using their limited and unconfigurable proprietary app.

Discoverability
Pirating: Find out what you want elsewhere.
Streaming: Browse and recommendations features introduce you to things you might never have known to look for.

^1) We used to think we would prefer to only pay for what we want instead of having to pay for a bundle with hundreds of cable channels that we don’t watch. Now that there are many streaming services each with a different set of content, and some with per-episode rental fees, we’re realizing that all those fees add up and we might have been wrong about that.

Despite all those relative negatives of the streaming services, they are pretty good. They do radically decrease the demand for piracy. And their browse and recommendations features are a win. (Someday they may even be configurable and easier to use!)