"Locking down" the internet

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"Locking down" the internet




Many content owners have dropped digital locks after alienating disgruntled consumers fed up with their inability to freely use their personal property.

Electronics manufacturers have similarly rebelled, frustrated at the imposition of artificial limitations that constrain their products and profitability.

To top it off, the U.S architect of the legal strategy last year acknowledged that the legislative initiatives to support the digital lock approach have failed.

In recent months, a new strategy has begun to emerge. With the industry gradually admitting that locking down content does not work, it has now dangerously shifted toward locking down the Internet.

The Internet locks approach envisions requiring Internet service providers to install filtering and content monitoring technologies within their networks. ISPs would then become private network police, actively monitoring for content that might infringe copyright and stopping it from reaching subscribers' computers.

The support for locking down the Internet revives an old debate – the appropriate role and responsibility of ISPs for the activities that take place on their networks. As the content owners were promoting legal protection for digital locks in the 1990s, the ISPs were supporting legal frameworks that treated them as the equivalent of common carriers that transferred data across their networks without regard for the content itself.



As Geist mentions, digital rights management is dying a slow death.

I personally know a number of people involved in DRM, both in implementing rights management technologies, and in defeating them. I recently heard one of these people lament that it's said that it's going away because it was such a fascinating field of research: like few security tech areas, the two sides were evenly matched.

This Internet locks thing...

The first -- and biggest -- problem is government. In the United States we have the "notice-and-takedown" provision of the DMCA, which compels ISPs to take down hosted content if they receive a complaint about a copyright violation. This is a terrible rule given its extra-judicial nature and potential for abuse, and it might be coming to Canada (though there's some room for hope after popular protest convinced Jim Prentice to not introduce his Canadian DMCA in December).

When you have government legislating on behalf of content owners, the game is lost.

The AT&T thing is a new twist, and honestly I have a lot of trouble understanding it. I am troubled by this: [i]what is AT&T's motive in suppressing customer activity[/i]? Without legislation forcing it to do this, why would it incur the expense to police its own network on behalf of other corporations?

Geist hasn't tried to answer this, and as far as I have seen, neither has anyone else in public discussion.