AT & T Swear They’re Not Narcs

Lucas Jensen / March 26, 2009

Yesterday, word spread that AT & T and Comcast might be shutting down the Internet service of customers engaged in music piracy, whatever that means. Today, AT & T issued their de rigeur denial: “RIAA? We don’t know no RIAA!”

In reality, AT&T is doing nothing of the sort, says Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s executive vice president for external affairs. “Any suggestion that there is a deal between us and RIAA is just bogus,” he told USA TODAY. Cicconi says AT&T has been testing a “procedure” for forwarding warning notices from copyright holders –- music and software publishers, gaming companies, and others –- to alert customers that they might be in violation of copyright laws. While the notices are delivered via email by AT&T, the actual warnings are from the copyright holders, he notes. If recipients choose to ignore the warnings, he says, it’s up to the copyright holder to decide what, if anything, to do about that. That’s where AT&T’s assistance stops, Cicconi says. “We will never suspend, terminate or sanction any customer without some sort of legal process, like a court order,” he says. “That’s been our policy for years, and that’s not going to change.”

Good to see there are no shenanigans at play here. Basically, AT&T is testing out their version of an Emergency Alert System, wherein the telecommunications hegemon notifies you if you’re potentially up to no good. Huh. Thanks for watching out for our best interests, guys! Except… how does AT&T know that we are potentially up to no good without snooping on us? And how does the company define “copyright violations” without help from someone like, say, the RIAA? AT & T is not turning you in; they are just spying on you. I feel so much better!

I love how these “services” are always sold as being there for copyright holders and not omnibus overlords like the RIAA. I’m sure all of the artists and music publishers out there are rushing to sign up with AT&T’s Emergency Piracy Alert System. Hey, I’ll sign up. Where are the forms?

AT&T: we’re not turning customers in for music piracy [USA Today]