AT & T Swear They’re Not Narcs

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]

  • Anonymous

    Either way, would AT&T really want to terminate it’s customers business based on information from another company? That’s money out of AT&T’s pocket, which means they really shouldn’t give a shit about the copyright holder.

  • goldsounds

    This song is ruined for me thanks to GEICO.

  • Maura Johnston
  • charliefmoran

    AT&T may be snooping, but it’s doubtful, because they’re not legally responsible for what you do online. More likely, they’re just taking tips from the RIAA. If you’re trading on file-sharing networks, your ip address isn’t that hard to find, and with it, it’s pretty easy to tell what your isp is, which makes it simply a matter of them telling AT&T the ip and the content you were sharing in order for you to get a notice — also: the RIAA needs a court order to find out who you actually are. With pressure on ISPs to regulate file-sharing (which they currently don’t have to) AT&T’s voluntary cooperation with the RIAA is an obvious attempt to fend off the sort of “three strikes you’re out” regulation that’s been proposed around the world. If they can stick to lip service like this and keep the government from getting involved, AT&T and file-sharers will be better off.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @charliefmoran: Interesting perspective. I feel like the RIAA must be involved somewhere along the way, which makes AT&T’s denials sorta puzzling. In a way, it makes them look worse.

  • porkch0p31

    @charliefmoran yep. AT&T aren’t being narcs … the RIAA gets the IP addresses by tracking p2p activity, which opens up your IP address. When ISPs throttle bandwidth, that’s kind of annoying.

  • My IP Address

    I’m trying to learn more about DNS/computer networking and I loved your post. Keep up the great work.