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Will AT&T be Steaming Open Your e-mail?


According to the New York Times AT&T is considering scanning your emails and internet transmissions for inappropriate content. Ostensibly for the purpose of curtailing illegal downloading, I have a difficult time believing it will stop there. Once the system is in place, I see this bagman for the RIAA and MPAA moving up the ladder to hitman, with its first contract being Net Neutrality. Strangely, some companies believe a free and open Internet is not necessarily the best vehicle for a fleecing of biblical proportions.

While such a proposal is obviously horribly bad for consumers, it may not be all that great for ATT&T shareholders either. According to Slate.com, Title 17 of the United States Code, Section 512, insulates AT&T from liability for copyright infringement, but only so long as AT&T does not “select” the material it chooses to transmit. Moving itself outside of this rather broad “safe harbor” could expose AT&T to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential liability.

In classic doublespeak, AT&T asserts the goal of the program would be to make “more content available to more people in more ways going forward.” Strange. Sounds a lot like the utterly ridiculous pay-more-get-less palaver so prevalent in the Net Neutrality debate. Don’t worry though, according to James Cicconi, senior vice president, external & legal affairs for AT&T, the ISP behemoth is apparently committed to “figure out a friendly way to do it.” With friends like that …

Brett Trout

Posted in Copyright Law. Tagged with , , , .