Internet Filtering

9 01 2008

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this but, on my initial scan, it gives me a warm very uncomfortable feeling.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times talks about how ATT&T, and other Internet Service Providers, are looking for ways to filter the content which flows through their pipes for copyrighted material.

In my mind, my reaction to this has to be based (with a large degree of cynicism and suspicion) on how the filtering is handled. As a content creator, I’d prefer that people not steal the material that I create unless I say that it’s okay. On the other hand, some of that feeling is coming from an old model about creative content and how it is marketed.

There are practical considerations. With what degree of certainty can we say that the system will not trap material that its owner would permit transmission of (yes, I know, I’m not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition). In other words, if I want to send you a clip of a film that I’ve edited (and more and more people are putting their sample reels online) will this system give me a way to permit its streaming or download? Or will it trap it or, perhaps even worse, force me to go to its copyright owners — places like Disney and NBC et al — and get permission for this?

And, though digital signatures are getting better, they still aren’t foolproof. This will allow people, in some cases, to send copyright material through without it being caught, as well as potentially trap material that is not DRM‘ed. Filmmakers constantly send sample cuts through the Net — FTP, Web Sites, E-mails, and more — to clients for approval. And while I’m sure that we wouldn’t register any of this preliminary material for capturing by Big Brother, it’s possible that it might be incorrectly identified and withheld. How cool would it be if someone sending a clip from an NBC/Universal film to an executive there, had it stopped because of a technology that NBC/Universal is surely pushing in the background.

So, I’m not at all happy about this.

I think.

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