Recently Hollywood executives approached both AT&T and Verizon to seek their help in preventing piracy over their networks. According to a New York Times article, AT&T is working with the entertainment industry to figure out how to identify illegally copied material that is being transmitted over its broadband network. Verizon, on the other hand, said — NO — we are not going to be the police force for the entertainment industry online.
Tom Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president for public affairs, gave three reasons for Verizon’s refusal to cooperate:
1) The slippery slope
Once you start going down the path of looking at the information going down the network, there are many that want you to play the role of policeman. Stop illegal gambling offshore. Stop pornography. Stop a whole array of other kinds of activities that some may think inappropriate.
2) It opens up potential liability for failing to block copyrighted work
When you look back at the history of copyright legislation, there has been an effort by Hollywood to pin the liability for copyright violations on the network that transmits the material. It is no secret they think we have deeper pockets than others and we are easy-to-find targets.
Anything we do has to balance the need of copyright protection with the desire of customers for privacy.
Congratulations and thank you to Verizon for taking a stand and getting this one right. Networks should not be in the business of reviewing content and deciding what content is allowed to pass through. If the entertainment industry is allowed to get away with this then there will be other groups who seek to have other materials blocked. At first it would likely be things that are deemed morally offensive, such as pornography, but do we really want the most sensitive among us defining what is pornographic? Do we really want the sensibilities of others telling us what we can and cannot access? I don’t think this is a good idea and I applaud Verizon. Well done!