Just An Online Minute... Copyright Wars Move To The Boardroom
Presumably the plan involves some sort of censorship -- though the company has reportedly said it doesn't plan to block consumers' access to sites altogether. Still, this type of technology, like YouTube's planned filtering system, appears to have the potential to affect a wide swath of legitimate, lawful content. What's more, it moves copyright battles from the courts -- where they belong -- to boardrooms, where companies can use whatever criteria they want to decide what content to block.
Consider, parodists routinely incorporate copyrighted material in their own clips in ways that owners don't approve of, yet courts regularly hold that those clips are lawful under the "fair use" doctrine. Will AT&T, YouTube and others come to the same conclusion?
Consider, also, judges think long and hard before imposing "prior restraints" on speech, or prohibiting someone from publishing material in advance. Instead, they often take the position that people/news organizations/TV stations can go ahead and publish what they wish and, if it turns out to have violated someone else's rights, then whoever is aggrieved can sue for damages.
But AT&T, which operates a cross-country system for handling Web traffic, appears poised to take on the role of judge and jury in copyright disputes, all in an effort to ally itself with the entertainment industry. That can't be good news for consumers.