July 20, 2007 | By Hugh D'Andrade

Public Interest Groups Respond to NBC on Mandatory ISP Filtering

A few weeks ago, NBC submitted comments to the FCC asking it to adopt new rules declaring that "broadband service providers have an obligation to use readily available means" to stop copyright infringement. Basically, NBC wants the FCC to force ISPs to police their users and play copyright cop.

Now, a coalition of public interest groups ? including EFF ? has made a response (PDF), pointing out that a policy of this sort would be bad for free speech, bad for innovation, and would be wildly outside the FCC's mandate:

The Internet has been successful in large part because it is a non-discriminatory network that allows many different kinds of applications to operate over it. Attempts to filter the Internet to remove certain kinds of applications threaten this openness and would make it difficult for new kinds of innovative applications to be adopted. Technological network filters are impermissibly overbroad in that they limit lawful expression and fair use. They are also ineffective because determined infringers and new technologies will always be able to evade the filters. Furthermore, the FCC has no jurisdiction to mandate systems that would interfere with copyright law and contravene Supreme Court decisions.

John Bergmayer from Public Knowledge, which prepared the filing, has written a nice post about it and points up the fact that "network filtering" is doomed to fail:

Network filters can?t work. Encryption, clever technologies like traffic shaping, and determined pirates can always route around any filtration system, including so-called "deep packet inspection." Eventually, false positives could outnumber the infringing material that is blocked? Plus, network filters would have zero effect on "sneakernet" transfers (whereby people share burnt media and portable hard drives which each other), which by some measures makes up the majority of file-sharing. They would cripple the Internet for little gain, even to themselves.


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