NBC Universal Explains Why ISPs Should Filter Copyrighted Works

from the because-they're-BIG dept

The NY Times "debate" between law professor Tim Wu and NBC Universal General Counsel Rick Cotton that began Monday now continues. It's actually not much of a "debate" because each are simply answering the questions posed by the moderator, Saul Hansell. However, the latest concerns whether it makes sense to require third party companies, such as ISPs or consumer electronics firms to filter or block content in an effort to protect copyright holders from unauthorized use of their content. Wu's answer focuses on a slightly different question: whether it makes sense for the government to step in and mandate such solutions, and provides a reasonable answer questioning why the government should be protecting one industry's business model at the expense of others'. Cotton's response is quite similar to the one he gave last week at CES. Effectively, it's "there's so much piracy going on, that we need to have others step in and protect our business model."

I'm curious if Cotton believes that automobiles should have been forced to go 3 mph with people walking in front of them waving red flags, for the sake of protecting the market for horse-drawn carriage makers? Or, should consumer electronics companies been forced not to allow VCRs to record TV? Both examples involved "big" problems that were seen as "threats" to an existing business model. Yet, rather than being actual threats (after some bogus lobbying/court cases), companies realized that these were actually huge opportunities to expand markets and make even more money. So why is it this time it's suddenly a big threat and not an opportunity? And even if it is a threat, why should it be seen as something that a third party needs to handle? What happens when the required filtering in the US means that foreign consumer electronics makers come up with the next great innovation that isn't possible in the US and we fall behind in terms of the next important innovation? None of that seems to be of concern to Cotton, whose sole focus is on preserving a business model that is certainly not the most efficient nor effective for the industry. I recognize that it is Cotton's job at NBC Universal to make these kinds of statements, but it should be his fiduciary responsibility to the company to suggest that there are better paths to adapting to the changing market place, rather than clinging to an obsolete business model and dragging down other industries with it.
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Filed Under: copyright, rick cotton, tim wu
Companies: nbc universal

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  1. identicon
    filter, 15 Jan 2008 @ 8:37pm


    ISP filtering will be the beginning of end of the era of the internet as we know it today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Andy, 15 Jan 2008 @ 8:53pm


    One could argue that it's Cotton's job at NBC Universal to make sure that the company continues to make money by responding to, leading, or following the market rather than riding an industry to its death, a la Slim Pickens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    KD, 15 Jan 2008 @ 9:25pm

    The only solution ...

    The utter ridiculousness of proposal after proposal convinces me that the only solution is to eliminate copyrights altogether, and possibly outlaw DRM. Drastic? Radical, even? Yes, but I think nothing less will serve to force the content companies to join the 21st century.

    I think we would find the world wouldn't end, and, in fact, things would go on without very much disruption, despite whatever dire predictions the copyright apologists would make.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Big Dinosaur Corporate, 15 Jan 2008 @ 11:05pm

    Good Greif !

    What complete and utter bullshit. God safe us from the industry shills and corporate pawns.

    WTF !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Crazy Loon, 15 Jan 2008 @ 11:11pm

    Oh Noes.....

    Why do big corporations even care about the small niblets that people chew on? I mean, theyre the ones making all the money from our hard working souls.

    I will be the first that thinks our Internet Providers should give us free access to downloads and crap. Damnit why the hell am I paying so much money for this BS. Im seriously considering breaking my computer very soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Just a passerby, 16 Jan 2008 @ 4:58am

    just to let you all know

    this Tim Wu also a few years ago said it was ok for the government to torture little children by using pliers on their privates. And before you say thats a bunch of bs, I have heard the audio clip of him saying it.
    If we can't trust this man to know this is unacceptable than how can we trust any pronouncments of his?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Liquid, 16 Jan 2008 @ 4:58am


    You know you this all you hear about here in the states is how ISP's are throttleing network traffic of completely legal network protocols just so they can get in good with the RIAA/MPAA. You never seem to read articles on how recording companies over seas are getting mad about people "stealing" their music as the RIAA likes to spin it. I would like to say thank you Europe for giving me hope that some where out there, there are people who believe in a socialized network structure that opens bandwidth to their customers. Instead of slowing connections down for those few people who they feel are legit network bandwidth users, and slow everything else down for everyone else. They feel that they might be stealing something. GO CAPITOLISM! ! ! Isn't America awsome. No other country in the world is as capitolistic as we are. MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MOOOOOOOOONEY... You don't hear the people at Vergin Records crying about this. You don't even hear the record labels here in the states makeing pressconfrenses about people pirating their music. Nope, all you get to hear is the RIAA/MPAA make the big stink all the time.

    (scratches chin) "I wonder how much they make in legal fees from these record companies. Especially when they decide to sue joe blow for haveing 50+ music files on his computer even though he LEGALY BOUGHT the CD which happens to be a COPY of the orginal created work." I could see someone getting pissed off if someone took something like ohhh the ORIGINAL Bible setting in the vatican and start change passages in that... NOW I can see someone getting REALLY pissed off about that. When I spend 20$+ for a F****** CD that costs .10 cents to make you damn well better believe I'm going to do what ever I damn well please with it...

    Ok I'm done ranting...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jericho, 16 Jan 2008 @ 5:37am

    My Copyright

    When they talk about the need to filter copyrighted material of course their only talking about their own copyright. What about mine? Yours? All that content on YouTube is just becoming larger every day. For their hopes to be truly inclusive (which I actually doubt they want) then every piece of content on the 'net would have to have a license attached to it just so the filters would know what they could and could not do. I know that all of *my* content would have a "may not be distributed on a network that employs content filtering" clause.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Obama, 16 Jan 2008 @ 6:07am

    Re: Netnutrality

    What the hell are you doing up so early? Don't you belong in school? It's pretty clear school hasn't done much for you dope.

    Did you ever hear of a SPELL CHECKER? Like the one built in to the comment field on here? Do you think all those nice red lines are just decoration?

    Gawd - is this a sample of what keeps file sharing alive? God help us all.

    Now get back to the convenience store. It's your shift.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2008 @ 6:18am

    pull your head out of your ass

    Filtering the internet is an invasion of privacy, end of discussion. This is America, not a dictatorship, as much as it seems like one these days. NBC, you're a business, adapt or die.

    The day is near where you'll be able to subscribe to the channels you want to stream their shows. Then we won't be forced into the Comcraptastic channel bundles that are forced down our throats.

    Focus on making quality entertainment and improving the user experience. Trying to chip away at our rights and freedoms will drive people away in the end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Kjell, 16 Jan 2008 @ 6:54am

    Re: just to let you all know

    Do you have any evidence of this? I'd like a link to the audio file as well as a means of ascertaining it's validity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Patrick, 16 Jan 2008 @ 7:18am

    Why ISPs Should Filter Copyrighted Works

    While they're at it why dont they filter viruses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    mastmaker, 16 Jan 2008 @ 7:47am

    May be this cotton guy also wants your local bus company to make sure that nobody traveling in the bus is going downtown to hold up a bank or something. Check everyone's ID and their reason for travel and so on. We ought to put filters, you know!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    PPN (profile), 16 Jan 2008 @ 7:58am


    even universal/nbc has to have an ISP.. so if, IF you get your wish, don't came crying back to anyone complaining that your copyrighted content was blocked by your isp as you try to transfer it between various divisions, etc.

    this overall is a very bad idea, and i hope that the Gov stands up to this corp buyout attempt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    alternatives, 16 Jan 2008 @ 8:18am

    They don't get it.

    Any 'censorship' will be routed around with encryption.

    Any 'mandated' key escrow system will get buried with escrowed keys.

    The best message - don't consume what they produce. At all. Don't watch their products. Try to stop using the parent corporation products. (HA!! Stop using GE stuff?!?!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Boost, 16 Jan 2008 @ 9:29am

    What wouldn't be filtered?

    Not much...because everything on the internet is copyrighted. Everything!

    If you record a thought in anyway, it is your intelectual property. You don't even need to apply for a copyright in the way that you do Patents. The moment you record it, it belongs to you unless you have previously asigned posession to someone else. Regardless, everything on the internet is in some way copyrighted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    4-80-sicks, 16 Jan 2008 @ 9:54am

    I'd like to know how anybody plans to do this filtering. Computers are not really smart enough to say "DieHard4.avi is a copyrighted movie so I will not allow it to be transferred." Analyzing Cotton's points, it's pretty clear that he does not understand this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jim, 16 Jan 2008 @ 9:55am

    Stupidity run amuck

    Rick Cotton is simply wrong. If your business model is failing, you need to change your business model. And even if ISPs begin to filter, the software used to transfer this material will simply incorporate the ability to initiate a secure VPN tunnel between the source and destionation, which the ISPs (nor anyone else) will be able to see into, and therefore not filter. Changing the business model to one that works is a solution, everything else is just a waste of time because there will always be a way for one technology to counter another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2008 @ 11:00am

    Isn't Cotton a lawyer? Of course this is his line. You don't hire lawyers to run your business, you hire lawyers to talk about the law. It is illegal to share copyright material, so of course he talks about how to stop that.

    Lawyers are not typically corporate strategists, so of course he shouldn't be expected to tell the corporation what strategic direction they should be going.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    4-80-sicks, 16 Jan 2008 @ 1:37pm


    so of course he shouldn't be expected to tell the corporation what strategic direction they should be going.

    That may be true, but when he says things tantamount to "technology people are lying when they say it can't be done" and "youtube can do it, why can't everybody else," it's clear that he is straight-up ignorant. He doesn't know and he doesn't care that he doesn't.

    I could sit him down to a cup of coffee and say "a computer doesn't know anything, especially the difference between my_home_movie.mpeg and hollywood_blockbuster.mpeg," and his response would be something like "well they should!" And if I told him why they can't, and how youtube works, I bet he'd insist that everybody do what youtube does. Port this to apply to the entire internet, and it says every bit and byte that travels through the internet should be inspected by a human to ensure that it does not infringe one someone's precious right to copy. Now wouldn't that be nice?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    another mike, 16 Jan 2008 @ 3:46pm

    ISP business model not threatened

    the ISPs' business model is not threatened by copyright piracy, in fact they are helped by it. the ISP charges you for your internet access, which you need to pirate content on the internet. and if you exceed their secret usage cap on your unlimited subscription, the ISP charges you more. it's win-win for them, they should fight tooth and nail against any law to impose copyright filtering on them.
    piracy only threatens obsolete business models.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Boogers Are People Too, 16 Jan 2008 @ 7:59pm

    Re: pull your head out of your ass

    > This is America, not a dictatorship

    Yeah, sure. Give me some of what you're smoking. The last seven years have done away with all vestiges of democracy in this country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    gumpman155, 18 Jan 2008 @ 2:23am

    well lets see

    this country is about money the love of money is the root of all evil. This country is no longer a democracy or a republic. We have 2 miny librals running america thats why NBC and all of the big corperations gets away with bloody murder. Big corperations and Big Government don't blong to geather. The Corperations and Governmet do not mix. Thanks to Librals and demacrats we are going more to a communist state. So thats why NBC wants to do what ever they can to hinder our freedoms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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