AT&T patents file sharing blocker

AT&T patents file sharing blocker

Summary: AT&T has developed and patented technology which detects and blocks file-sharing software.

TOPICS: AT&T, Patents, Piracy
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AT&T has added a new invention to its portfolio: technology that can detect, block and ban file-sharers on a network.

Based on network activities, a user is assigned a "risk class" which, upon further monitoring, can result in file-sharing website access blockades, as reported by TorrentFreak.

The U.S. 8,590,054 patent, titled "Methods, devices and computer program products for regulating network activity using a subscriber scoring system," describes a network regulation system that keeps an eye on user behaviour before assigning them a "risk class" -- and allows the ISP to take action to curtail illegal behavior if necessary.

"Although the Internet may provide many useful resources for users, widespread access also provides an avenue for unscrupulous users and/or activities," the patent application reads.

"In this regard, many Internet users do not possess the knowledge and/or sophistication to avoid risks associated with accessing the Internet. Accordingly, many users may fall victim to exploits and/or malicious schemes of undesirable elements on the Internet, such as, for example, hackers. Internet piracy may account for significant bandwidth usage, which may be problematic for a service provider. Thus far, copyright protection measures that have been deployed by, for example, the entertainment industry, have failed to curtail increases in Internet piracy."

AT&T"s patent documentation also says that efforts to date to curtail piracy are insufficient, as "millions of downloads may result from just one file that is posted on a shared network." This, in turn, "may pose significant risks to the user, network and/or service provider."

However, by categorizing Internet subscribers and using surveillance methods, AT&T's patent says that while the system can potentially be used to keep surfers safe from hacking attempts, online file-sharing is one of the main problems which could be discovered and regulated. Dubbed "high-risk network activity," file-sharing -- which may involve copyrighted content -- could be stopped. 

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The patent says that in some cases of identifying users engaged in "high-risk network activities such as, for example, file sharing and/or Internet piracy," there may be consequences:

"Some embodiments provide that subscriber protection may include providing a walled-off and/or secured portion in the network in which the subscriber can have limited access to the network. For example, in some embodiments, access to risky network resources, such as, for example, illegal file sharing websites, may be denied."

With all patents, it is unknown whether the U.S. communications giant will ever implement this technology on its own network -- or lease it to other firms. However, despite efforts by organizations including the MPAA and court orders which have stipulated blocks for websites including The Pirate Bay by ISPs in various countries, piracy still proves to be a quick and free way to acquire content including music and films.

According to a NetNames study in January this year, between 2010 and 2012, nearly one-fourth of the total bandwidth used by all Internet users was used to acquire intellectual property protected content. The majority of infringing users -- 327 million out of 432 million -- come from North America, Europe and Asia. Dr. David Price, director of piracy analysis for NetNames and the author of the study, called piracy "tenacious and persistent," despite the growing availability of legal options for content-hungry consumers.

Topics: AT&T, Patents, Piracy

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  • Bad

    quotes, "bandwidth usage, which may be problematic for a service provider"

    Solution: don't oversell your bandwidth.

    quotes, "high-risk network activities"

    Meaning risk to profits.

    quotes, "access to risky network resources, such as illegal file sharing websites, may be denied."

    Not all files on 'The Pirate Bay' are illegal, unless they are saying the file sharing service itself is illegal (or not MPAA-approved). Creating a walled-garden approach to the Internet shows ownership over culture, that freedom will not be unrestrained. The goal is to force debt on others, coercing them under threat of imprisonment for circumvention. This will only enable further web censorship for other undesirables, like a dissenting voice during potential martial law.

    All you're doing is forcing people to evolve their browsing habits; this will only stop the people most ignorant to technology. The take-away: only the stupid will be punished and made an example of.
    • indeed

      here Vapur9, you have my like and vote
  • We're only here to help ...

    Sounds familiar doesn't it? I once asked them if they were blocking my torrent traffic and they said "we will never block any of your Internet traffic". Yeah, right ... liar, liar, pants on fire. Too bad they can't be fined for lying. At least I can fire them and use another provider, but they too will probably start doing the same thing eventually.
    • Even Music file sharing can be legitimate..

      If the owner of the music OKs it. I belong to a bootleg torrent site of live and other rare recordings of a deceased artist that are not available for sale. The estate of tis artist has fully OKd it awith certain restrictions, which we abide by. Yet, when torrenting, my uploads are restricted to 4 kilobits per second. That is throttling by any description.. Yet the ISP (a major one) says they don't engage in it at all! Sure...
      Nick Ettema
  • But what about....

    Legitimate uses of filesharing? For example, at work, we share files with our clients all the time. These are our files to share, why should they be allowed to say that we can't do so?

    In addition, I don't think that they will be able to implement this in the U.S. legally, as file sharing in and of it's self is not illegal. What is illegal is sharing files that you don't hold the copyright for.
  • Blindingly obvious!

    How the hell is is possible to patent such a trivial idea it only requires the firing of half a neurone in a nematode worm?
    • because

      the Law is an ass. And logic has no relationship whit the law.
  • Patenting trivia

    The Telcos are into money not intelligent ideas!
  • Torrenting is not illegal though companies want you to believe it is.

    Many indie devs use Torrenting sites to distribute their work so they don't have to pay someone else to do so as they usually don't have a lot of money. I bought some games from the Humble Bundle and many of them I had to download using Torrents to cut their cost of hosting the files. Torrenting and file sharing isn't illegal. It's what you share that can be.
  • I don't 2nd big brother

    If you want to protect your TM then come up with a way to release it in a secure manner. Internet users shouldn't be put in a "Class" based off assumptions in how they use the web. This is BS much like AT&T NEXT! Carriers are so good at screwing PEOPLE for a DOLLAR!
    • We already have classes for Internet users

      Business class and general subscriber class.
  • Show Me The Money

    This is about money and eroding the rights of the consumer. Remember that the major ISP's are also content providers and producers. With this little gem they will get their foot in the door to control both ends of the equation. With absolute power comes absolute corruption.

    Until the Internet becomes a Utility and are regulated as such (ie. Water Electricity) we are going to see the degradation of consumer rights and freedoms under the guise of protecting us, let alone the huge profits that will be made. Scary stuff.
  • This patent seems like patenting water.

    This is interesting because as noted above, takes about a neuron to come up with this idea. Symantec and other enterprise companies have similar systems already
  • I legally downloaded a movie yesterday via BitTorrent

    So yesterday I downloaded an HD copy of the 2010 movie RED via BitTorrent. I obtained the torrent file from The Pirate Bay. Why would I do such a dastardly thing? Because I already own the Blu-ray, which I had loaned to my somewhat irresponsible son. When he finished with it, he put it in his car to return to me, then forgot about it. This was in August. And he left it in the back window in full sun. Needless to say the disc is no longer playable. Now as far as I am concerned I purchased the content once and do not need to do so again. So I downloaded the electronic copy. Illegal? I think not. Under fair use I could have made my own electronic copy for backup purposes, in which case I would have an electronic copy anyway. The end result is the same. A difference which makes no difference IS no difference. And via torrent others in my same situation are able to obtain their own electronic backups. My sharing of the file is not illegal. But if others who do not have legitimate rights to download the file choose to do so, then THEIR activity IS illegal. They are going after the sharers because they think it is easier, and painting them with the same broad brush. But sharing is not necessarily illegal, and neither is downloading. Unfortunately for the MPAA and the RIAA it has to be on a case-by-case basis, based in the status of the one downloading. And if the law were truly logical and just, that is how it would eventually be. Unfortunately the law and the content owners are neither logical nor just.
  • The answer is:

    total monitoring of everything you do, say and share. So, what's different? What are you complaining about?
  • Please no blocking of legal files.

    I don't download torrent illegal files. I do download torrent Linux distros such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. I hope that this will not interfere with them. As others have said, not all files torrented are illegal to own or to share.
  • All For It

    I insist, I demand, that AT&T rigorously enforce its patent against anyone who is blocking file sharing. :)