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On key Internet digital content policing issue: Verizon good, AT&T bad

Saul Hansell, the thought-leader  on the NY Times Bits blog, has a very interesting conversation with Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive veep for public affairs.Although Tauke doesn't specifically mention Verizon's largest direct telco competitor AT&T, he- unlike AT&T, isn't enthusiastic about doing the bidding of major digital content copyright holders by policing potentially infringing content on its network.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor

Saul Hansell, the thought-leader  on the NY Times Bits blog, has a very interesting conversation with Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive veep for public affairs.

Although Tauke doesn't specifically mention Verizon's largest direct telco competitor AT&T, he- unlike AT&T, isn't enthusiastic about doing the bidding of major digital content copyright holders by policing potentially infringing content on its network.

Befure you go, "yea, but 'public affairs?' Tauke is just a flack,' " I have to tell you that people of EVP rank at megacorps such as Verizon most often speak as decision-makers rather than decision-relators.

Now that you are down with that, here's what Saul encapsulates as Tauke's reasoning for Verizon's stance on this whole policing thing:

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.

3) Privacy.

Anything we do has to balance the need of copyright protection with the desire of customers for privacy.

Even more encouragingly, Saul notes that Tauke also poo-poos the argument put forward by Hollywood and AT&T that illegal sharing of video is a burden on the network.

We see substantial increases in the volume of traffic. Generally we see that as a good thing. We have more customers paying for more services we provide.

Well, Verizon, although we've had some disputes on these screens , good on ya for this more-or-less enlightened stance.

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