Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apparently Verizon Finally Heard The Congress

Verizon: Copyright infringement may be good for business |

by Preston Galla for ComputerWorld

Has Verizon decided that copyright infringement will help its bottom line? In a backhanded way, the company seems to be saying that sharing copyright-infringing video files on its network could, in fact, be good for its business. At least, that's what Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president for public affairs, implies in an interview with the New York Times.

In the interview, Tauke tells the New York Times that it will refuse to act as copyright enforcers for Hollywood, and won't put any system into place for being Hollywood's cops.

AT&T has agreed to be Hollywood's enforcer, and one of its reasons, in the words of the New York Times, is that "illegal sharing of video is a burden on the network."

Tauke, however, disagrees, and sees it as a business opportunity. Here's what he said:

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.

This increase in traffic, Tauke told the Times, would mean that Verizon would have to invest more money in its network. And this, the Times notes, "may encourage the company to replace unlimited-use broadband plans with plans tied to bandwidth use, as Time Warner Cable is considering."

In other words, those who download big, copyright-infringing videos may be more likely to spend more for bandwidth.

Verizon has invested enormous amounts of money in its high-speed FiOS network. That high-capacity network gives it an advantage over broadband competitors, because it can offer much higher-speed downloads. It may be that because of that, Verizon has pinpointed copyright infringers as being ideal customers, and will try to lure them away from competitors.

It's not as far-fetched as you might think. In the Times interview, Tauke says that Verizon won't slow down files being exchanged by the BitTorrent protocol, something that Comcast is doing.

This means that Verizon won't police its network for copyright infringement, won't slow down BitTorrent protocols, and has the fastest download speeds of any competitor. Sounds like a business plan to me.

In the interview, by the way, Tauke gave other reasons for not checking for infringing files being downloaded on its network. Among other concerns, he says that if Verizon starts being Hollywood's enforcer, it will have to become a cop for many other reasons as well. Here's what he told the Times:

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.

He also worries that if Verizon agrees to police copyright infringement, it could ultimately be held liable if it doesn't block all infringements:

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.

Finally, he says that Verizon won't block infringing files, because to do that would mean it would violate its customers' privacy. Given that Verizon cooperated with the National Security Agency's massive privacy-violating scheme, though, that rings a bit false.

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