AT&T Introduce ISP Copyright Filtering Technology Called Vobile VideoDNA

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AT&T Introduce ISP Copyright Filtering Technology Called Vobile VideoDNAThe battle for blocking copyrighted materials from being
distributed around the web could be about to get even murkier.

It was reported
yesterday on Business Week that AT&T is considering
starting to use a
network filtering technology called Vobile

At first AT&T would use the technology to filter
out content
like child pornography, but be assured that its ultimate goal is to use
it to filter
videos and other content that allegedly infringe on major copyright
holders’ copyrights. 

If you recall, AT&T announced in June that it
would work with the content industry to develop a copyright filter. Public Knowledge
roundly criticized
that announcement
, and have generally been critical
of calls for ISPs to filter their networks.

Similar To YouTube Anti Piracy Tool

This new alliance with Vobile gives us no more comfort than
original announcement, and in some ways it gives us less. On a
superficial level, Vobile’s VideoDNA technology is similar to
which YouTube
is testing

Copyright holders upload the content they want to protect
in a reference library, and Video DNA creates an identification file to
which they “match” allegedly illegal material that
is uploaded to a
website or server.

According to Vobile’s website,
a “match” could be made in as little as one frame:
“Each individual
frame has its own VideoDNA segment, making it possible to identify a
video clip or sub-clip of any length.” 

If there is a match, the
technology will follow the copyright holder’s instructions:
let it go,
filter, or “monetize” it, meaning let the content
be published with

No Contesting Decisions

Unlike YouTube’s video identification tool, however,
there is no
indication that the uploader has any ability or right to contest the

Moreover, Vobile boasts
that its technology will be identifying both uses and users:
“It is
possible to track not only the video that is being played, but also
which part of the video is being played. 

The ability to track video
usage automatically and precisely provides rights holders with valuable
data regarding video content consumption.

This, in turn, opens up a
potential revenue channel for targeted marketing and advertising based
on viewer history trends.” Privacy advocates should shudder.

But to return to copyright, from what we can discern,
technology suffers from the same problems as all such filters: it
cannot possibly tell a “fair” or otherwise lawful
use from an illegal


The company boasts “a near-zero false positive
rate,” but can
VideoDNA tell the difference between a video clip used in social or
cultural commentary and one that is not? If a match can be as little as
one frame, what happens to the normally unregulated “de

uses of copyrighted material? 

They go away, replaced by an “ask
permission first” copyright regime that is completely counter
to our
current copyright system.

While I’d rather they not accede to the content
industry at all,
AT&T is wise to proceed very, very slowly on this. It is one
to have YouTube filter its sole site. 

But for an ISP to filter all
content travelling on its massive network? Putting aside (but only for
now) net neutrality concerns, AT&T risks spending a lot of
money on
a technology that may slow down its service and anger its customers.

Gigi Sohn is a contributing author discussing matters relating to the broadband video and IPTV industry. Their work can be found on Public Knowledge. Post has Some Rights Reserved.