More good news in the Copyright Wars
I stumbled across this interview with general counsel for Verizon about peer to peer, and found it somewhat reassuring. The RIAA/MPAA have pushed so hard for the laws and protections they want (in order to maintain their stranglehold on music and video respectively) that they've started to irritate the big boys of telecom.
This isn't the first time it's happened, of course; as mentioned in the interview, the telecoms banded together to remove certain language from the WIPO which would have made all temporary copies illegal. That language would essentially have outlawed the Internet as we know it, and at the very least severely retarded its growth. The telecoms were also pretty heavily involved in the evolution of the DMCA, and as much as I dislike that particular piece of legislation, it probably would have come out much worse if the telecoms hadn't gotten scared by words like "liability". Ironically (and perhaps shortsightedly), the telecoms considered the DMCA to be something akin to the Treaty of Versailles after WWI -- the treaty that would end the war permanently. Of course, as in history, the Treaty turns out to be little more than a cease-fire.
Recently the RIAA filed suit against four backbone operators. They subsequently dropped the suit, but the idea, like the WIPO treaty, will definitely serve as a warning shot to the big telecoms. Taking on small fries like Napster et al may have encouraged the *AA's into thinking they could intimidate anyone with impunity; firing shots across the bow of a giant like AT&T will hopefully disabuse them of that notion.
Now that the *AA's are also rumbling about suing individual users, telecoms may turn out to be an even stronger ally. Verizon is resisting an RIAA subpoena, claiming that legal procedures were not properly followed. It seems likely that this is just legal smoke, however; certainly other ISPs have been indifferent to valid legal procedure. Instead, Verizon hopefully has realized that peer-to-peer has been the single largest driver of the huge leaps in Internet accesses (and particularly broadband users) over the last several years. Obviously a telecom/ISP would want to protect that kind of driver, so it seems to be in the telecoms' best interests to protect their users -- to a degree. While the telecoms may not have (and probably will never) put on a white hat and a silver sixgun, having a half-dozen 800lb. gorillas on the users' side may force the *AA's to a semblance of fairness.