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NBCU Wants Piracy Crackdown

NBC Universal is urging the federal government to force cable companies and other broadband-access providers to ramp up efforts to block the piracy of video content on the Web.

Only about 5% of users are behind the illegal activity, the movie and TV program producer said. But, “the [Federal Communications Commission] should make unmistakably clear … that broadband-service providers have an obligation to use readily available means to prevent the use of their broadband capacity to transfer pirated content,” NBCU said in comments filed with the FCC on June 15.

NBCU's comments came as the FCC continues to gather information on so-called net-neutrality regulation that would require cable, phone and other communications companies to transport all traffic from the Internet in the same manner.

Instead of focusing on net neutrality and its “polarizing rhetoric,” NBCU said the FCC should use its legal leverage to punish the hijacking of an estimated $20.5 billion of intellectual property.

AT&T said it planned to develop “a partnership with the motion picture and recording industries and their trade associations to help protect legally copyrighted content that's carried over the Internet,” according to AT&T spokeswoman Claudia Jones.

In a speech to telecommunications executives last Wednesday in Chicago, General Electric vice chairman Bob Wright called for developing “filtering” technologies that intercept pirated content before economic injury can occur. Such a system, he said, would build on current efforts in which Internet service providers identify and then go after copyright thieves. GE is NBCU's corporate parent.

Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, which tries to prevent discrimination against providers of online content, said filtering technology capable of distinguishing between legal and illegal content on the Internet has not been developed.

Sohn said the FCC did not have legal authority to require broadband access providers to install content filters to fight the illegal transmission of movies, TV shows, and music. Congress, she said, would need to pass a new law.

Cable operators have resisted net neutrality regulation for a number of reasons, which could make it difficult to “discriminate” against traffic that, for instance, does not comply with copyright laws.

“Network neutrality rules would limit the ability of broadband providers to prevent and discourage piracy of content ,” National Cable & Telecommunications Association vice president of communications Brian Dietz said.