February 09, 2003
Conflicts of Interest at AOL/Time Warner

AOL/Time Warner is the subject of a Salon piece, "AOL's Jekyll and Hyde Act" discussing the Verizon case, where AOL has yet to say much, because as both an ISP and the world's biggest media company, they don't want to comment on a case they are not apart of, but might affect them. AOL has been asked to remove files from websites, after those "copyright-sleuthing bots", Internet scanners that look for files that "seem" illegal, based on "as little evidence as a filename that appears fishy, like 'MetallicaSong.mp3' found 'harry potter book report.rtf'" on an AOL hosted website. But AOL has never been asked to turn over a subscriber's name, by invoking sect. 512h of the DMCA, as recently happened to Verizon.

One reason AOL doesn't want to anger subscribers is that they already face losing a lot of customers to other broadband carriers. Also, the article speculates about AOL subordinating to Time Warner, the content side. But the most interesting piece is this:

"The ISPs get thousands of these things, and they get a not insignificant percent that are not just wrong but are spectacularly wrong," says Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "And if the Verizon decision under 512h is upheld, we'll start seeing the same thing for people's identities, and they're going to be wrong in the same percentage that they're wrong now." That's because a key problem with the DMCA, critics of the law say, is that it provides little incentive for copyright owners to make sure that they're providing the court with accurate claims. "They may as well make these things as broad as possible," Cohn says. "There's nothing in the system to make them do otherwise. It's just takedown, takedown, takedown."

Posted by Mary Hodder at February 09, 2003 09:26 AM
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