North Korea versus Comcast: guess who's fighting for an open Internet?

20 December 2014 by Steve Blum
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What do you mean, my Netflix is buffering!

As terabytes of emails and other data bounce around the web, the bad guy in the latest mega-crack story is beginning look less like North Korea and more like Sony and its corporate brethren. First, Sony hires one of the more notorious members of the predatory bar to threaten news outlets if they dare to use any of that information. Then it caves to pressure and threats – apparently originating in North Korea – and cancels the release of The Interview.

Fortunately, there are news organisations that aren’t much interested in a contingency fee lawyer’s opinion of journalistic responsibilities or freedom of the press. The Verge (albeit before the warning letter) ran a piece about how Sony and other large studios with the help of their Washington lobbying front, the Motion Picture Association of America, are colluding with state attorneys general to gain the kind of control over Internet traffic they were denied when the Stop Online Piracy Act was blocked in the U.S. congress.

With the help of another major studio owner known for aggressive back room politicking and generally bad corporate citizenship: Comcast.

According to the story in The Verge by Russell Brandom

“We start from the premise that site blocking is a means to an end,” says MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio. “There may be other equally effective measures ISPs can take, and that they might be more willing to take voluntarily.” According to the email, the group has retained its own technical experts and is working with Comcast (which owns Universal) to develop techniques for blocking or identifying illegally shared files in transit.

Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, then slammed the studios and their lobbying front in a post on the company’s public policy blog

While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part “to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression.” Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?

It’s exactly the kind of self-serving conduct that network neutrality advocates cite as the theoretical dangers of letting monopolistic companies do their own thing. Except now, it doesn’t seem so theoretical.

The irony is breathtaking. Meet the Internet freedom champion of 2014: North Korea.