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The Internet Businesses Communications Piracy

Ajit Pai and the FCC Want It To Be Legal for Comcast To Block BitTorrent (theverge.com) 553

Nilay Patel, reporting for The Verge: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released his proposal to kill net neutrality this week, and while there's a lot to be unhappy with, it's hard not to be taken with the brazenness of his argument. Pai thinks it was a mistake for the FCC to try and stop Comcast from blocking BitTorrent in 2008, thinks all of the regulatory actions the FCC took after that to give itself the authority to prevent blocking were wrong, and wants to go back to the legal framework that allowed Comcast to block BitTorrent.
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Ajit Pai and the FCC Want It To Be Legal for Comcast To Block BitTorrent

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  • Next step (Score:5, Funny)

    by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:34PM (#55612405)

    Block all traffic except HTTP

    As a bonus, if HTTPS is blocked then lawful intercepting will be much easier.

    • Re:Next step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:46PM (#55612475)
      Step 3: Block VPNs.
      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @05:21PM (#55612641)

        That's one way to garner corporate backlash. When my company's C-suite officers can't check their mail from home it's going to start raising IT tickets that point back to Comcast.

        • They'll allow you to connect to VPNs, but they'll just block all popular VPN providers, then good luck circumventing anything. This whole NN business will kill the internet as we know it.
          • Exactly. Why don't people see this coming? The Internet 2.0 is going to only allow "approved" devices to connect and only allow certain activities.
            • Re:Next step (Score:5, Interesting)

              by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:31PM (#55612959) Homepage

              You really do not get it, this is all about mass corporate censorship, not blocking applications, blocking you, putting you off line, silencing you. How bad will be the outcome, face not that bad at all because the fury of millions of geeks is going to scare the crap out of the entirely corrupt US government. Net Neutrality will be back pretty quick, once the Republicans realise they will go from dominating the US government to being an also ran for many years to come. Geeks and nerds are an unforgiving lot being subject to many harassments in the youth has often not left them in the best temperament and in adult life, they know their intellect puts them well ahead of others in the game of political discourse. Grind the fuckers until the beg for mercy, be brutal, be mean, let them really know how pissed off you are and forget about the idea of not voting them, what a pathetic message to send, you are going to campaign against them, actively for shits and giggles to put them on the unemployment line (no revolving doors for them when they can no longer win elections and have no public relations value, out on the collective assess). Put the fucking fear of the political wilderness into them, let it keep them awake at night. Don't forget to send that email, with a note of who you will be actively campaigning for, let them know who will be replacing them.

        • Re:Next step (Score:5, Insightful)

          by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:38PM (#55612995)
          Step 4: charge additional fees to reinstate corporate VPNs problem solved.
    • Re:Next step (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @05:20PM (#55612635)

      Way back in the early 2000s we figured out that's what our campus IT department was doing.

      A friend of mine wrote a simple 'proxy' server that sent a fake HTTP header that the bittorrent trackers ignored. Our school's firewall thought it was a HTTP packet and let it through.

      • Re:Next step (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:28PM (#55612937)

        Indeed. My university back then decided to allow all the official P2P ports, because this way they could at least shape the traffic down to a reasonable rate. They also got a legal opinion stating that they are actually not required to look at the traffic or block based on content.

  • Ports (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackwrench ( 573697 ) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:35PM (#55612411) Homepage Journal
    Are ports really necessary, because this sounds like it will just result in all sessions being routed over port 80 and a cat and mouse game of avoiding deep packet inspection.
    • Re:Ports (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:25PM (#55612927)

      As more and more traffic is SSL, deep-packet-inspection is basically dead, except in enterprise environments where they can push their own CA into the clients and break the tunnel.

      The whole thing is stupid. A typical sign of a clueless nil-whit trying to do policy.

      • encryption solves the easiest way to identify and block torrent traffic but there are many ways to attack the network and its users. One way is to start blocking trackers and supernodes. This will not stop all traffic but just as when the original Pirate Bay tracker was taken offline, sharing will get fragmented and slower. . another is to scour the internet for the top 10000 torrents, get all the ip's originating from within their network. From there you could do things like analyze what encrypted torrent
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "'a cat and mouse game of avoiding deep packet inspection."
      If a movie was been written about setting up a new method of moving files and parts of files?
      Set up a service on a port that looks just like a lot of professional services that has the same encryption as a lot of a nations average commercial networked data.
      Deep packet inspection will show its all from low cost consumer ISP accounts. A provider then set out to block that "type" of usage over all its networks :)
      All that deep packet inspectio
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:37PM (#55612427)

    When you have only 1 or at best 2 Internet providers available, you don't have competition.

    Society's use of and dependence on the Internet has gotten to the point where the Internet needs to be a separate non-profit utility entity.

    Comcast needs to go back to being a cable TV / entertainment company.

    The fix will be VPNs to 3rd party proxies.

  • by jmcbain ( 1233044 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:45PM (#55612473)
    Serious question here. What's the difference between these arguments?
    1. You shouldn't ban BitTorrent. It's just a protocol. Just because some people use it to steal digital content doesn't mean BitTorrent is inherently bad.
    2. You shouldn't ban guns. It's just a device. Just because some people use it to kill innocents doesn't mean guns are inherently bad.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:51PM (#55612505)

      There you go again, using logic with Republicans. They very strongly believe in one thing, until they don't. It's the same with Federal power vs State's rights. The GOP takes both sides of that argument depending on the issue.

      • There you go again, using logic with people. They very strongly believe in one thing, until they don't.

    • Serious question here. What's the difference between these arguments?
      1. You shouldn't ban BitTorrent. It's just a protocol. Just because some people use it to steal digital content doesn't mean BitTorrent is inherently bad.
      2. You shouldn't ban guns. It's just a device. Just because some people use it to kill innocents doesn't mean guns are inherently bad.

      BitTorrent doesn't commit robberies and homicides.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For example, I use Resilio to sync *MY* files between computers. It uses the bittorrent software.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wrong argument. You are anthropomorphizing the guns.

        BitTorrent cannot harm anyone permanently in any way and certainly cannot be used to take a person's life. BitTorrent is a tool that is *used* to move data around and to "store" that data in a distributed way.

        Guns are a tool *used* both to protect and to harm.

        In both cases it is the actor or user that determines the merit of that tools' use. Their impact on society is very different though. It is the larger impacts that legislation or bans are meant to dea

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        One is addressed in the US Constitution?

    • Who shouldn't ban guns/BitTorrent? It's OK for a store to say "no guns on my property", it's not OK for the government to say "you can't own a gun on your property". An employer can say "no torrents on my network", a common carrier or the government cannot say "no torrenting on your network."

      In any event, the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order specifically says it only applies to "legal" content, so this argument is misleading.

      • Except torrents ARE legal content, and you can't trivially separate infringing torrents from non-infringing torrents. It's a moot point, because if you try to ban torrents, your head will be fucking caved in.
    • Bittorrent does not kill people.

    • Good question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @05:32PM (#55612703) Homepage
      It's actually a good question. Bittorrent and guns are both tools that are enablers for crime. Banning the tool instead of the crime affects legitimate use of the tool by law-abiding citizens.

      Here's the difference:

      The law is supposed to allow as much freedom as is possible, up to a certain extent. It then puts up a wall even for legitimate uses once the chance of damage has gone high enough. You can legalize hand grenades for recreational use too, or how about selling plutonium for educational purposes. Plutonium doesn't kill people, people kill people. But at that point the chance of damage is so high, basically screw it all and ban it, even for legitimate uses.

      This balance was moved with flights where sharp objects and liquids are banned.

      On the flip side, a baseball bat can kill a person, and so can riding a bicycle without a helmet. But at this stage, damage potential is relatively small and personal freedoms are important. Instead of trying to put in a sliding scale for everything (bats of certain sizes, faster bicycles, similar to liquid amounts for flights), it's just better to leave personal freedoms be, because a cyclist falling or an angry person with a bat cannot kill dozens of people.

      This is why knives are legal to own, hand grenades are not, and guns of different sizes/capacities is where that threshold lies. With this argument, I believe assault/automatic rifles, high capacity magazines have been proven to cause excessive damage compared to the rights and personal freedoms of wanting such firearms. This is in contrast to say bolt action hunting rifles with 5 rounds. And certainly illegally downloading movies and music which you most likely would not be paying for anyway (and impact the financial earnings of artists by a small amount), is far far away from this threshold.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 )

        Banning the tool instead of the crime affects legitimate use of the tool by law-abiding citizens.

        The difference with guns - especially the assault types obtainable in the US - is that they have no legitimate use.
        You would have to define killing other people as legitimate for you to be able to use that argument with guns.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Loki_1929 ( 550940 )

          The difference with guns - especially the assault types obtainable in the US - is that they have no legitimate use.
          You would have to define killing other people as legitimate for you to be able to use that argument with guns.

          Self defense is not a legitimate use? You don't believe in self defense? Just lay down and die?

          • Re:Good question (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @12:37AM (#55613905)

            I don't believe self defense is a legitimate use. Not because I don't believe you shouldn't have the right to defend yourself, but because if your attacker is constantly worried that you'll pull a gun, they're going to be damned sure to pull theirs first. Either way, someone ends up shot and possibly killed. And since the attacker is usually the one with the opening advantage, the risk that you get killed in such a scenario becomes higher in a gun-prevalent society. Its the same story you hear about cops over and over again -- they don't want to risk anyone they stop pulling a gun on them so they make sure to shoot first when you make even the slightest misstep at even the most benign traffic stop.

            Of course, being the one guy who doesn't have a gun in a gun-prevalent society is a problem also, making the US gun troubles significantly harder to solve -- its a downward spiral of violence that's extremely difficult to climb back up. You buy a gun because you're scared of a robber. So your neighbor buys a gun because he's scared of you. So his boss buys a gun because he's scared the employee will go ham some day. So the other employees buy guns in case the boss goes ham. So all their neighbors buy guns.

            And at the end of the day you have dozens or hundreds of gun purchases out there based on one individual's fear of a situation they may or may not ever encounter, which ends up increasing the risk that they will encounter it because that 6-degree neighbor of a guy who's boss hired a guy who's neighbor bought a gun.. that guy way at the end of the chain turns out to be the robber that you're now in a shootout with.

        • Re:Good question (Score:5, Informative)

          by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:56PM (#55613069) Homepage
          The MAIN difference here is that GUN RIGHTS are specifically spelled out under the Constitution. If you bother to look even further, and read the Federalist Papers (documents and thought by the founding fathers), you will clearly read that The Founding Fathers of the United States firmly believed it was the right and responsibility of every Citizen to stand against tyranny, and gun ownership was a necessary balance as the last step against a corrupt Government.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            If you bother to look even further, and read the Federalist Papers

            Indeed. in Federalist 29, Hamilton wrote:

            Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year.

            So, lets make membership in a local militia with regular exercises a requirement for gun ownership.

          • Re:Good question (Score:5, Informative)

            by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:58AM (#55614101)

            If you bother to look even further, and read the Federalist Papers (documents and thought by the founding fathers), you will clearly read that The Founding Fathers of the United States firmly believed it was the right and responsibility of every Citizen to stand against tyranny, and gun ownership was a necessary balance as the last step against a corrupt Government.

            Except that's all gun nut bullshit. Article III, Section 3: [wikipedia.org]

            • Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

            Article I, Section 9: [wikipedia.org]

            • The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

            If gun cultists ever try and use the 2nd Amendment the way they think it was meant to be used, the government will throw their asses in prison without a warrant, and if they get a trial, hung for treason.

        • Banning the tool instead of the crime affects legitimate use of the tool by law-abiding citizens.

          The difference with guns - especially the assault types obtainable in the US - is that they have no legitimate use. You would have to define killing other people as legitimate for you to be able to use that argument with guns.

          So, then what do the 99.999% of guns that are never used in any crime get used for, if they have no legitimate use?

      • > This balance was moved with flights where sharp objects and liquids are banned.

        You mean 9/11 being used as the excuse for the complete and total joke of Theater Security Logic [amazonaws.com] or Security Retards [pinimg.com] ?

        The bigger crime is that the sheeple do fuck all about it. [latimes.com]

    • Both have legitimate uses and both are force multipliers used to break the law more effectively, so there's no difference there.

      However, the laws broken with them ARE different. BitTorrent makes it easier to share or copy material when you do not have the legal right to do so. Firearms make it easier to kill greater numbers of people, and more rapidly, before you can be stopped.

      Society could do with a little less intellectual property protection (such protection has been expanded so far it no longer serve

    • Serious question here. What's the difference between these arguments?
      1. You shouldn't ban BitTorrent. It's just a protocol. Just because some people use it to steal digital content doesn't mean BitTorrent is inherently bad.
      2. You shouldn't ban guns. It's just a device. Just because some people use it to kill innocents doesn't mean guns are inherently bad.

      This is what you get when you break the rules.

      The existing net neutrality law was a) an overreach by a federal department that didn't have the authority, and b) didn't implement net neutrality, as normally understood.

      Which is more important: fixing this one issue, or allowing federal departments to make rules outside their jurisdictions?

      I love it when people bemoan how bad things are when this one narrowly-defined problem is thrown up as proof - positive proof, I say! - that everything about our government

    • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @05:56PM (#55612805)

      Except that's not the what the arguments are.

      A more accurate version would be:
      1. You shouldn't ban guns. It's just a device. Just because some people use it to kill innocents doesn't mean guns are inherently bad.
      2. You shouldn't deregulate the ENTIRE INTERNET just because you don't want a few people to pirate with bittorrent.

      Because that's what his proposed changes will do. Sure, he will get his wish and allow ISPs to arbitrarily block bittorrent. But only a truly naive and ignorant person would think that that would be the extent of it.

      Giving the major ISPs the ability to control whatever strikes their fancy would give them the ability to go godfather on the internet. You want people to be able to access your site/service at a reasonable speed/at all? Better pay a fee. Both you AND the end user. Why? Cause fuck you we can, that's why. They will be able to hold literally every internet facing small business over a barrel. Gee, that's a nice business you got there. Would be a shame if people couldn't get to it any more.

      Not only that, but free speech goes right out the window cause they would be able to arbitrarily block whatever strikes their fancy. They've already demonstrated in the past that they would happily do so before NN provisions were in place. If you think it's bad enough that Twitter or Facebook or Reddit arbitrarily censors users, imagine companies that have absolutely nothing to do with those services doing the same thing. It's like a mailman denying your ability to receive mail from a particular business cause they happen to not like that business.

      The internet has basically become a utility so critical that it's almost impossible to go without, so the ISPs will be able to jack up rates because they know you have no choice but to pay or lose access to a massive variety of services that no longer even have physical equivalents anymore. Imagine having to pay an extra electricity surcharge because you want to hang neon decorations from your window? Imagine having to pay extra gas surcharges because your basic package only allows you go to work and buy groceries, but you want to take your kids to the local amusement park? That's the ridiculous situation you are risking with your internet connectivity without Net Neutrality.

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      Well that's something to consider, let's see. The argument for restricting guns is usually something like: "having a lot of dangerous things all over the place is dangerous." So for bittorrent... having a lot of bittorrents all over is dangerous? (in a non-physical sense?)

      From Comcast's perspective the problem with bittorrent isn't copyright (or at least it wasn't back in 2008 before Comcast bought NBC), Comcast's problem with bittorrent is network congestion. And if we equate a congested network with pe
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      For starters, guns only have one purpose. It's a tool for killing. Doesn't matter if some people see it as self defense, the only real purpose the tool has is to shoot lead at fast speeds to hurt or kill the target.

      Torrent is a platform for peer to peer data transfer. Like said, lots of people use for piracy, but a whole ton of people use it for legitimate purposes. Most services offering big files, specially on the open source community, will provide a torrent link.

      If you wanna make the analogy, it's proba

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Simple:

      1. Copyright infringement is something that is possible with a lot of other protocols just as simply and it can be rectified financially if somebody overdoes it.

      2. Guns are a massive death-toll amplifier. Try to kill a lot of people with a knife, for example, and see how well that goes. Also, dead is dead and there is no way to fix that after the fact.

    • To be clear are you comparing copyright violation to mass murder? I mean when we're looking at worst case scenarios for which we enact legislation in a sensible world it would make sense to go after the thing that kills millions of Americans.

      Would it kill you (pun intended) to have a bit of consistency in the way you regulate your country?

      • "kills millions of Americans"

        over how many decades? When you subtract suicides and gang bangers gang banging, the number of firearms deaths in a year are negligible. And before you say something about if they didn't have a gun they wouldn't have committed suicide, see Japan. Virtually impossible to own guns, highest suicide rates in developed world. Unless you are suicidal or regularly sell drugs in bad neighborhoods, your chances of getting killed by a firearm are significantly less than

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      It wasn't blocked because of piracy concerns it was blocked because it was their largest consumer of bandwidth by far.

      Netflix has long since taken that crown....oh wait they made them pay to upgrade their peering.

      Funny coincidence there ain't it?

      If they had gotten away with blocking BT they would have just blocked netflix outright too.

    • More people die to automobiles then guns. [investors.com] /sarcasm Ban automobiles in the name of safety!

      Banning a (common) tool just because a few idiots mis-use it is idiotic. i.e. My use case is not your use case.

    • Comcast wants to charge you 200$ a month to check your email.they hate people use that 100mbs to download things.
  • Misleading headline (Score:4, Informative)

    by diamondmagic ( 877411 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @04:46PM (#55612477) Homepage

    How does the article manage to make the jump from "The FCC does not have the statutory authority to manage computer networks" (which is true) to "Ajit Pai wants ISPs to block content" (not true).

    The FCC's own 2015 Open Internet Order says it only applies to "legal" content anyways. Among other things, this excludes most BitTorrent traffic and gambling.

    Title II also contains many compulsory provisions entirely incompatible with Net Neutrality, like censorship of explicit material.

    If you want Net Neutrality, write to your representative and tell them the Internet is a Title I service.

    • Your argument seems to be that the FCC doesn't have the authority to do what it already has been doing, even though the Courts consistently said they do have that authority.

      You're repeating a really stupid talking point and just taking it as fact, instead of taking it as ideas, and using the ideas that actually make sense and hold up.

  • Under Title II it is allowed to block bittorrent. Title 2 is not net neutrality and it is foolish to push for it.

    We are not going back to ISPs blocking bittorrent(when was that?), we are going back to the clinton rules that ruled they could not; in addition we now have ISPs being required to document if they are going to block ports or traffic.
  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @06:11PM (#55612859)

    It's just an arms race, the moment you block BitTorrent someone makes a new protocol. You block that protocol too and they make a 3rd protocol that disguises itself as normal traffic.

    Soon Comcast is gives up entirely, or gets in an arms race with the protocol authors trying to detect P2P traffic with legitimate traffic getting caught in the crossfire.

    • No race. Right from the start you go straight to block all and whitelist a few deemed mediocre enough to provide all that the poorest people need (according to those who have whatever they want). That is your basic tier. Everything else costs more.
      • Then you'll start getting weird formats and protocols like Uuencode that extend existing protocols in ways that they were never originally designed to do. Like binary files over usenet. The new protocols will introduce additional (and arguably unnecessary) overhead, but allow you to use the whitelisted services to do things they weren't intended for. Heck I remember back in the napster days of the late 90s using steganography to put arbitrary binary files into a valid mp3 container, because napster wouldn't

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          The answer to this (actually the answer to all of it, really.. assuming net neutrality isn't enforced) is to slow down a user's traffic based on how much traffic they've already transferred. Adjust it every 30 seconds based on say a 2 minute window or something so that its somewhat responsive as people change their tasks throughout the day.

          Basically an automated punishment system for people using "too much," driving them to turn off their bittorrents or other high-bandwidth applications at least during the

    • its a slippery slope you let them ban one thing even tho BitTorrent has many other uses. then they start blocking ftp because someone might host something. then you block all but approved http become someone might host something. its always been about trying to remove the internet freedom.
  • It will be interesting to see the mental gymnastics conservatives have to go through to defend this.

    Give ISP the freedom to mess with your pipe. Nickel and dime you for opening any port that is not HTTP/HTTPS. That sounds like a great idea. Why haven't we been doing it already?

  • There is a lot of completely legal software distribution over BitTorrent these days. This guy wants to go back to the stone-age. He probably is deeply afraid of the freedoms network-neutrality gives to people and companies.

    Well, the western world is in decline. Desperately keeping old business-models alive and blocking new ones is a traditional sign of that.

  • This will just spur BitTorrent developers into developing something even harder to stop. I see this as a bump in the road to a truly uncensorable internet.
  • One of the best defenses to a civil suit for not blocking something that was used to cause harm is that it wasn't legal to do so. If you wipe out that defense by allowing ISPs to block ports, the ISPs gain a responsibility that turns into a liability, and the lawyers will do the rest.

  • by DCFusor ( 1763438 ) on Thursday November 23, 2017 @08:10PM (#55613325) Homepage
    Maybe if we get loud enough calling this guy Ajit the traitor to all that is good, someone will get around to saying "you're fired".
    Think about it - if you're a pretty unpopular executive and someone under you is considered a total ass by a huge majority, and what they're pushing doesn't particularly butter your bread...why not fire them and get a huge boost in popularity overnight?
    Remember when we all worried that Wheeler, being an ex cable co lobbyist (just like the current jerk) was going to screw us, but he turned into a hero instead? We probably can't hope for that in this case, but we can hope someone else takes action on it. Of course, this really belongs in Congress, but we know they are ALL owned, ,it's not a partisan thing at all...

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