SafeMedia Confident P2P Filtering Works

SafeMedia, which provides P2P filtering hardware for internet service providers, promised today to extend a “hold harmless” agreement to users of ISPs that adopt SafeMedia’s technology. Precedent and the DMCA already largely protect ISPs, but the Scarlet decision in Belgium has given filtering regulations new relevance.

safemedia.jpgI’ve been skeptical of SafeMedia’s claims in the past, but in a brief phone interview, CEO Safwat Fahmy said he is is confident his company can shoulder the potential liability. “We’re so sure of the technology that it will stand and will protect people from the evils of P2P.” You’ll have to decide if that’s purely hucksterism — SafeMedia doesn’t list any actual customers on their web site.

By “evils of P2P,” Fahmy pointed to the practice of making content sharing the default for clients [PDF]. As an example, an ususpecting user could go to Limewire to download a video that by default goes straight to the Share folder for upload — making the user party to illegal distribution above and beyond the initial infringement in downloading. It’s just this unintentional distribution that SafeMedia is offering to indemnify.

I was curious how SafeMedia will be dealing with the inevitability of hackers working to maintain the P2P networks, and whether that could potentially derail its protection. Calling P2P die-hards “the smartest people in the world,” Fahmy conceded that “they’re going to go after this, we accept that.”

But he promised that the company’s adaptive technology would contain any threats within three hours, constantly identifying new P2P network patterns to block. A few hours of downtime, Fahmy argued, wouldn’t likely draw the ire of the RIAA or other content producer organizations. Traffic shaping has been circumvented in the past, and traditional DRM like AACS and Windows Media hasn’t fared so well with rolling updates.

Earlier, NBC lobbied the FCC to require ISPs to install filter technology, and AT&T has already agreed to filter out copyrighted content (though it may run into new problems — YouTube seems to be making unauthorized clips available to iPhone users, presumably over AT&T’s EDGE network as well as WiFi). SafeMedia could certainly capitalize on this fear to sell units, regardless of how well they work.

Public Knowledge has joined other consumer groups in slamming NBC’s proposal, and the EFF has also questioned the credibility of SafeMedia’s claims.

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