Nobody wants to be the bad guy in consumers’ eyes when it comes to piracy: rightsholders (mostly) don’t want to take pirates to court individually, while ISPs have long tried to avoid kicking filesharers off the internet. So here’s some fascinating news about a patent obtained by AT&T in the US for technology to detect illegal downloads as they’re happening, and take action accordingly. The patent is for “Real-time content detection in ISP transmissions”, and one aim is to ensure rightsholders don’t have to pursue individuals themselves – “unsympathetic from a public relations standpoint when the users turn out to be teenagers or others whose motives are seldom to make a criminal profit” as the patent puts it. The technology analyses data packets as they travel over the network, enabling AT&T to take a “responsive action” if they match something in its database of copyrighted content. “The responsive action, for example, might be to terminate the data transmission, to suspend the customer’s account, or to report the existence of the match to an interested party, such as a copyright owner or a law enforcement or security official, or to store the positive match to compare to later matches that are detected in subsequent transmissions to the same user or from the same sender,” explains the patent filing.