Microsoft patent spies on consumers to enforce DRM

Microsoft patent spies on consumers to enforce DRM

Summary: Microsoft has been granted a patent that makes sure consumers are paying for content.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Patents

A new patent application filed by Microsoft and granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details a content distribution system which uses cameras to detect whether or not you've been paying for your content.

spy microsoft consumers technology new patent application granted content
Credit: CNET

The patent, US20120278904, works as a surveillance mechanism, inbuilt within devices including television sets, computers, smartphones and tablets in order to enforce digital rights management (DRM). In other words, if you're streaming content without a license, it can be detected -- and your media stream cut off. 

The patent summary reads:

"A content presentation system and method allowing content providers to regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis. Content is distributed an associated license option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content.

The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken."

Although an infrared camera may not be the only method of detection, and technology including Microsoft's Kinect, controllers and "facial recognition techniques" could be used, the patent continues by stating that DRM can further be enforced by "determining at least a number of users within a display area of a display device for a duration of the presentation exceeding a threshold." In other words, if a license only covers one individual viewing and you're watching a film with friends or family, content simply won't play.

patent microsoft spying consumers application filed approved streaming content new

The patent also mentions that age and identity can be detected in relation to whether a viewer is authorized to see particular content. The technology can also enforce time frames that users are allowed to see media.

The technology is designed to work with streamed content, downloaded material and media stored in either removable or irremovable storage systems. These include "RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory or other memory technology, CD-ROM, DVD or other optical disk storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices."

From a DRM perspective, the patent is rather smart, and makes sense in order to prevent consumers from exploiting the terms of their content licenses. However, when technology in the home can detect how many people are present, their ages and potentially store their facial profiles, if this is made commercial, it's unlikely the latest privacy intrusion will go down well with the general public.

Topics: Microsoft, Patents

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  • This is too much. It violates our privacy.

    I have nothing to hide. But constant surveillance so that someone can make mony on you does violate our right to privacy.

    Simple solution. Avoid any product that contains MS products. You hit their bottom line, they might rethink their position.

    If you accept it, you will never have privacy again. Your life will be like a huge jail cage.
    • Our Privacy

      I totally agree. Its a further confirmation to boycott Microsoft by using Ububntu which is far more stable and easy to use.
    • Apple

      Apple patented that your phone camera can be remotely turned off. So when the police is violating protesters, the police can turn off all iPhone cameras in the area, thus no prof of police violence.
      • I'm curious

        Do you have a link to this patent?
        • It's just a google away

          Got any excuses as to why this isn't Crapple spying on users?
    • so, if your TV, computer, or entertainment center does not have a web cam,

      What then? Will the streaming company not stream to you because you don't have a webcam in your living room? Could this be circumvented by putting a band-aid on the lens?

      This could also be used by strict moralists for our own protection. There are still laws on the books against any form of sodomy or deviant sexual intercourse in some states, even between a married man and woman, (yes, I mean married to each other.) This could be used to make sure you are only engaging in sex with your own spouse, and only in the missionary position. (Also to make sure you aren't enjoying it, as we all know, sexual relations is only for procreation, not recreation.) This is all a very good development for the country!

      *Of course, we will need a set of cameras in all the airport bathroom stalls, just to keep track of Sen. Larry (Wide stance) Craig, R. - LOL!
      • Put a picture

        of just you sitting on your couch in front of the camera.
        Of course, big brother will probalbly catch on after he doesn't see you leave the couch even once during a 10 hour series marathon.
  • do not support Microsoft much

    do not support Microsoft is a very very rotten company, see the facts:
    • Thank you!

      Really great place to refer fukn fanboys :D
      • so

        so it is not important to show real corruption?
        • LOL

          Sounds like you can't comprehend simple English :p
  • Amusement on "Right to Privacy"

    I have no idea how the Bill of Rights entry on search and seizure got morgrified into right to privacy. It is, I suppose, but that's not what it was intended. This was put in so that those trying to overthrow the government could hide their munition running stashes from blanket government search. While the soldiers were getting a search warrant, they could move the powder and rifles to another location. Think Concord and Lexington.
    Tony Burzio
    • You're right: you have no idea

      If you wanted one, however, you might try actually reading the Constitution along with the Federalist Papers, and other supporting documents, before blow all that hot air.
  • you gotta be s#!tting me

    that will go over as well as drm on music, microsoft is failing fast, time to dump them shares.
  • That's Enough

    Alright, does this not sound like the most f**ked up s**t to anyone else? I completely understand protection copywrites and preventing piracy, but god damn, worrying about having too many family members IN THE ROOM to WATCH TV?!?!?! If they sell movie rental licenses for single users and enforce it with this technology, holy Jesus. I really hope the only reason it would count people is to prevent DRM content from being played in front of an auditorium, not a family or friend gathering.

    Microsoft may have been granted the patent, but if DRM in this fashion takes hold, then expect many companies to either license the technology from Microsoft or create their own.
  • Good luck with that

    Loverock will want two such monitoring/spying systems. They would be from MS after all. How could he go wrong?
    • +100

      Can not what for the hypocrite to spin this one.

      woohoo! I got a new fan I got a new fan!
      Loverock Davidson-
  • LOL

    "determining at least a number of users within a display area of a display device "

    The first time I read that I read "terminating" rather than "determining."

    Don't worry, though... I'm sure that patent is coming next.
    • I believe

      the MPAA are lobbying for it right now.
      Little Old Man