IBM Patents Printer That Doesn’t Copy Infringing Content

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IBM has submitted an application to expand its portfolio with a rather peculiar patent. To protect rightsholders the technology company has invented a printer that doesn't copy or print any copyright infringing text or images.

ibmEvery week hundreds of million of people copy and print documents, even though they officially don’t always have the rights to do so.

This unauthorized printing can be problematic for copyright holders, such as book authors, IBM says, and this week the company filed a patent application for a technology that aims to counter the problem.

Simply titled “Copyright Infringement Prevention,” the patent’s main goal is to ‘restrict’ the functionality of printers, so they only process jobs when the person who’s printing them has permission to do so.

It works as follows. When a printer receives a print job, it parses the content for potential copyrighted material. If there is a match, it won’t copy or print anything unless the person in question has authorization.

“The computer, in response to identifying any text, images, or formatting indicative of potential copyrighted material, identifies potential copyrighted material within the file.”

“The computer determines whether the file may be printed based, at least in part, on the identified potential copyrighted material,” the patent description adds.

The patent describes various variations on this approach, and IBM notes that ISBN numbers, United States Copyright Office records, and other public resources could be used to define the copyright status of a work.

Image from IBM’s patent


IBM sees a wide variety of applications for their printer patent. For example, it may also include a feature that provides users with “options to acquire permissions” to print or copy something.

In addition, the printer can also scan through large amounts of texts, much like the plagiarism checkers many schools use nowadays.

The patent doesn’t go into detail about the potential market for these type of printers, but we doubt that the general public will be very interested in a printer or scanner that limits what they can do.

That said, it may be more suitable for a business environment, where preventing infringements and limiting rights or users often has a higher priority.


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