Microsoft Patents Technology to Block Pirated Content, Track Repeat Offenders

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Technology giant Microsoft has obtained a patent to block objectionable content from being shared and to identify repeat offenders. The company mentions copyright infringement as one of the areas where it can be applied, particularly in cases where files are publicly shared. What to do with these repeat offenders remains open for debate.

Hundreds of millions of people upload and share files every day, and not always with permission from their rightful owners.

Aside from the traditional pirate sites, social networks and cloud hosting services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive are also frequently used to share copyright-infringing content.

When copyright holders find out, they can report these files and ask the companies to take them offline and prevent similar files from being shared in the future, which regularly happens. However, with cloud storage services, simply deleting a file is not always an option.

If you buy a music album, you’re allowed to store this on your personal cloud-hosting account, for example, while sharing is prohibited. In this case, disabling that sharing option for this file while leaving it on the server seems to be the preferred option.

Still, it might be worth keeping an eye on frequent abusers, so they can be punished if needed, and Microsoft recently obtained a patent to do just that.

Titled: “Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems,” the patent describes a system where copyright infringers, and those who publish other objectionable content, are flagged so that frequent offenders can be singled out.

With an overview of the infringements, the hosting provider can choose to limit the sharing permissions of users, or terminate their accounts if warranted.

“Incidents that result in objects being so marked can be stored in an incident history associated with a user responsible for those objects. The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users,” the patent reads.

The “repeat infringer” is a hot topic at the moment, after ISP Cox Communications was ordered to pay $25 million for its failure to disconnect repeat offenders.

According to the DMCA, online service providers must implement a reasonable policy against frequent offenders, and the system described in the patent would allow Microsoft to do that.

The patent describes a variety of situations, ranging from disabling a single file from being shared, to taking measures against repeat infringers. However, it doesn’t state which policy Microsoft employs.

As far a we know, this is the first patent that specifically deals with the repeat infringer situation in these hosting situations, but it’s not uncommon for cloud hosting services to prevent users from sharing infringing content. We previously uncovered that Google Drive uses hash matching to prevent people from sharing “flagged” files in public, and Dropbox does the same.


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