Microsoft has acquired a patent for a technology which lets the Redmond-based tech giant identify and block users who share files illegally using cloud-storage services. Dropbox and Google also use technologies whereby copyright violations and pirated content is detected by comparing file hashes.
Titled as “Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems”, the patent will let Microsoft block copyright-violating content. USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) granted the patent no. US 9614850 B2 to Microsoft after a gap of four years on April 4, 2017. The patent was filed on Nov 15, 2013. The company aims to use the patent to disable prohibited content and identify repeat offenders in service provider storage systems.
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How does the Patent work?
The company in its patent provides a summary of how the system will work.
“When objects are shared by one user with another user, prohibited content, if identified as such, can be blocked from being shared, while the remainder of the shared objects can be accessed by the other user”.
The company will use its technology to detect repeat offenders and prohibit their access to such content that they may frequently share with others without having the rights to do.
The company specifically mentions the cloud storage services on which users frequently share copyright protected content without the rightful owner’s express consent. The technology is aimed towards discouraging and restricting this practice.
Major Sites where Microsoft Intends to Apply the Technology
The company intends to use this system to restrict illegal file sharing on the are cloud-hosting services. Major social networks already have their own technologies that help them flag repeat offenders sharing pirated content.
Currently, the system of identifying copyright violations works in a pretty slow and non-scalable manner. Users may identify and report the piracy to the technology company which cycles the takedown requests. Blocking access to pirated and stolen content in this manner from the internet takes too long. This is where the newly developed technology will help automate the system.
The notion of repeat offenders came to limelight after the famous case of music publisher BMG and Cox Communications. Filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the case was decided in favor of BMG when a federal judge declared that Cox Communications will have to pay $25 million fine that a jury had awarded in Nov 2015 to BMG, the music rights company. Thus, it was declared that “because Cox didn’t act aggressively enough to punish suspected infringers, it didn’t qualify for Safe Harbor, a provision of a statute or a regulation that specifies that certain conduct will be deemed not to violate a given rule”, reports The Washington Post.
People who repeatedly share pirated or copyrighted content using online storage services will be flagged and consequently banned by the system.
Owning and uploading copyrighted material on cloud storage services does not constitute piracy or copyright infringement. However, sharing the material with others is illegal and internet companies can penalize their customers for such actions.
It’s not totally new for technology companies to discourage online piracy and copyright infringement. Therefore, users need to be careful when sharing content through social media websites or cloud storage services.
Facebook is known to ban pages that infringe copyrights. Google and DropBox use hashes of content from takedown requests and matches it to the content a user might share through storage services (Google Drive and DropBox). If the content being shared matches the content in takedown requests, it then blocks the users from sharing such content.
The patent Microsoft has obtained will allow the company to flag repeat offenders which can result in their account termination from the hosting/cloud services providers. Storing copyrighted content per se would not result in any legal action, though sharing of such content does amount to violation copyright laws. Better safe than sorry.