Patents on Anti-Piracy Software that Use Creative Tactics to Protect Intellectual Property

With hundreds of millions of people involved in online piracy each month, unauthorized file-sharing costs entertainment industry companies and content owners billions of dollars each year.

To address this problem, NBC Universal has patented a system for detecting high-volume peer-to-peer file-sharing activity.

Peer-to-peer file sharing can be used for lawful purposes, but it is often an indicator of online piracy. This high-volume file-sharing, called a “swarm,” also puts strain on internet service provider networks. NBC’s new system can detect and target these swarms. The system functions by setting a threshold of data activity. When enough data is being exchanged, an alarm is triggered and high-risk swarms are then tagged. The data collected from swarms can be used to issue “takedown messages” to internet service providers, and to throttle or limit network resources.

Piracy monitoring technology is the key

Since NBC’s patent was filed eight years ago, many others have entered the field of piracy monitoring technologies, including Sean Parker, a co-founder of the notorious file-sharing Napster website. Parker might be one of the last people you would associate with the development of anti-piracy technology, but his recent project, Screening Room Media, filed eight anti-piracy patents applications in May 2017. Screening Room would allow people to watch movies at home as soon as they are released in theaters. Piracy of this high-quality streamed content is one of the main concerns studios have about Screening Room, in addition to theater revenue losses.

Established technology companies and entertainment studios have been working on their own applications to bring customers at home streaming of newly or recently released movies, known as premium video on demand. Having safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized file sharing and piracy of this digital content is key to rolling out these systems to consumers.

The Fair Play initiative

As part of its Fair Play initiative, Canadian-based software company Corel obtained an anti-piracy software patent that encourages pirates to purchase legitimate copies of software. Corel’s patented process monetizes anti-piracy technology by sending a message to pirated software users offering them amnesty in exchange for purchasing a legitimate version. Corel also emphasizes the benefits of legitimate software and the serious risks of using unauthorized copies. For example, unauthorized software does not receive the type of support and security patches that legitimate software does.

A softer approach

Other companies like Malwarebytes have been engaging with online pirates for years, albeit taking a softer approach. The paid versions of their malware detection software are often pirated, but the company can detect when a user is running an unauthorized copy. Malwarebytes asks these users not to steal their software and notifies them they are running an unauthorized version. The company also implemented a program that allows users with counterfeit keys to upgrade to a free legitimate one for a year. However, Malwarebytes improved their license key algorithm to make it more difficult for pirates to get another unauthorized version once that year is up.