Copyright

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
copyright, filter, patents, photocopying, printer

Companies:
ibm



IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Won't Let You Output Unauthorized Copies

from the I'm-sorry-Dave,--I'm-afraid-I-can't-print-that dept

Stories about copying turn up a lot on Techdirt. That's largely as a consequence of two factors. First, because the Internet is a copying machine -- it works by repeatedly copying bits as they move around the globe -- and the more it permeates today's world, the more it places copying at the heart of modern life. Secondly, it's because the copyright industries hate unauthorized copies of material -- which explains why they have come to hate the Internet. It also explains why they spend so much of their time lobbying for ever-more punitive laws to stop that copying. And even though they have been successful in bringing in highly-damaging laws -- of which the DMCA is probably the most pernicious -- they have failed to stop the unauthorized copies.

But if you can't stop people copying files, how about stopping them from doing anything useful with them? That seems to be the idea behind an IBM patent application spotted by TorrentFreak, which it summarizes as follows:

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.
As with so many patents, the idea is simple to the point of triviality: only a company more concerned about the quantity of its patents, rather than their quality, would have bothered to file an application. Nonetheless, it's a troubling move, because it helps legitimize the idea that everything we do -- even printing a document -- has to be checked for possible infringements before it can be authorized and executed.

But why stop with printers? We've already seen Microsoft's Protected Media Path for video, a "feature" that was introduced with Windows Vista; it's easy to imagine something a little more active that matches the material you want to view or listen to against a database of permissions before displaying or playing it. And how about a keyboard that checks text as you type it for possible copyright infringements and for URLs that have been blocked by copyright holders?

There is a popular belief that the computer in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" was named "HAL" after IBM, by replacing each letter in the company name with its predecessor. That's apocryphal, but with this latest patent application IBM is certainly moving squarely into HAL territory.

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  • identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:01pm

    Good.

    Hope they enforce that patent vigorously, and refuse to license it. Then we can refuse to buy IBM printers, and the ones we do buy won't have this crap in them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:46pm

      Re: Good.

      ha ha ha, if you think that will work I have a bridge to sell.

      Patent Reform is a serious issue, the bought and paid for congress critters we keep voting into power will make sure that IBM gets what it wants.

      They have more than enough money to make YOU silent no matter how loud you scream. And if you keep at it, you will be visited by people that call themselves the law with assault weapons in your face as you are tackled and abused.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re: Good.

        "if you think that will work I have a bridge to sell."

        Precisely. On reading the patent, it's pretty clear to me that they're describing something that simply won't work outside of some fairly narrow use cases in business environments.

        I see nothing in there that looks to be a serious problem for home users or business users who don't want to use the functionality.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 7:47pm

      It parses the content for potential copyrighted material?

      Every thing copyright-able is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is created. So, "potential copyrighted material" would be just about *everything*. That sounds like a printer that won't print. Period. Oh well, I bet it saves a lot of ink.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 4:33am

        Re: It parses the content for potential copyrighted material?

        That sounds like a printer that won't print.
        I think have two printers with this exact technology in my office right now!!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Dave Cortright (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 8:11am

        Re: It parses the content for potential copyrighted material?

        Actually it will allow through blank pages. And the test print page built into the printer. Everything else is suspect. You'll need to get approval from the Central Office for Copyright Coherence (COCC). Please bring all documentation in triplicate. Oh, wait...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 4:37am

      Re: Good.

      Pff... good luck with that. As soon as my patent on a printer that DOESN'T check for authorization is approved you're going to be between a rock and hard place.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:04pm

    Killing Fair Use

    To use a machine like this would kill any sort of fair use. (Almost) Everything is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed. The copyright extremists see this as the logical next step of course. I assume that automatic monetization, rather than blocking would be the goal.
    This device would push the impression that there is no such thing as fair use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:19pm

      'Working as intended'

      Given that to some maximalists the only 'fair use' is paid use, implying that there's no such thing as fair use would be a feature, not a bug.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 2:38am

      Re: Killing Fair Use

      Indeed. It'll be like YouTube's ContentID, except there's no process for appeal. Try printing your own graduate thesis on literature with a printer like that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Reverend Dak (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:06pm

    This would be a perfect patent to troll, so it never gets made.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:12pm

    That helpfully narrows my search for a printer

    Do they realize they have these things called "competitors" who will only end up doing a better job meeting the needs of these other things called "customers"?

    Did they even think this through? What happens when people who bought printers not realizing this "feature" was in there suddenly have problems printing stuff that they have a right to (via fair use, personal backup, or whatever?) Customer relations nightmare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:27pm

      Re: That helpfully narrows my search for a printer

      oh, i think they know exactly what they are doing:
      Big Media- we have to stop pirates from printing !
      IBM- we have a solution that is totally trouble-free !
      Kongresskritter- Perfect, we will legislate that all printer manufs have to use this tech ! Surely, that will solve this (non) problem forever and ever amen.
      IBM patent licensing dept- cha-ching !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    k, 18 May 2016 @ 12:16pm

    IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Won't Let You Output Unauthorized Copies

    IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Nobody Will Buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PlagueSD (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:25pm

      Re: IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Won't Let You Output Unauthorized Copies

      IBM still makes printers???

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:41pm

        Re: Re: IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Won't Let You Output Unauthorized Copies

        I think you're catching on... they don't want to make a printer, they just want to patent it. Anyone wanting to make such a printer will have to pay them first. That's called turning Intellectual Property on itself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:44pm

          Re: Re: Re: IBM Wants To Patent A Printer That Won't Let You Output Unauthorized Copies

          aka "So you want to charge people to print copies of your works or prevent them from printing? Step right up... we've got a patent on that. Once you've paid us for use of our idea, we'll let you copy it."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 18 May 2016 @ 12:26pm

    "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."

    LOL... I can't foresee this causing any issues whatsoever.

    Because... ya know... there are never any false positives with this kind of technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 18 May 2016 @ 12:29pm

    uhm, how?

    How did this get approved? Its... a workflow. AKA, a plan for doing something but not an actual method for accomplishing it.

    Seriously, a 10 year old could come up with this, so it definitely fails the obviousness test. So how was this patent granted? Its not even a specific implementation of anything!

    This is so stupid I can't even.

    I'm seriously having trouble figuring out where to start tearing this concept apart. From making users take longer to get their files printed to the impossibility of "checking online resources for possible copyrighted works". If there was a database people could check for copyright against don't you fucking think someone would have invented this already?!? No thought for fair use... the very idea of printing a copy in the first place is because of fair use. How does this thing possibly know I am using it for non-commercial, non-infringing use???

    Ridiculous. Obvious. Obviously ridiculous. What the fuck were you thinking when you paid someone 300 bucks to file this IBM? And what the FUCK were you thinking when you granted this USPTO?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Almost Anonymous (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 2:38pm

      Re: uhm, how?

      I don't know if it is patented (can't imagine it isn't though), but copiers already incorporate very similar sounding "technology". They are programmed to not copy money, at least U.S. money, don't know about other countries' currency.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 4:39pm

        Re: Re: uhm, how?

        Copiers won't copy certain watermarks. A corresponding technology exists in color copiers where each print contains a microprinted printout in yellow ink with the copiers' serial number and print index embedded.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 4:29pm

        Re: Re: uhm, how?

        "They are programmed to not copy money, at least U.S. money, don't know about other countries' currency."

        This is not actually true (at least in the case of most printers).

        What is true is that some printers include a hard-to-notice pseudo-watermark to allow tracing a print back to the specific machine that produced it. Also, money includes features that don't copy accurately with readily available scanners and copiers.

        But the vast majority of machines will certainly allow you to make a traceable, poor quality copy of your money.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Steerpike (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 4:00pm

      Re: uhm, how?

      The patent has not been granted. As indicated in the article, above, it is an application.

      It does set forth a method for accomplishing the result, so unless there is some art out there, it'll probably get through the USPTO in one form or another.

      https://www.scribd.com/doc/312461758/Ibm-Print?secret_password=uhnboMw21MqI0FraOnWv

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:39pm

    ...ironically it wasn't until printer manufacturers became more restrictive that the paperless economy finally took off

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:43pm

    This would kill highschool and college students. Quotes are critical for research papers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 1:34pm

      Re:

      It will also keep the congress critters in ignorance, as their Interns will not be able to print up any excerpts to educate them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      Ohhh, suuure, everyone's all 'poor students' and 'students want to learn' and 'kids are important for the future' and 'boo hoo'. Well, if those lil bastards are all allowed to learn for free, there won't be anybody left who's dumb enough to pay licensing fees! Where's society then?!?! I'll tell you where: living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that's disproportionately Australian compared to anteapocalyptian global demographics.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 5:02pm

      Re:

      No it will finally force their teachers to install software to read electronic documents instead of making the students print out hard copies .....

      QUICK!!! someone get this information to the teachers unions, if anybody can kill it they can.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 12:52pm

    WE have seen how bots work on youtube ,
    they are constantly trying to get ad revenue or copyright strikes on videos that are fair use,
    parodys or commentary ,
    AS its really impossible to just program a database that
    will have all the data for this to work effectively.
    I thought you could no longer get patents on simply Do this
    function on a computer or computing device
    Unless you describe in detail how it performs this
    task.
    Youtube bots work using data from a list of songs and videos ,films ,
    sent to them by film companys and record companys .
    A company could just have a white list,
    of websites and domains in the printer,
    eg only print pages from this list .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jyjon, 18 May 2016 @ 1:08pm

    Privacy much?

    Do you really want your private Documents send out to the cloud to be scanned for copyright violations?

    Legal documents, Financial and Tax documents, Medical documents, Love letters, Ransom notes, $100 bills, etc. you trust corporation to do the right thing and not try and monetize that information?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 3:30pm

      Re: Privacy much?

      It also has the implication that your printer will sit there and do nothing unless it has a connection to the copyright checking server. If ithis technology became 'popular' or mandated, somebody could have fun DDOSing the servers, and stopping people from using their printers printing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mat (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 1:09pm

    And now no student ever will be able to print out a paper that quotes most famous speeches. "I have a dream" anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 18 May 2016 @ 1:15pm

    This isn't about copyright

    Parse this carefully:

    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.


    Nothing stops this mechanism from being used to suppress printing for other reasons. And that's the point of its existence. Mechanisms like this that are ostensibly designed to serve one purpose will quickly be utilized for others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 1:43pm

      Re: This isn't about copyright

      It's funny how we become what we were once fighting.

      Back in the day, we thought it funny that, in the Soviet Union, for instance, photocopiers were rare. And you had to have special permission to use one at all.

      That is because information is a powerful thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 1:18pm

    Nice defensive patent for the commons

    Note that most printers these days are also
    copiers and fax machines.

    Even if IBM were to buiLd such (they will not),
    it prevents other more evil companies from doing
    so.

    Let's say Evil Corp wanted to do so. Where is
    the repository to be located that will decide if
    there is some alledged copyright violation?

    Who will control and update the repository?

    Who will be responsible and liable for false
    positives?

    As a user, why would I want my document to be
    transmited over the net (even if encrypted during flight it could *NOT* be encrypted at rest).

    And now consider that I am a law firm.
    Possibly dealing with a copyright lawsuit.

    Bravo IBM. The best vapourware ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 1:26pm

    it helps legitimize the idea that everything we do -- even printing a document -- has to be checked for possible infringement
    It's been done for a long time now, to prevent people from copying money. Also watch out for printer steganography if you're buying a color printer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 12:14am

      Re:

      There's a massive difference between watermarking and currency counterfeit prevention, and checking every word you print in case it's too similar to something that someone else wrote.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 1:41pm

    You don't need a parser for that

    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.

    You don't need a parser for that.

    ALL material that you can print is copyrighted.

    Copyright exists the moment something if fixed in tangible form.

    There might be non-copyrighted material, such as works in the public domain, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 1:48pm

    Isn't this GREAT NEWS, though? This means that others won't be able to BLOCK unauthorized copying UNLESS they pay IBM royalties.

    So...thanks, IBM?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 1:50pm

    THOUGHT

    I thought there was a Clause in CR, about Personal USE..NOT for sale items..

    That you could MAKE something, for personal USE, and not worry about Paying anything to the Original creator..

    NOW if we are talking printed TEXT...this is to easy to Bypass, Augment, Facilitate, change...And the AMOUNTS of verification of DATA would depend on to many Formats, Backgrounds, Augmentations...

    So that if I TRIED to print out a Personal Use Document, a copy from a site, it would take 10 days to verify the data...
    Can you see trying to Print a CR recipe for Chocolate moose??

    This is worse then transcribing the Bible..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 2:10pm

    One point not so far laid out is how IBM plans to make money from this since they don't build printers/copiers. The first thought that comes to my mind is that IBM will actually create a service that all printer makers will need to reference to see if a work has a registered copyright (with a pay for access arrangement). AND that copyright owners (I was careful not to say authors), can "register" their works (for a fee). So IBM will collect fees for letting owners register works that they want protected, and printer manufacturers can build into their printers for a fee and then printer users can pay a fee to use the service. IBM gets lots of fees and they don't even have to manufacture printers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 3:07pm

    Wait until this tech makes it into 3D printers...Trying to print some figures for a miniatures game? Sorry, that design is protected under copyright. If you'd like to continue printing, please swipe your credit card. Thank you...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 18 May 2016 @ 3:08pm

    Let Them Patent It

    Then if anybody tries to make something so stupid, IBM can add to their business-failure woes by suing them.

    They would deserve each other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zem, 18 May 2016 @ 4:52pm

    Doomed to fail. There is so much prior art for this. I have a printer at home right now that won't print copyrighted material. It's called a brick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adm. M. Rogers, 18 May 2016 @ 10:55pm

    What's not to like?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 12:12am

    "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."

    Erm, isn't everything essentially copyrighted when you write it? Also, how would this authorisation be issued? What if the copyrighted material is indeed your own original work? I suspect what it means is that independent artists are locked out, unless they get corporate permission for a legacy company, but it's pretty vague. Especially if the plagiarism checker mentioned isn't easily fooled by changing a few words, meaning that original work is in danger of being misidentified.

    One final thought - is there really such a problem with people printing copyrighted material that someone is being paid to come up with this kind of thing? At least the whining about digital piracy makes some logical sense, if misguided, since the concern is largely that pricey physical copies are replaced but infinitely reproducible digital ones. Which real world problem is being targeted here?

    "This unauthorized printing can be problematic for copyright holders, such as book authors"

    Really? People are printing books on printers using ink more expensive by volume than vintage champagne at high levels, rather than buying a second hand copy or pirating a digital version? I really, really doubt that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 3:10am

    Start-up

    I've got an idea for an exploding pencil that blows your fingers off if you attempt to write down any copyrighted text. Anybody want to invest?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 8:26am

    No more Pentagon Papers,

    which is the real reason for this nonsense patent.

    The govt is cracking down on leakers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Grayzip, 19 May 2016 @ 10:57am

    This is almost as bad as sites that block ad block users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 10:58am

    Save the trees

    Now that I think about it, IBM is doing us all a service: by not letting people print things, people won't use as much paper. And by using less paper, think about all the trees we'll be saving.

    Society was supposed to be paper-less years ago, so now IBM is enforcing it. Most documents can be filled out and signed online, so why should anyone be printing anything?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kev, 21 May 2016 @ 2:20pm

    2 days

    Tops. That's how long I give hardware hackers to break this stupid DRM. Anything that can be locked can also be unlocked. At some the machine has to figure out: "Is this copyrighted?" and the source of that information can easily be changed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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