Microsoft’s Patent Uses Camera To Police Entertainment Content Licenses

Microsoft has apparently filed for a patent that uses a camera device to determine how many people are watching a given piece of entertainment to make sure the consumer isn't abusing the license they purchased… The patent the company has filed for is titled "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User" and allows content providers to "regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis."

Here is a deeper, more alarming description of the patent:

"Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated license option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. The limitation may comprise a number of user views, a number of user views over time, a number of simultaneous user views, views tied to user identities, views limited to user age or any variation or combination thereof, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content. "

"Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content … The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken." So if you are watching a movie and you didn't buy enough licenses for it (wait, are we in a movie theater or our living rooms?? – ED.) apparently this system would stop playing the content so you could purchase more licenses.

Realistically users would simply point that camera device watching you like Big Brother in 1984 towards the flipping ceiling assuming that it isn't built into whatever device you are using – apparently the patent covers mobile devices too…

The patent isn't specifically tied to Kinect, but there is a paragraph in the patent filing about gaming consoles and a camera device:

"Environment 612, with capture device 620, may be used to recognize, analyze, and/or track human (and other types of) targets," that patent declares. "For example, a user within the display area of the display 616 [the television] may be tracked using the capture device 620 such that the gestures and/or movements of the user may be captured to determine the number of people present, whether users are viewing content and/or may be interpreted as controls that may be used to affect the application being executed by computing environment 612. Such information may also be used to determine whether the tracked user is viewing content presented by a content provider."

Source: Eurogamer. Image also via Eurogamer.

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  1. 0
    DorkmasterFlek says:

    And millions of Kinects would promptly be thrown in the trash, and Microsoft would probably have a class action lawsuit on their hands if they try a stunt like this.  I have zero doubt that such a move would instantly destroy pretty much all good will that consumers have towards the Kinect.  I would personally never buy a Microsoft product again.  I doubt I'm the only one.

  2. 0
    djnforce9 says:

    This sounds like something a "troll" would come with. I highly doubt it will ever see the light of day. Maybe Microsoft patented it just so someone else does not do it at all. At least it would prevent others from attempting something so outrageous. If there really is a viewer limit in the license of digital content, then that is a gaping flaw that should be stripped out as it's both absurd and cannot be enforced without insane measures like a "head count camera".

    Kind of reminds me of the e-Magazine that is supposed to go completely blank when it detects that someone other than the original buyer is viewing it (or something to that effect).

  3. 0
    Overcast says:

    I only need to get one game now to run on Linux Microsoft – and I'm done with you. No new X-box for me now for SURE!

    No windows Phone either, and with some luck – no need for Windows 8 at all. I think this really pushes it too far now.

    Sure, I could buy it and put tape over the camera – but that's tacky.

    This is good news for Sony, spread the word folks.

  4. 0
    Neeneko says:

    You know, I would love to work in one of these skunkworks…..

    I doubt Microsoft has any intent or delusion about actually building such a thing, but they have an entire division of people who's job it is to come up with this crazy stuff.

    Actually, years ago, there really was a group within MS that all they did was fiddle and come up with crazy tech.  It wasn't actually intended to go to market, it existed primarily as a place to hire and dump talented designers so other companies could not scoop them up.  Not sure if they are still doing this though, since I doubt they could manage it today.

  5. 0
    Imautobot says:

    It's bad enough they force people to pay for XBL service just to access pay subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, and to access their IE web browser.  This is simply the straw that broke the camels back.  The big brother metaphor is accurate and fitting.  I don't think I'll be buying their next console, though I'm not pleased with the competitions net security either, so I'm conflicted.

  6. 0
    DorkmasterFlek says:

    Honestly, I think this is one of those things where they're just hedging their bets by patenting anything they think of.  I really, seriously doubt that they're actually going to implement this.  I can't see consumers actively buying TVs and media devices with this feature, assuming that they aren't using them for other purposes (like, you know, games).  The only way this could possibly be commercially viable is if they manage to pass a law mandating that all "screen viewing devices" are equipped with such a camera that cannot be disabled or pointed away from the direction of the screen.

    And even if they did manage this incredible feat, I have no doubt that enterprising individuals will hack those devices to pieces to disable and/or completely remove said camera, which would necessitate 1984-style thought police performing random inspections of your media equipment to make sure you aren't violating any of these ridiculous laws.

    So yeah, I'm not saying we shouldn't be on guard for this kind of shit or fight back against it.  But no, this ain't happening.

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