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NBC Universal Patents a Way To Detect BitTorrent Pirates In Real-Time (ndtv.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: NBC Universal has been granted a patent, titled "Early detection of high volume peer-to-peer networks in real-time," to try and restrict piracy of its copyrighted content. "Early detection of high volume swarms in a peer-to-peer network, including a data feed of peer-to-peer swarm activity, and an analytics engine processing the data feed and identifying the high volume swarms that have parameters that exceed a threshold. The system can include a pre-processing section for conditioning the swarm data for the analytics section. There can also be a verification section that confirms that the peer download file matches the target file," notes the patent document issued by USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). "The early detection provides for enhanced anti-piracy efforts, improved allocation of network resources, and better business decision-making," it adds. NBC Universal says that the "P2P infrastructure has many advantages" but it has also led to abuses. Piracy is estimated to cost content owners billions of dollars annually. "These costs are typically passed along to the consuming public in terms of increased costs for legitimate purchased works and higher charges for increased deterrents to the piracy," NBC Universal added. The patent NBC Universal received was applied for back in 2009, but only granted last week.
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NBC Universal Patents a Way To Detect BitTorrent Pirates In Real-Time

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  • So. . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fl_litig8r ( 904972 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @04:51PM (#52499807)
    So, they've had this ability for 7 years. How's that worked out for them? The fact that they're getting a patent on a process that hasn't stopped their content from being pirated doesn't seem like that big a deal. I think the decline in the quality of their content is a bigger deterrent to piracy than anything else they've done.
    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Good point.

      Oddly, this seems less like something I'd want to patent (and describe publicly) than something I'd want to keep as secret sauce for myself.

      After all, as soon as the method is well known, it can be worked around.

      This leads me to believe that this works just enough to try and make money on it, but not well enough to actually be worth keeping close to the vest.

      • Re:So. . . (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @05:12PM (#52500011)

        You're assuming there's secret sauce. It sounds like the do a search for whatever their TV show is, and draw a pretty graph of the number of seeders and leechers. There can optionally be a "a verification section that confirms that the peer download file matches the target file."

        Sounds like a pretty standard waste of the patent office's time.

        • by Ace17 ( 3804065 )
          Please note that it doesn't have to work to be patented.
          • They should patent the production of unentertainment content. That would allow them to compensate for their losses due to... making unentertainment content.

    • Actually, there is a lot of quality content available out there. The biggest hangup seems to be that they are overcharging users for access. Game of Thrones can be watched via an HBO subscription or an HBO Go subscription... or, downloaded for free. HBO/Go is $15 a month, versus Netflix's approximately $10 a month and Amazon Prime's $99 a year.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They are probably hoping that if they patent all the anti-piracy methods then when they find the magic one that turns pirates into paying customers they can get rich and stop all the other media companies using the same technique.

      Too bad for them that the magic pirate->customer conversion formula is already well known and too obvious to patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I see a time when it will be much easier to track this kind of activity and apparently it's not too far off. As sales dwindle for digital content the increase to stop illegal downloads will increase. Heck, is there anything worth downloading illegally anyway? Why risk it when you end up with a lousy copy that maybe doesn't work and has ate up a ton of your data. Just to find out the content sucked anyway.

    • by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @05:03PM (#52499935) Homepage Journal

      "Heck, is there anything worth downloading illegally anyway?"

      Old movies.

      • Although in many cases, these can be found as physical media on Amazon etc. There's something nice about having a shelf full of "classics" up beside the TV

        The really old stuff I'm not sure they'd even bother to be monitoring.

        • by Jhon ( 241832 )

          I completely agree. There's a host of old movies I'd love to own on DVD/Bluray that I doubt I ever will -- because they have expired copyright. There's no money to be made by some of the holders of the only existing physical media to give it the treatment it deserves. The best I can do is find 3rd rate VHS rips to DVD.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Heck, is there anything worth downloading illegally anyway?"

      Music. Roms. Software. Movies. TV shows. Books.

    • Not that I condone piracy, but if you're getting crap and/or exposing yourself to any risk, you're doing it wrong.

  • So when's Universal going to be slapped with a CFAA lawsuit? You just know that they have to be interacting with systems they don't have rights to to do this.
  • Even more on why comcast sucks like I want to download shows off of NBC.

  • When will the content producers realize that "Pirates" are not lost sales. They never were sales, thus estimating losses is pointless. The only way to really combat a large number of people wanting something for free is to make it accessible for a price the population is willing to pay. It also doesn't help that everybody wants such a tight grip on their own stuff that they force consumers (not pirates) to find simpler routes to the content, that don't involve first borns or animal sacrifice.

    For our vis
    • by Jhon ( 241832 )

      "When will the content producers realize that "Pirates" are not lost sales. "

      You are wrong. They are lost sales -- just not a 1:1 ratio. I have no doubt that many folks who would download the latest Avengers flick for free would actually purchase it if that were the only avenue to have it. Not all. Probably not most. But I doubt it's an insignificant number.

      That's just for the content. For TV specifically, the lost "sales" are not JUST "sales" of the show(s) -- the lost sales are also to ADVERTISERS -

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So lost sales in terms of exactly the opposite of this lie "These costs are typically passed along to the consuming public in terms of increased costs for legitimate purchased works and higher charges for increased deterrents to the piracy". So piracy does reduce the sold price of content and not increase it.

        So the lie is to claim, people will eat less, not buy clothes, live on the street instead of paying rent, have no furniture and instead give all their money to drunken drugged up minstrels and their

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        "You are wrong. They are lost sales -- just not a 1:1 ratio."

        How do you know this, where is your data? I never used to watch super hero movies, like the Marvel and DC ones, they were never my thing I thought, until I did actually download the first Avengers movie and really liked it. As a result I bought it on Bluray along with all the other surrounding films like Captain America, Iron Man, and some of the DC ones like Green Lantern.

        Not only was my pirated copy of Avengers not a lost sale, it actually has n

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Science says you're wrong. On average, movie piraters spend about 2x more money on movie entertainment, like going out to movies and purchasing movies. Science has also shown that people who pirate increase demand in others. Pirating is as much a "lost sale" as advertising that fails to influence 100% of its viewers.
    • I spend $1000-$2000 on Humble Bundles per year.

      I haven't pirated a single game during this time.

      I guess there are a few which do a little of both because they need to own the product for online play or really want stats or skins or whatever but beyond that there are of course those who buy their product and those who don't.

      They are free to argue that if everyone HAD to pay then more WOULD pay and as such they could deliver more expensive to make products.

      But now that's not the scenario and the pirates are i

    • First, as other people have commented, a percentage of pirates are lost sales.

      The Oatmeal cartoon is pretty flawed. First, iTunes and Amazon take a nasty cut from content, so I can understand content providers not using those services. Secondly, Netflix and Hulu are being paid, sure. But "I'm paying someone" and "I'm buying something" are really different. I mean, it's not like Netflix needed to pay extra for GoT, cause you're already subscribed. And it's not like GoT can be carried for free.

      But yeah,

    • If I knew that the money I was spending was actually making it to the people who create the content I'd be much more inclined to slap down the money.

      When I know 90% of it is going to RIAA and MPAA soulless leeches and lawyers to sue grandmas with, not so much.

  • Correction: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @04:54PM (#52499853) Journal
    Where TFA reads:

    Piracy is estimated to cost content owners billions of dollars annually.

    It should read:

    Piracy is estimated to cost ADVERTISERS billions of dollars annually.

    It's television, folks; the only people making any money off this are the advertisers. Oh and by the way? Most of us aren't paying any attention to your damned commercials anyway. We skip right over them, one way or another. Personally if I couldn't do that, I'd go back to the Old Days of just muting them and paying attention to something else until the program came back on. Or, if I couldn't use a DVR anymore for some reason I'd probably stop watching TV completely, since little-to-none of it would fit into my schedule anymore. So how about you stop whining about 'piracy', NBC (and television in general), at least we're watching your damned shows at all. Look at it this way: You're getting people interested in watching your shows this way. Make it too much of a pain in the ass, and many people just won't bother.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      We need to come up with a better way of paying for content. The Netflix model of a low monthly fee isn't bad, but of course every shitty network wants to have their own service and the cost quickly gets silly. Either we need one low monthly payment for everything, or maybe a way to do nano-transactions. Like â0.10 for an episode. Maybe â0.50 for a brand new high production value show. Less if there are restrictions/DRM etc.

      Don't tell me tiny transactions don't work, phone companies have been charg

      • If they embedded the same commercials in television shows streamed over the internet that they embed in OTA broadcasts and offered them for free streaming, then that would make the most sense, but the problem with this is that it's never been about what's 'fair' or 'good for the viewers', it's about 'squeezing every last penny they can out of viewers regardless of whether it's fair or not'. I'm 51 years old. When I was a kid we had B&W all-tube (i.e. not solid-state) television in the house, and an ante
  • by Anonymous Coward

    they implement something like this on comcast? what's the rate on false positives? what will they do when they 'detect' something 'unwanted'?

    feds, still think it was wise to approve such a large merger, combining so much content with two different, and conflicting, delivery mechanisms?

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @04:57PM (#52499883)

    ... the installation of some software on various nodes of the Internet backbone? Because I have a patent for a piece of software that replies to any such request to install such software with a reference to the response given in Arkell v Pressdram [lettersofnote.com].

  • by SumDog ( 466607 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @04:58PM (#52499891) Homepage Journal

    They'd have to introduce this at the ISP level, similar to how Time Warner Cable sends cease and desist letters to people if they detect you're torrenting their or their partners' content (a friend of mine got one for HBO shows. They required him to run a script on his computer verifying the file was deleted. WTF?!)

    But the thing is, people who get massive amounts of content this way don't BT to their machines! Most use seedboxes and rsync back to their home machines. They're only going to get the people who are not big in the game (relatively).

    Plus, once you identify, the next phase may be blocking at the ISP level. Then you get into censorship, network neutrality, etc.

    Fuck everything about this.

  • Comcast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @05:06PM (#52499949) Homepage

    Can we just have the article renamed to Comcast instead of NBC Universal, since they're the same danm company? This is similar how they always file their lawsuits under the the RIAA/MPAA names, to mask who's doing the bullshit.

    The reality is that Comcast doesn't want you to use your Comcast connection to download Comcast content without using the Comcast approved DRM software. WOAH, I'M STARTING TO SOUND JUST LIKE THE APPS GUY ON HERE NOW!

    • Well, what this really is, is Comcast/Universal/NBC seeing that their outdated advertising model is dying, they're not making the money off it they used to, and they think that clamping down on people downloading 'content' (that they could get OTA for free, anyway) is somehow going to 'fix' that for them and suddenly they'll be rolling in cash again. In the meantime you don't see them trying to make DVRs illegal, do you? When you can record shows from an OTA antenna for free, and nobody is the wiser, and yo
  • from one market to another so there is no money lost, it just gets spent somewhere else. It fuels other market segment and might even generate more tax from sales/services for the gov. NOW that is if you believe every download means a lost sale. I got 800+ reason to download my dvd collection when I feel like it and delete the digital file when I don't want it anymore.

  • Bring it on! If anti-piracy becomes 99.99% effective then we'll start seeing a lot more open source projects/free projects. Right now, there are thousands of developers/ICT guys with a lot of spare time being dedicated to consuming Hollywood content. Kick them off that gravy train and see what happens. Noone is going to start spending money they don't have on stuff they don't need.
  • ...we spend more money tracking down people pirating movies than we do tracking down people who topple sky scrapers.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If it were a matter of capitalism, you wouldn't be using the term "we"; you'd be referring to "they".

  • Really?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord_Rion ( 15642 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @05:37PM (#52500189)

    Soooo.....

    IF people didn't pirate the content, you would sell it for cheaper??

    I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night....

  • its not the the pirates didn't catch on 7 years ago and start encrypting all the torrents.
  • By filing a patent, the techniques are all now publicly available, including to the designers of torrent clients. With these techniques made public, it won't be long before a new generation of torrent software is available which can circumvent those techniques.
  • When they lower the cost for a movie, I'll believe that piracy results in increased costs.
  • NBC Universal says that the "UPTO has many advantages" but it has also led to abuses

  • Are they planning to sue every other content provider which tries to detect piracy?

  • I care less and less about what Hollywood has to offer, endless reboots of movies and tv entertainment filled with shameless product placements to pay for the insane paychecks.
    Maybe it is just that I am getting old and have seen most of what they have to offer before, just in another wrapping.
    I like youtube now and all the amateurs videos you see around their(not the professionel "youtubers" so much).

  • I know a guy who knows a guy who does the following to help protect his torrenting actions... 1) he uses a blocklist of the known IPs of the MPAA, RIAA, their attorneys, and media content owners (ie: NBC)... 2) has his torrent client configured to be encrypted and only connect to encrypted peers... 3) uses a free VPN service and routes all traffic through the VPN in a foreign country while torrenting. So I'm curious... does the above detection in the patent still have bearing with what is essentially double
  • "Piracy is estimated to cost content owners billions of dollars annually. "These costs are typically passed along to the consuming public in terms of increased costs for legitimate purchased works and higher charges for increased deterrents to the piracy,""

    did anyone else read this as "we think we should be making more money than we are, so we will blame pirating and charge more for our stuff".

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