Microsoft applies for Big Brother DRM patent

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 7, 2012
Microsoft, Security

Digital Rights Management comes in a number of forms. It can limit your ability to copy or distribute a file or media, restrict your access to a certain period of time, or limit the number of views or times you can access the data. Microsoft Corporation's latest patent application may add another option to that list: views per user.

The patent application describes a content presentation system and method that enables content providers to regulate content presentation based on user views rather than only on time or device. The content provider may limit access to the content in a number of ways:

  • Limit access to the content by number of total views.
  • Limit access to a certain amount of views over a specified period of time.
  • To a number of simultaneous views.
  • Views limited to user age
  • Combinations of 1-4

A device needs to be present that enables the monitoring of users accessing the contents to make sure that the number of users viewing the content does not exceed the licensed content. This may mean devices that monitor a room to determine the number of users in it. Two images included with the patent application depict a living room where a webcam and Microsoft Kinect are used to monitor the number of users that are accessing the contents.

big brother patent


The Summary clearly states the following:

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.

The patent application clearly highlights that this is consumer related, not something that you may expect to see in bars, public viewing or other locations where large numbers of people gather to consume media. It may be the next step in a system - using licensing - that is favoring content creators over consumers. Instead of just providing consumers with a license of a digital product, a game, music or video, content creators can now go a step further and limit the content to individual users.

Maybe you will have different options when you buy digital goods online, so that you need to decide whether you want to buy a one user license, a two user license or a family license. It could also be used to block the media if the system detects a group of people in the room to block "unauthorized" public viewings.

The big question though is if consumers are willed to be tracked when they consume media and whether they are willed to pay more money for multi-user licenses.. I can only speak for myself, but I do not. I won't be using a system that tracks me in my own home, nor will I make a purchase that is limiting the content to a certain number of users or views. I rather do without any of that before I willingly let someone else monitor me and my family.


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  1. David said on November 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

    We can complain all we want, it will not change anything. In 50 years, this sort of thing will be commonplace and consumers will have adapted to it.

    In a capitalist system, content creators need to be paid for their work. With all the ‘free’ sharing going on on the internet now, how do they get paid what they’re owed. Producers of anything need to be paid.

    We already have cameras monitoring public places to help and protect us. Businesses have cameras to help and protect them. Security companies sell us systems to let us watch our pets (and anything else) when we’re away and photograph any who break in to help in tracking the crooks down.

    It is the next logical step that public and private monitoring of what we consume be done to help and protect us and spread the cost fairly. This is how it will be sold to us and we are already a good way down that road.

  2. Tim said on November 7, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    “I won’t be using a system that tracks me in my own home”

    Agreed. I just read an article on Boing Boing about Razer Naga gaming mice requiring an internet connection and needing to connect to their servers to use it’s functions. So they force you to create an account, and agree to their Terms of Service, of which gives them the rights to collect aggregate information, individual information, and personally identifiable information.

    Basically, just to use the mouse properly you have to allow it to connect to the internet and agree to allow them the rights to spy on you. I mean, WTF?!? Why do they need this for just a mouse? It’s getting ridiculous.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      That sounds stupid. I can understand that you may need an Internet connection to download game profiles for the mouse, if the mouse supports that, or updates. But a connection for anything else or the requirement to create an account? Sorry, I take my money elsewhere.

  3. Roman ShaRP said on November 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I totally agree with you, Martin.

    “I won’t be using a system that tracks me in my own home, nor will I make a purchase that is limiting the content to a certain number of users or views.”

  4. Shawn said on November 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    DRM Removal System

    Get a Y-Split and voila every other person can watch it on the second tv.

    Can someone write a patent preventing patent submissions?

    Patenting Patents subimssions… and no more dumb ideas like this will ever hit the markets.

  5. Wayfarer said on November 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I used to think that old adage about goose and golden eggs was wasted on huge firms like MS – couldn’t they see the dangers in alienating their customer base?

    But perhaps I’m wrong and they simply know their market. So many people I know don’t give a damn about privacy or security as long as they have the latest cool gadget or game. Those who do care seem to be in a minority these days, and I suppose MS are fully aware of that.

    I won’t touch any DRM-ed device, be it Kindle or iPlayer or whatever. Not just because I don’t like DRM (honest people don’t need it – pirates don’t care) but because I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for a machine dedicated more to the sellers’ priorities than to mine.

  6. Dr.Dandy said on November 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Why don’t we just expedite things and have these big media companies take direct deductions from our pay cheques. It kills me to see how much of our money these companies take just for media or communications.

    We’re starting to pay more to these media companies than we pay for taxes.

  7. Jim said on November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Textbook example of how to drive your customers away. DRM is why I use third-party media suites instead of the media player that comes with Windows. Their drawing makes it pretty clear this would be tied to a Kinect-type device. I guess there will never be one of those in my house. Same reason I don’t own a BluRay player. The quality does not offset the hassle, cost, and inconvenience for me.

  8. Bart Degryse said on November 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Sickening idea!

  9. ilev said on November 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

    And I though the days of DRM are over :-(

  10. Jeff said on November 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Stick an action figure in front of the camera and call it a day.

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