NBC Universal patents a method for hunting users downloading pirated material
Entertainment giant NBC Universal has patented a new technology, which targets large-scale swarms of torrent users in the hunt for copyright infringers, including those using BitTorrent.
The patent, “Early Detection of High Volume Peer-To-Peer swarms,” has been issued by USPTO to Comcast’s NBC Universal. The system is set up to detect popular pirated files shared by large groups of people on peer-to-peer networks in real-time and gather data that can be used for anti-piracy purposes, business intelligence, etc.
When there are many users involved in sharing the verified file, it will raise an alarm so appropriate action, like alerting the ISP or filing a lawsuit, can be taken. As reported by TorrentFreak, NBC Universal could license the technology to stop the spread of large-scale pirating before swarms become too big to control.
The patent describes P2P in general as something that can be positive, but is often abused.
“While the P2P infrastructure has many advantages, it also has led to abuses. Piracy of digital assets on peer-to-peer networks incurs losses by content owners estimated in billions of dollars annually.”
The high volume traffic produced by BitTorrent pirates also poses a problem for ISPs. Pirates tend to strain the network, which can become costly in terms of resources, the patent explains.
To address these issues NBC Universal proposes to monitor file-sharing swarms. Once a swarm exceeds a threshold of a certain number of users, alarm bells will ring so appropriate action can be taken.
The patent sums up the invention as “a system that provides for early identification of high risk swarms to enable a more proactive stance towards anti-piracy efforts.”
“The early detection provides for enhanced anti-piracy efforts, improved allocation of network resources, and better business decision-making,” it adds.
To use swarm data to limit or block file-sharing traffic is the most controversial suggestion. According to the patent, this may be useful for ISPs to save costs.
“Alternatively, the network provider may proceed to diminish or cap network resources once some limit of data activity is met. In certain aspects the processing for the high risk swarms also indicates the high volume swarms and allows for traffic shaping for the ISPs.”
However, it is unclear if NBC Universal has plans to implement its patented concept, or if it’s worth doing so. TorrentFreak noted that the conglomerate’s parent company Comcast faced serious backlash when it tried to regulate BitTorrent traffic back in 2007.