NBCUniversal Patent Targets Pirates

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NBCUniversal last week earned a US patent that could help curb piracy of copyrighted material.

Aimed at peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent, the entertainment giant's system works in real time to identify "high-volume swarms"—or files being shared by large groups of people. After identifying a swarm, "various response measures can be quickly commenced," the patent says, such as notifying the offender's Internet service provider "or other legal actions."

"The early detection provides for enhanced anti-piracy efforts, improved allocation of network resources, and better business decision-making," the patent filing says.

"While the P2P infrastructure has many advantages, it also has led to abuses," NBCUniversal wrote in the 2009 document. "Piracy of digital assets on peer-to-peer networks incurs losses by content owners estimated in billions of dollars annually."

Filed in 2009 but awarded this month, the patent's tech may be outdated, TorrentFreak notes, so—as with any patented technology—we might not see this system ever put into use. NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.

As TorrentFreak notes, one of the more controversial aspects of the patent would allow for blocking of file-sharing traffic. "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 indicate the high volume swarms and allows for traffic shaping for the ISPs," it reads.

This could get net neutrality advocates in a tizzy, but it's not technically illegal, TorrentFreak says.

BitTorrent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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