Anyone who follows the tech scene knows that the patent wars can get incredibly frustrating, but it’s relatively rare that they get downright frightening. Microsoft has a new patent that does exactly that, though. It’s one of the most frightening things I’ve read in some time.
They’ve patented a technology that would allow cameras, such as the Kinect system, to monitor how many people are viewing content, such as a movie, and check the licensing terms of that movie, and enforce the terms of the license accordingly.
This means that if you have a license for home viewing that covers 4 people viewing at once (I’m choosing 4 arbitrarily, for the sake of argument) but you’ve got a couple of friends over and have 6 people crowded around your TV, the system would track that you have more people watching than you’re licensed for. At that point it might stop playback, or prompt you to upgrade your license to one that covers additional people.
This patent is applicable to more than just home consoles. It could be implemented in smartphones, tablets, even be built right into new consumer displays. In other words, you might not have the option of simply unplugging the Kinect from your XBox. It’s the sort of thing that, if pursued, would be rather more broadly deployed than that.
What’re your thoughts on this? It hardly seems necessary to ask how you feel about agencies like the MPAA having this level of control in your private residences, but we’d really love for you to comment.