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IBM invents printer that checks for copyrights

By: Shaun Nichols | 18 May 2016

I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you print that

printer that checks for copyrights

IBM has filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a patent on a printer that checks for copyright violations.

Big Blue's application describes a device that can check print jobs for text or images that have already been copyrighted, and then delete or block the infringing content from being printed.

"The computer, in response to identifying any text, images, or formatting indicative of potential copyrighted material, identifies potential copyrighted material within the file," the application reads.

"The computer determines whether the file may be printed based, at least in part, on the identified potential copyrighted material."

IBM notes that in addition to simply checking for infringing or copied content, the device could take into account additional factors such as licensing types, ownership rights, and number of prints allowed for a document.

The proposed system would pair the copyright-conscious printer with a server holding the copyright database itself. Upon receiving a print job, the printer would then query the database to check for possible infringement.

ibm printer that checks for copyrights

A description of the copyright-checking process

The application was filed on April 15, 2015. The inventors are Sasikanth Eda, Deepak Ghuge, Sridhar Puvvala, and Riyazahamad Shiraguppi, all working for IBM in India.

Lest you worry of a Big Blue Big Brother box that lords over all your documents, keep in mind that patent applications are usually filed extremely early in the development process, and often the technologies described never reach the market in any form.

Still, it is not hard to see a practical application for the copyright-conscious printers in environments such as libraries or schools, where administrators would seek to limit the possibility of infringement from users wanting to print out partial or entire works.


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