Sony has come up with a method of detecting pirated software which it thinks is simple enough to overcome a lot of the problems of DRM.
DRM systems are usually complicated, easy to break and often punish those who bought the software legitimately.
According to application 20130047267, which was spotted by Dvice, published in the US Patent and Trademark Office this month, devices using this technology will be able to identify whether a game is legitimate based on the amount of time it takes to load into the device.
It is a fairly simple idea. Pirates would have a real job getting cracked software to be the same size as the original. The time factor also makes it easier to tell if the content is “illegally transferred or pirated to another, unauthorised media type”.
It also makes it harder for pirates to reverse engineer such technology and circumvent the protections.
In theory a device will have a threshold of load time for legitimate content. If the media doesn’t pass the validation in terms of load time, the user would be unable to access the content, Sony said in its application.
Of course there are a few things that could still go wrong. It is also possible for drives to be faster, for example, that some games can be sped up by replacing a Playstation’s hard drive with a faster solid state drive. The patent says that could be solved by encoding the DRM with times for each type of drive. It would check it against a benchmark load time for that media type. This comparison is used to detect if the title may have been illegally transferred or pirated to another, unauthorised media type. Much of the success of this would depend on whether Sony can keep a hardware database up to date.
Harder to factor in is the fact that damaged Blu-ray disks have slower loading times. Software might not authenticate because it loaded slower due to a scratch on the disk. Any disk-reading laser degrades over time, which can lead to slower read speeds. If Sony’s DRM factors in those sorts of hardware problems it is not going to be any use as DRM.