Sony has filed a patent that could be used to prevent piracy in its upcoming products, including possibly the PlayStation 4. According to the patent, users whose media fails a test could have their hardware "deactivated".
The patent describes a process that would check the time it takes to load media. That time would then be checked against a benchmark to see if the media is genuine. According to the flowchart attached to the patent, if the media fails the check within a reason number of attempts, the user will be “blocked”.
According to the patent, the process is: “A method for validating legitimate media products associated with a legitimate media type, the method comprising: loading a first media product having a first media type on a computing device; measuring a first load time for the first media product on the computing device; establishing a threshold range of acceptable first load times using a second load time associated with the legitimate media type; and determining whether the first load time is within the threshold range.”
The filing was submitted in August 2011 but has only just become public. It can be viewed online here.
The patent doesn’t explicitly explain what it means by blocked. However, it does say that the system will push "a deactivation key on the computing device if the failure count is at or above the acceptable threshold failure count." Whether that means it will simply prevent the software from running, or if it will kill the console is unclear.
However, Sony has blocked users from accessing the PlayStation Network in the past for modifying consoles so they can play pirated software.
Reports earlier in the year suggested that Sony was investigating an NFC-based anti-piracy system. However, this met with anger from the gaming community as it was seen as a method for blocking second hand game sales.