back to article Disney mulls Mickey Mouse magic material to thwart pirates' 3D scans

Disney's Imagineers have dreamed up a scheme to fight counterfeiting with a form of stealth technology. In a patent application disclosed earlier this month, Disney researchers describe a process for creating merchandise with a material that resists scanning through light distortion. By mixing a light-scattering plastic into …

  1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Disney complaining about others ripping them off?

      As a parent who's been asked to part with twenty quid for half a dozen Frozen characters, none of them more than 2 inches high, I can't imagine how a market for pirate 3D printing has arisen, Walt.

      Give Elsa a Girlfriend and you'll win me back.

    2. g e

      Re: Disney complaining about others ripping them off?

      Surely you just spray the item to be scanned with matt black paint or something first?

      1. User McUser

        Re: Disney complaining about others ripping them off?

        Surely you just spray the item to be scanned with [matte] black paint or something first?

        Or just take molds of them and cast your own copies to scan.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disney complaining about others ripping them off?

        Using different light wavelengths may work, as may a coating of oil, soot, or an suitable evaporation chamber coating (like the anti-reflective coating for glasses). It may not even matter if the original is damaged/disfigured by the surface treatment.

        For 3D printed goods, there may need to be tag finding/removing post processing, because some goods may have a on-off tag code to identify which 'original' copies were made from!

    3. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Pint

      Paraphrasing, but...

      The more you tighten your grip, the more merchandise will slip through your fingers.

  2. Rusty 1
    WTF?

    Workaround

    You bring your patent pending magical stealth technology, I'll bring a can of spray paint.

    1. Unep Eurobats
      Holmes

      Re: Workaround

      It doesn't have to work perfectly. Anything that makes things even slightly more difficult for the counterfeiters will still reduce piracy.

      1. sqlrob
        FAIL

        Re: Workaround

        No making it more difficult will not reduce piracy.

        It just takes one when a digital file is produced. There's no way this will make it so hard that it's financially unreasonable to do. The workarounds already shown here are more than sufficient.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: Workaround

          Although I wonder if the 3-D scanners are also scanning paint colours, in which case painting over it before scanning may not be the best solution - might make it a 2-step process, though...

          1. Tachikoma

            Re: Workaround

            Although I wonder if the 3-D scanners are also scanning paint colours, in which case painting over it before scanning may not be the best solution - might make it a 2-step process, though...

            Some can do this, but the kind your average nerd interested in knocking out bootleg toys will be using a cheap scanner that just uses a laser to create a point cloud with no colour information.

    2. Andrew Moore

      Re: Workaround

      Exactly my thought- a good coat of matt paint would defeat this...

    3. Tachikoma

      Re: Workaround

      Came to say the same thing, some 3D scanners already come with a powder you apply to the subject to solve the issues of scanning reflective surfaces, a Poundland can of car body paint will have the same result.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: Workaround

        or matt varnish...

        This is like the multi-million pound CD copy protection that was defeated with a marker pen.

    4. G2
      Holmes

      Re: Workaround

      spray paint is too much material.

      i would just use an old vacuum cleaner.... more precisely the filled-up DUST BIN of an old vacuum cleaner.

      a very fine layer of dust will cover all their crap and is much thinner than paint... and much better when 3D scanning an object.

      why do you think all detective stories use carbon dust or talcum powder/magnesium carbonate powder for scanning fingerprints?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Workaround

        "why do you think all detective stories use carbon dust or talcum powder/magnesium carbonate powder for scanning fingerprints?"

        Because they don't know real detection uses aluminium powder.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good luck with the additive.

    So you use materials that cause a 3D scan to get (slightly) corrupted, essentially introducing 3D DRM.

    Solution is to make multiple scans using different devices, compare the various scans, & discard the data that doesn't exist in all of them. You're left with a single scan data file that contains none of the corruptions, allowing you to print off the original with ease.

    Anything you (in this case the fuckers at Disney) can do hackers can do quicker, cheaper, & ultimately better.

    So good luck with your attempts at pseudo-3D-DRM, it'll get stripped & tossed aside like the useless cruft that you are.

  4. DougS Silver badge

    And if they don't use only one method to scan?

    What about sonar? What about different frequencies of light?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solid DRM

    The pirate version without the adulterant will end up being superior to the original.

    1. Not also known as SC

      Re: Solid DRM

      You can just imagine the problems if they did introduce some sort of DRM to artifical hip joints etc - Hipsney Corp has decided to withdraw your version of Hipjoint (TM) and will 'deactivate' it via an OTA update in the next twenty one days. Sounds like a good starting point for a novel.

      1. Vector

        @ Not also known as SC Re: Solid DRM

        "Sounds like a good starting point for a novel."

        Actually, a rock opera:

        Repo! The Genetic Opera

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: @ Not also known as SC Solid DRM

          "Repo! The Genetic Opera"

          I saw bits of that one night- it was.... bizarre, especially not seeing the opening parts of it and having no clue what was going on until I google'd it.

          1. SolidSquid

            Re: @ Not also known as SC Solid DRM

            It really is a strange movie, but a surprisingly good one. It was made by the guy behind the Saw films, apparently he self funded it with the money from Saw after pitching it prior to Saw and getting no support from any production companies

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Solid DRM

      "The pirate version without the adulterant will end up being superior to the original."

      But they'd better incorporate anti-piracy measures or else they might get pirated themselves.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Solid DRM

        The pirates have the advantage of competitive pricing vs their piracy rivals. I believe it is called something like a 'free market' in some places. :-)

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    So?

    None of you are sympathetic toward a company that mercilessly exploits children and thereby their parents?

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    How will the human eye see it if it distorts light? Will Mickey look like Minnie?

    1. nijam

      > Will Mickey look like Minnie?

      As long as neither of them end up looking like mice...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How will the human eye see it?

      Just wondering, do they have rights for Edward The Sparkling Vampire?

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Interesting

    So, the company actually based on real theft, right from the day Disney shafted his business partner is still trying (and failing) to stop anyone else copying them.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are they going to call it flubber?

    1. LaeMing Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Flubber

      OMG! One of the few movies in my life I couldn't get even half way through watching, even for free!

  10. Digbythedog

    Am I missing something here? Cant the part being copied just be sprayed with paint and then scanned?

    1. Captain DaFt

      Think misdirection about the real purpose of the additive.

      I don't think it's real purpose is to stop the counterfeiting, but a quick way to spot the non distorting counterfeits.

      1. Anonymous C0ward

        ...spot the non distorting counterfeits

        In which case, you buy filament with the distorting chemical, or process your own from pellets.

      2. LaeMing Silver badge

        I think its purpose, like all prior iterations of DRM, is to remove money from dumb companies.

    2. Tachikoma

      I'm thinking this is a clever inverse-Streisand sales pitch by Disney, tell a world of geeks that they can't 3D scan something and thousands will go out and buy said overpriced tat to prove that it can.

  11. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Hmmm

    On the one hand a simple method for a company that designs and produces items to secure its designs and the jobs of its staff seems a very sensible, reasonable thing.

    On the other hand, this sort of item is probably easy to copy because it's designed to be cheap to make and expensive to buy.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Hmmm

      Yup, music and video all over again. Remove the artificial scarcity and see what people think it's really worth. If the brand name is not enough, maybe Disney will have to find a way of adding real value to a 1c piece of plastic. Put a bar code on her butt and enable the princess to access licensed content that is kid safe and not as creepy as some of the internet enabled spy toys we have seen so far. The plastic should be merely the gateway not the final product.

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        maybe Disney will have to find a way of adding real value to a 1c piece of plastic. Put a bar code on her butt and enable the princess to access licensed content that is kid safe and not as creepy as some of the internet enabled spy toys we have seen so far

        As opposed to Disney Infinity, which they somehow managed to not make any money off of even with the entire universe of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars captive characters?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or alternatively....

    ...they just get the original design from the sweat shop in China where they are made.

    1. yet_another_wumpus

      Re: Or alternatively....

      This also works for those "counterfeit" aircraft parts that they are so worried about. Not that the original outsourcers couldn't make a bundle with unauthorized extras (and sending an aircraft to "disappear" into a chopshop would appear as all "official" parts).

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Or alternatively....

      ...they just get the original design from the sweat shop in China where they are made.

      I had heard rumor this was how some of those counterfeit iPhones were made; the factory just makes a few spare runs of their own and sell them to their cronies rather than Apple.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Counterfeiting US Dollar ...

    Many years ago (I wish I could recall the title) I read the autobiography of a currency forger (a Brit).

    He made himself *very* unpopular with the US treasury by rendering their multi-million pound anti-forgery measures useless.

    One of them (and it was a while ago) involved some sort of optical jiggery-pokery which meant that trying to photograph a dollar bill properly was impossible. Somehow they made it so that if you had one bit in focus, other bits would be out of focus.

    The forgers solution was to create a mosaic of 1x1mm photographs, each individually focused, and composited into a single usable image for a printing plate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Counterfeiting US Dollar ...

      Interesting.

      I know that a rather lot of image manipulation programs (*glares specifically at all the official variations of photoshop*) have code that specifically detects if you've loaded an image of currency and refuses to have anything to do with it. Makes for a hard time if you are *intentionally* doing shenanigans to make a overtly, obvious fake bill that wouldn't even pass the 'casual glance' test.

      Anon for obvious reasons. :)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Dear Disney....

    no need to worry about me buying knock off stuff, my girls prefer not to dress like big breasted anorexic princesses in frilly dresses.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Dear Disney....

      no need to worry about me buying knock off stuff, my girls prefer not to dress like big breasted anorexic princesses in frilly dresses.

      Yeah, my collectibles would be Nendroid and GoodSmile productss anyway. Not that those are cheap either (maybe $100 a pop for each member of Ho-kago Tea Time).

  15. imanidiot Silver badge

    yeah, right, that'll work

    because using a can of spraypaint or other methods to produce a matt coating onto an object isn't technology a counterfitter could use...

  16. DrXym Silver badge

    This is a great idea

    Assuming the counterfeiters were trying to produce perfect copies of the original item. Unfortunately they're not trying to produce perfect copies so any measures designed to prevent that are a waste of time.

    I *suppose* there might be a very small niche for authentic counterfeits - certain high value collectible items - but I don't see the material acting as a huge impediment. If someone has possession of the original they could just dust the thing in talc or similar, or just create a mould from the original and scan that. Nuisance value, nothing more.

    1. Coofer Cat

      Re: This is a great idea

      Hmm... does this mean I can get a 'normal' shaped Elsa doll, preferably with a volume control on the incredibly annoying an repetitive singing 'feature'? If indeed it must preserve the singing, maybe it could learn a few more words of the one song it knows? My child isn't an idiot, and can learn more than 4 words in a song.

      It's sort of a shame there isn't a (legal) market for alternative versions of 'official' products. We might actually have better role models and more accurate feedback for 'official' suppliers to consider.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If small 3D scan/print production runs are producing small-ish objects with no visible step lines then I'm interested.

    Last time I asked a 3D company for a quote to scan a small sculpture there was no reply.

    1. Tachikoma

      You want to find someone that uses SLA/DLP resin printers if you don't want layer lines.

  18. MrXavia

    I admit I can see the need on occasion to scan and then print a replacement part for something that broke, but usually the times that would have been handy is because I can't order a replacement part.

    3D printing is changing the world, but counterfitting shouldn't be a worry unless the counterfit is better than the original! who would buy a counterfit engine part? and who wants a counterfit toy?

    that is why piracy is rife with media, pirated copies are now better than official digital copies, they don't have DRM, they don't have limitations where you can play them, and the quality matches that of streaming/DRM downloads..

    1. Tachikoma

      3D printing is changing the world, but counterfitting shouldn't be a worry unless the counterfit is better than the original! who would buy a counterfit engine part? and who wants a counterfit toy?

      I dunno, my better half has a tendon condition and was showing me a video of a device that stretches the tendons to relieve pain, the device itself is pretty expensive for what it is (an ovoid bar with grips on each end), so I spent all of 4 minutes in Fusion360 designing a near enough exact copy, two hours 3D printing and she had one, I will stick the model on Thingiverse tonight so others can try it.

      I actually had counterfeit Ninja Turtle toys as a kid, we used to go to the cattle market on the last Sunday of the month during the car boot sales and I would fill a carrier bag with bootleg toys fresh from some dudes garage for a couple of quid. The paint job was comical at best, but the molding was almost spot on, for £20 he would sell you a set of molds and you could knock out your own figures. Wish I bought one and kept it, would be a fun little keepsake.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] they don't have DRM, they don't have limitations where you can play them, [...]"

      The annoying thing about buying legal DVDs is the unavoidable delays due to piracy warnings that can sometimes go through just about every possible language.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Piracy warnings recited exclusively in Klingon by an appropriately-clad actor (then subtitled of course) I would actually keep in my ripped backups...

    3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      ...and who wants a counterfit toy?

      There are thousands upon thousands of cheap knock-offs out there. Kids don't care and sellers are happy to save a few bucks and parents just want their kids to be happy. There is definitely a market. A bigger problem for Disney is that so much of what they do is copied from other sources. Anyone can make a Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, et cetera movie, toys, books and so on. Perhaps the Haus of Maus ought to come up with more original content rather than recycling stories they have already covered.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Yup

        There's an entire TV programme dedicated to this stuff - Fake Britain with Mat Alwright (or some such name). Given a cheap copy of a Disney toy, designer watch etc and there will be a market. Often dangerous to kids. We used to wind up a friend because he'd spent all that money on a genuine Rolex telling him that he could have got an identical one we'd seen when we on holiday, for under a fiver. Why anyone would be stupid enough to buy their kids a knock-off knowing that it won't come close to safety standards is another issue.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yup

          Yup always buy genuine, be safe!

          https://service.mattel.com/us/recall.aspx

          https://www.safekids.org/product-recalls

  19. Cuddles Silver badge

    Bit of a non-sequitur

    "The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that value of global trade in counterfeit goods related to information and communication technology (ICT) was about $143bn in 2013."

    The article is about the scanning and copying of physical objects, presumably mainly meaning things like plastic toys. How exactly are counterfeit ICT goods, meaning things like pirating software and DVDs, related to this? I'm pretty sure the market for counterfeit physical goods is much larger.

  20. James Ashton

    Photocopier Déjà Vu

    Remember when they had stuff they really didn't want you to photocopy they'd print it in black on red or something? Because colour copiers and even scanners were not generally available. This 3D printing DRM seems about as stupid as that. It may annoy a few people at home trying to make a copy or two for their own use. It will have zero impact on the serious counterfeiters who know what they're doing and who will trivially work around this.

    More to the point, as far as I can see the wide availability of cheap photocopiers has still not killed off the printing industry; ebooks are having more of an impact. The nearest equivalent for toys I can think of is VR headsets so maybe Disney should be concentrating on VR games featuring their characters. Kingdom Hearts III VR anyone?

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Photocopier Déjà Vu

      More to the point, in the appropriate sections of the Shenzen markets there will be entire tables dedicated to selling the exact same special paint(s) in no time - much like you can buy any "supa-secure" fake hologram-sticker you might need today.

  21. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Disney FAIL

    Ok Disney, copy-protect the merch, and use the increased revenue to hire back your American IT bods.

  22. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Copy protection subsidises terrorism!!!!

    Pretty much all copy protection is defeated eventually and the people most likely to be affected by it are the everyday people who, if they can't get it free or cheap;y or make their own backups, will pay for a pirate copy at the car boot. It's the organised counterfeiters who make big money from large copying runs who have the most incentive to break copy protections mechanisms and they are more likely to be connected to organised crime. Or, gasp, terrists!!!!!!111!!1!!1!

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

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