Potter Pirate makes a hasty Exif

I was interested to discover that the Potter pirate who leaked the entire manuscript of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on to the Internet did so by photographing the whole thing.

Harry Potter-mania seems to have finally started to subsided. That said, one sub editor here at CNET has issued instructions that nobody reveal any plot details until he gets the final book for his birthday, on pain of death by subediting (which involves a red biro and isn't pretty). Meanwhile I have issued instructions that nobody reveal any details to me because, well, I just couldn't be less interested.

I was interested to discover that the Potter pirate who leaked the entire manuscript of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on to the Internet days before official release did so by photographing the whole thing. Take picture of book. Turn page. Take picture of book. Turn page. Repeat 380 times. Leak to Internet. Er... why? In an ironic twist, the very technology that allowed this cheeky muggle to pull off their wizard wheeze may have turned against them.

The unknown spoiler (we'll call them You Know Who) didn't realise that the metadata included in the image file identified their camera as a Canon Digital Rebel XT (the US version of the Canon EOS 350D), even providing the serial number. Should Canon be able to track the details in the Exchangeable Image File Format (Exif) data back to the hidden pirate lair, Potter publisher Bloomsbury will presumably throw the book at the You Know Who. All 700-odd pages of it.

While I enjoy the irony of You Know Who being hoist by his own Pott-ard, it does highlight an interesting issue. Cameras identify themselves in image files, and some can even identify where the picture was taken. If you register your camera, it will also identify you. Other technology does the same: CD burners, for example, or printers. All good anti-piracy methods, sure, but let's hope no oppressive regimes get their hands on the data.

On a related note, I was amused to read about Kameraflage, a new technology that takes images and embeds text that is invisible to the naked eye. This will then show up when the image is viewed through another camera. The anti-piracy implications are obvious, but even better, the technology could be added to clothing. You take a picture of someone, and when you look at that picture later you discover a hidden message. Now that's magic.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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