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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tracing Laser Printer Owners

I was flipping through channels the other day and came across a show called “Big Brother, Big Business.” If you didn’t catch it, you should have. I’ve been trying to recall which channel it was on because I want to watch it again. It had some really good information in it for suspense and mystery writers.

Like for instance, how many times have we read—or written—that our criminal wrote the press or the cops (or a ransom note) and law enforcement could only say, “It was written on plain white paper you can get anywhere on a laser printer. No way to trace it.”

Ah…not true anymore. Many laser printer companies, like HP and Dell, have instituted this new little feature on their laser printers that you don’t know about. When it prints a document, on the back side of that document, it imprints a watermark that is invisible to the naked eye. You must use a microscope to see it. But, this watermark includes the serial number of the printer, the time, and the date. Law enforcement can now look at the serial number and track the owner of the printer.

I sent this information on to the KMIS group and one of them wrote me back and said, “Okay, so how do we get around that?”

Good question. If he registers the printer, they have him. Game up. If he doesn’t register it, they can trace the serial number to the store and the store can trace it to the register it was sold at and the day it was sold. All they do is review the store cameras and they have your guy’s picture. If he goes to a library or public printing company, same problem…they will have his photo.

So, what does your guy do? One solution—have him us an inkjet instead. Another solution is to have him be creative. Let him break into different people’s homes and use their printers while they’re on vacation!

I’m sure there are other ideas floating out there, but for now—keep in mind that laser printers are no longer generic ways for your bad guy to taunt anyone!

Happy writing!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the positive side, all authors should purchase a laser printer then, and that way, if a dispute arises over the ownership of copyright, the microscopic watermark can provide evidence to identify the creator! Just a thought

4:51 AM  

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