Microsoft Employs Blockchain to Create World’s ‘First Public Anti-Piracy System’

August 18, 2021, 11:00 AM AEST - 1 month ago

Researchers from Microsoft, Alibaba group and Carnegie Mellon University have released a white paper outlining a new blockchain-based solution for piracy, said to be running on the Ethereum (ETH) public blockchain.

The paper outlines ‘Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns’, which is designed to curb piracy through incentivising reporting of fraudulent items and by using blockchain and cryptography in its anti-piracy solution.

Built on Ethereum’s public blockchain, Argus is described as superior to existing solutions and is also thought to be the first public anti-piracy system which:

  • does not hinge on any “trusted” role;
  • treats every participant fairly (in particular, it is resilient to greed and abuse, and resolves conclusively every foreseeable conflict); and
  • is efficient and economically practical to run on a public blockchain.

The system achieves an impressive off-chain throughput, and incurs only a negligible on-chain cost equivalent to sending “14 ETH-transfer transactions per report on the public Ethereum network”.

Protecting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets for modern tech companies, especially in the software, film, gaming and digital publishing industries. Companies worldwide have become increasingly concerned with IP protection and the fight against digital piracy.

According to the team of researchers, “Anti-piracy is fundamentally a procedure that relies on collecting data from the open anonymous population, so how to incentivise credible reports is a question at the centre of the problem.”

Relying on the transparency of Ethereum, Argus aims to provide a trustless incentive mechanism while protecting data collected from the open anonymous population of piracy reporters. The system enables back-tracing of pirated content to the source with a corresponding watermark algorithm, which is detailed in the paper.

Dubbed “proof of leakage”, each report of leaked content involves an information-hiding procedure. This way, no one but the informer can report the same watermarked copy without actually owning it, and it also prevents an informer from reporting the same leaked content under different names.

NFTs Also Used to Protect Against Piracy

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can also be used to prevent piracy through cryptography. Zero Contact, a new blockbuster film starring Anthony Hopkins, is set to premiere later this year on the NFT platform Vuele where it will be sold as an NFT.

The idea with Zero Contact is to make the movie an NFT, basically a digital asset that is placed on an encrypted blockchain with unique serial numbers. In doing so, it protects the film from piracy and adds fun extra content for the buyer, which can also be traded on the platform.

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