Researchers from Microsoft have found a new way to fight online piracy using a proposed bounty system called ‘Argus’ that runs on the Ethereum blockchain.
In a recent article, titled ‘Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns’, the software giant’s research department introduced the blockchain-based bounty system that could potentially see development.
Piracy does not just hurt major copyright holders like Microsoft and other tech giants. Consumers also face the risks of malware or even identity theft when downloading illegal software.
As part of the global Software Alliance (BSA) that tracks copyright infringements and offers bounties for those that report piracy, Microsoft has long been involved in the fight against piracy. However, the hope is that Argus will offer a more transparent and rewarding way to combat piracy.
One key takeaway from the article is that the current lack of transparency in piracy reporting limits effectiveness.
The researchers said: “Anti-piracy is fundamentally a procedure that relies on collecting data from the open anonymous population, so how to incentivise credible reporting is a question at the centre of the problem. Industrial alliances and companies are running anti-piracy incentive campaigns, but their effectiveness is publicly questioned due to the lack of transparency. We believe that full transparency of a campaign is necessary to truly incentivise people.”
Argus will look to solve this by allowing users to anonymously report piracy in exchange for a bounty. The system will trace pirated content back to the source by using a unique watermark that corresponds with a secret code. When pirated content is then reported, the status of the source (licensee) will be changed to ‘accused’ and then to ‘guilty’ if an appeal is denied.
As of yet, the concept remains just that – a concept – and while it contains numerous safeguards to prevent abuse and false accusations, it remains to be seen if Microsoft will feel confident enough to bring the product to market.
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