Microsoft eyes Blockchain solution to combat software piracy
Researchers from Microsoft have devised a new way to fight online piracy using a proposed bounty system called “Argus” that runs on the Ethereum blockchain.
The software giant’s research department recently published an article detailing its blockchain-based bounty system titled “Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns”.
Digital piracy presents a serious risk to consumers that download illegal software, as well as harming the profits of those companies who develop the software, including Microsoft. A report from Muso released last year warned a surge in traffic to piracy websites could lead to a flood of PCs infected with malware, and users could also end up paying significantly more for the software or other online content they pirated if it leads to them becoming a victim of identity theft.
As one of the biggest software companies in the world, Microsoft has long worked to fight online piracy and is a key member of the Software Alliance (BSA) which tracks copyright infringements both online and in the real world. While the BSA is known for paying bounties to those that report piracy, Microsoft believes that Argus can offer a more transparent way to fight piracy and reward those involved in doing so.
In its new paper, which researchers at Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon also contributed to, Microsoft laid out plans to use a blockchain-based system to make reporting piracy more open and transparent.
A lack of transparency can hamper existing anti-piracy campaigns, according to researchers who worked on the paper. Anti-piracy is “fundamentally a procedure that relies on collecting data from the open anonymous population, so how to incentivize credible reporting is a question at the centre of the problem,” they added. “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 incentivize people.”
Argus will allow users to anonymously report piracy in exchange for a bounty, according to Microsoft. 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.
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