The South African startup that pays bounty hunters Bitcoin to catch pirates

Lost revenue due to online piracy is a problem, and while there are various ways to deal with this, not many are effective.

Cutting out piracy entirely is a difficult task, but the fight against copyrighted content leaking online may be aided by the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

A South African technology startup named Custos has created what it calls a “turnkey forensic watermarking and blockchain solution” to combat the prevalence of online piracy, which relies somewhat on the willingness of pirates to hunt Bitcoin bounties hidden within copyrighted media.

Blockchain technology

Custos describes its anti-piracy technology as an effective way of preventing the distribution of copyrighted content while accurately determining the source of the leak.

The startup offers a bundled solution to clients which includes a piracy protection solution which can be accessed and tracked via a password-protected cloud platform.

“Anyone, from a small independent producer to a big Hollywood studio, can benefit from Custos’ innovative protection,” the company states.

Producers and distributors can upload their file to the Custos Video platform, where it is stored on their secure servers and ingrained with an invisible watermark.

Once the file is ready for distribution, it is sent out to reviewers and various organisations, with each copy featuring an embedded blockchain key which makes it identifiable and traceable.

Recipients log in and access video content on the Custos platform, connecting them to the unique key embedded in the content they access.

This can later be used to trace any pirated content which appears online to its original source, greatly reducing the temptation to leak files.

Pirate bounties

The way infringement is detected on the platform is the most innovative part of the process.

Bounty hunters scan content from across the Internet in search of illegal copies of video or other media which has been leaked.

The media’s watermark comprises a unique Bitcoin wallet that has an amount of cryptocurrency stored inside. Any bounty hunter who finds this content in the wild can help themselves to the content of the wallet.

By doing this, they also expose which key conforms to the compromised content and expose the source of the leaked content.

Once the wallet is emptied, the customer who purchased Custos protection for their content is instantly notified of the infringement and is given the unique identifier which points to where the leak originated.

This means that enterprising bounty hunters who scan the Internet for pirated video in search of easy money are indirectly combating piracy.

While it is unclear how effective this approach will be, Custos is confident in the efficacy of its solution – stating that it delivers a 99.7% reduction in instances of piracy.

The infographic below details Custos’ video protection service (click to enlarge).

Custos Video protection

Now read: International investigation into cryptojacking in South Africa

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The South African startup that pays bounty hunters Bitcoin to catch pirates