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Microsoft plans to tackle software piracy with blockchain

Blockchain technology could help make anti-piracy campaigns more open and transparent

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.

As reported by TorrentFreak, 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”.

In addition to hurting copyright holders such as Microsoft and other tech giants, online piracy also presents a serious risk to consumers that download illegal software. In fact, a report from Muso released last year, warned that a surge in traffic to piracy websites could lead to a flood of PCs infected with malware. Users could also end up paying significantly more for the software, films or other online content they pirated if it leads to them becoming a victim of identity theft.

Microsoft has long worked to fight online piracy and the company is part 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.

Argus

In its new paper, which researchers at Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon also contributed to, Microsoft laid out its plans to use a blockchain-based system to make reporting piracy more open and transparent.

The company’s researchers explained in the paper how a lack of transparency hampers the effectiveness of existing anti-piracy incentive campaigns, saying:

“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 center 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 incentivize people.”

Argus on the other hand will allow 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.

Microsoft’s new system has the potential to change the online piracy landscape as it includes numerous safeguards to prevent abuse as well as false accusations. However, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not the company decides to go forward with bringing Argus to market.

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