Microsoft Office and the Windows Operating System have always maintained the position for having the highest number of downloads for software piracy platforms. Microsoft is one of the leading brands in the world and they have tried multiple ways in which they have tried to get a grip on this issue, often by deploying customer-unfriendly measures.
Recently a research paper has been published that mentions a completely transparent system that can handle anti-piracy issues in an efficient manner. The document talks about a transparent system developed by the software giant Redmond and is completely Blockchain-based. Experts from Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon have also participated in the endeavour. Argus is built on the Ethereum blockchain and its job is to create an incentive mechanism that is trustworthy and to protect the data of reporters who are anonymous.
As we all know, piracy is basically the practice of distributing content that is copyrighted outside distribution channels that are legally determined. Keeping that in mind, it was really challenging to come up with a solution that will incentivize people to report any such pirated content. Big companies and industry associations are offering huge rewards for reporting piracy. For instance, the BSA or the Business Software Alliance, whose members IBM, Symantec, Microsoft, Apple, and many others have offered reward money of $1 million dollars for reporting pirated content.
Argus, armed with a provision of a digital watermark, is designed in such a way that it will be able to trace any pirated content back to the original source. Total transparency, information hiding, incentives and optimization are the four main pillars of the concept behind Argus. These four areas are the main areas of focus which have been explained carefully and in more detail in the research paper. It is worth mentioning that these four problems serve as integral elements in a logical design, not as individual problems that need to be tackled separately.
With the use of a watermarking algorithm, Argus can trace back pirated material back to the source. Every single time, when leaked or a pirated content is reported, a procedure is carried out in order to hide that information. In this way, the person who will be the whistleblower can report the exact copy that is watermarked, even without possessing the copy.
The researchers have actually undertaken several measures in order to optimize the cryptographic operations in order to reduce the cost of reporting such piracy across 14 ETH transfer transactions, or else it would be similar to the many thousands of transactions that are taking place on the Ethereum Blockchain. With such a secure and pragmatic solution like Argus, Microsoft is now hoping that shifting to a transparent system of incentivizing, anti-piracy campaigns will have an immense impact on the world.
Challenges posed to anti-piracy
A practical challenge in this initiative is whether the customers who are potential whistle-blowers would like to maintain their anonymity in public. It is in the interest of Microsoft to gather genuine and authentic reports so that they can measure the severity of the infringement that has been committed and assess that information in an accurate manner. However, it must be kept in mind that the interest of every single whistle-blower is to make sure that they can maximize their reward in any way possible. But Argus is designed in such a way that it automatically discourages or prevents Sybil attacks so as to make sure that the interests of the owner, which in this case is Microsoft, is aligned with that of the informant. In addition to that there are several other features which make this model a far more superior one.
The fact that Argus is functional on a public ledger, means that the way it executes its operations, are completely transparent to everyone. It is important to make sure that anyone who is reporting pirated content cannot resubmit his or her report after someone else had already done so. For this reason, this entire protocol of Argus is based on a Commitment Scheme that is also multi-period, which provides an assurance of zero-knowledge. It also means that submission of the report is a testimony of the fact that the reporter is in possession of a copy of the exact content. No other information is spilled out.
Argus is a fine example of a product of perfect disciplined approach. It is way more superior than the solutions already in existence in terms of property assurance and trust acceptance. In addition to the feasibility of the solution, it is also cost-effective because of all the optimizations that have been taken care of.
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