SA startup Custos announces role in new anti-piracy solution for ebooks

South Africa tech startup Custos Media Technologies has announced its participation in a new blockchain-based anti-piracy solution for ebooks, following the recent news
that content protection giant Digimarc and ebook publisher Erudition are joining forces.

The new collaboration debuts the combination of Digimarc Barcode for digital documents and Custos’ infringement detection technology, Custos said in a press release today. This provides a more effective, reader-friendly way to combat ebook piracy.

Erudition and Custos have worked closely together over the past year. The Stellenbosch-based media protection company provides technology that adds Bitcoin deposits to ebooks. These digital bounties enable Custos to rapidly detect piracy after the first copy of a file is shared.

The new collaboration debuts the combination of Digimarc Barcode for digital documents and Custos’ infringement detection technology

Digimarc Barcode provides a non-intrusive alternative by embedding invisible watermarks in each copy of an ebook. Custos complements this by quickly discovering leaked copies of watermarked ebooks, even while they are still being shared in the dark web that cannot be probed from the outside.

The South African tech provider’s patented technology allows for the protection of any type of digital content, and relies on good watermarks for each particular type of media.

For ebooks, the Digimarc Barcode is the perfect solution. Combining Custos and Digimarc’s offerings gave Erudition an unrivalled edge for their ebook distribution platform.

Bitcoin bounty

What makes Custos’ approach unique, are the small Bitcoin deposits hidden in each copy of an ebook. As long as an ebook is still within the intended recipient’s control, the deposit remains intact. However, the Bitcoin can be claimed as a bounty from anywhere in the world if the ebook happens to be shared within a piracy network.

Once the bounty is claimed, the transaction is visible on the Bitcoin network within seconds, and the publisher is notified that an infringed copy has been found.

Since each embedded Bitcoin bounty is unique, the identity of the infringing customer (the initial file sharer) is also revealed.

“This scheme improves on existing methods of watermarking files and then crawling various places on the internet to detect those files,” says Bill Rosenblatt, DRM specialist and president of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies.

“Bounty hunters can find these files in places which those crawlers can’t access, such as password-protected cyberlocker accounts,” he says.

Custos’ approach effectively attacks the economy of piracy by targeting uploaders rather than downloaders. This turns pirates against one another and sows seeds of distrust within their communities.

As a result, the bounty hunting network is able to penetrate hard-to-reach places like the dark web, peer-to-peer networks, email, and even offline file sharing.

Recent tests of the Custos system across different types of media found that it takes an average of just 42 seconds for an individual to claim the bitcoin bounty concealed in an ebook file once it has been uploaded to social networks. The average detection time for the dark web is less than five minutes.

“This is the perfect play of technologies to protect authors and publishers against the worrisome growth in content theft” says G-J van Rooyen, CEO of Custos. “By combining Digimarc’s industry-leading watermark with Custos for ebooks, Erudition has created an exceptionally attractive platform for ebook retail.”

Read more: Blockchain anti-piracy startup Custos raises R4m seed round

Featured image: Custos founders (from left to right) Fred Lutz, G-J van Rooyen and Herman Lintvelt



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