Offering Bitcoin Rewards for Turning in eBook Pirates, and Other Bad Ideas
Bitcoin and blockchain are the hot new buzzwords in tech, so much so that it is easy to find a double dozen startup using blockchains for the most ridiculous reasons. (For example, Binded/Blockai claims that blockchain can protect creator’s copyrights, even though that’s simply not true.)
Now the blockchain hype has spread into the anti-piracy industry.
Someone has had the bright idea of using bitcoin to pay informants that turn in ebook pirates. From the press release:
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.
This new collaboration debuts the combination of Digimarc Barcode for digital documents and Custos’ infringement detection technology. 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.
Just so we are on the same page, here is how the process is described:
- Imperceptible watermarks which do not affect honest users are embedded within eBook files
- The watermarks contain a bounty which is a Bitcoin private key
- Anyone with the freely-available extraction tool can decode the watermark and claim the bounty
- Bitcoin allows the hunter to claim the bounty instantly and anonymously, from anywhere in the world
- The publisher is immediately alerted the moment the bounty is claimed and the infringing customer (uploader) is uniquely identified
This is clearly one of those ideas that shows that no one really thought it through (see Verrit, Microsoft Tay, or O’Reilly closing its ebookstore for other examples).
The thing about bitcoin is that – in principle – bitcoin wallets are anonymous, and that means you don’t know who is actually getting the money. It could be that an actual informer collected the reward, or the reward could be going to the "pirate’s" buddy who is in on a scheme to get free money from Digimarc and the publisher.
The reward might even be going to the "pirate" who informed on themselves just to get the free money!
There is just no way this could be an effective anti-piracy tool; it is simply too easy for the "pirate" to create a phony identity to buy the ebook, and then collect the reward on themselves.
Not only will the publisher be out of money, they won’t even have anyone to blame.
image by zcopley