Microsoft and Alibaba's Plans to Use Ethereum to Fight Piracy

Project Argus, built on top of the Ethereum public blockchain by Microsoft, Alibaba, and Carnegie Mellon University, aims to combat internet piracy. A report on the project, its goals, and prospective applications was recently provided by the partners.


Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and others, as described in the report, spend a lot of time and money trying to combat piracy and intellectual property theft. People are asked to contribute information on businesses or individuals who are involved in unlawful activity through these programs.

The success of these "anti-privacy" operations is usually restricted due to a number of factors, the most significant of which is a lack of public confidence.

As a result, the partners suggested Argus, a "completely transparent incentive system" that allows people to use the Ethereum blockchain to run anti-piracy operations. As a result, boosting the campaign's effectiveness by addressing its basic issues: fairness, transparency, and credibility criteria.

According to the study, there are three main players involved in piracy concerns and anti-piracy campaigns: the owner of a copyright-protected goods, profit-seeking informants, and the perpetrators of the activity. These parties' interests may be divergent.

As a result, because it is supported by Ethereum, Argus would fulfil the role of operating as a "unbiased contract" solution with higher neutrality than other entities, which is already performed by various organizations. It was dubbed the "first public anti-piracy system" by Microsoft, Alibaba, and Carnegie investigators.

As a result, people can be “treated fairly,” without relying on authority or placing their trust in a third party, “resilient against greed and abuse,” and capable of “resolving conclusively every” imaginable issue. Argus was built to take advantage of the efficiency and cost savings that come with running on Ethereum. Microsoft and its partners asserted the following:

It has an off-chain throughput of 82.6 data-trades per second per machine, and an on-chain cost of only 14 ETH-transfer transactions each report on the public Ethereum blockchain.

The Ethereum Blockchain Will Be Harnessed By Microsoft And Partners Argus will also be backed by “four pillars” in its design: full transparency, reward, information, and optimization. They work together to alleviate problems with anti-piracy operations by ensuring that informers are rewarded more for reporting a copyright violation than for fabricating repeated complaints.

In other words, our methodology disincentivizes Sybil attacks, ensuring that the informers' and owners' interests are matched.

Because all information would be published on Ethereum, it will be difficult to “re-submit” a report. For improved privacy and security for the informer, the report submission process will be built on a multi-period commitment scheme with zero know proof features.

Argus will allow an owner to issue a license using a process called oblivious transfer, as shown in the graphic below (OT). The licenses that are issued with it will have a unique watermark that is not visible to third parties. This contract will retrieve the information (called OTRecord) stored on the watermark connected to the product when an informer wants to report a determined copyright infraction.



With the information from the report, Argus will change the status of the license from NORMAL to ACCUSED. This safeguards the system from malicious Sybil assaults and gives the accused entity a way to appeal the decision.

Microsoft and its partners saw Argus and future applications as having the potential to solve piracy and other use cases that rely on centralized systems and trust. The Ethereum blockchain offers a "paradigm change" in this industry, according to the researchers:

Without establishing a trusted role, it is possible to construct a totally transparent solution. This could lead to a shift in the way anti-piracy incentive systems are designed. Furthermore, it provides a compelling use case for public blockchains.

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