Microsoft turns to Ethereum blockchain to combat digital piracy

2 min readAug 23, 2021

Microsoft products including Windows OS and Microsoft Office have always been a target for online piracy. For this reason, the company pays extra attention to establishing strong anti-piracy measures.

In a recent research carried in collaboration with Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon University Microsoft presents the design, implementation and evaluation of the Argus system — a fully transparent yet secure incentive system for anti-piracy campaigns.

The key problem of incumbent distributed systems, the researchers say, is lack of transparency in the anti-piracy mechanism. Owners of information, those who use it legally (licensees), those who leak information and reporters all have different objectives. However, not all of them understand how the anti-piracy mechanism works and whether it will be executed fairly. Thus, not all of the parties have incentives to fight piracy.

On the opposite, the introduced Argus system exploits the transparency of the Ethereum blockchain technology. It does not hinge on any “trusted” role and treats participants fairly whilst protecting their data.

The Argus system uses watermark algorithm to detect the leaked copies of content. Using a secret string from the watermarked copy, a person who wants to report a leakage can only do it in regard to the copy he is using (without owning it).

On the other hand, the system also prevents the informers (those who report leakages) from creating multiple identities to report the same problem and receive their numerous rewards. The authors of the research presume the described incentive mechanism will be fully transparent and effective.

Furthermore, as the research team has optimized some of the cryptographic operations, the cost for piracy reporting has been cut down to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH-transfer transactions.

Protecting intellectual property and piracy concerns have been a huge issue recently among tech companies. For instance, the IT subsidiary of Mahindra Group has employed IBM blockchain in a platform to fight digital piracy.