According to Australian news website News.com.au, a company based in South Africa called Custos Media Technologies decided to deter online pirates using watermarks with small bitcoin bounties, by embedding these bounties in media files like ebooks and movies. Whenever a bounty is claimed the company is warned.
According to the company, each watermark will contain a bitcoin wallet, with a reward for the first person to anonymously claim it once the media file has passed out of the original rights owners’ control.
This gives piracy websites users a chance to earn bitcoin, as the first person to download the file, view the code and report it, gets the reward – this, at the cost of “snitching” that a file has been published on one of these websites. The company stated:
“Media downloaders who want to search for such rewards (bounty hunters) can do so anonymously, from anywhere in the world. The moment a bounty is claimed — and by the nature of cryptocurrencies, this can only happen once — the transaction reflects on the blockchain, and Custos notifies the media provider of the incident.”
Custos’ system, according to Bill Rosenblatt, improves on the current crawler-based system. A crawler essentially browses the web in a methodical, automatic way, but is limited to indexed websites that allow it to access them. According to Rosenblatt, human bounty hunters are the solution:
“Bounty hunters can find files in places which those crawlers can’t access, such as password-protected cyberlocker accounts”
In tests, hunters take seconds to claim bitcoin bounty
According to Custos’ own test data, it takes a bounty hunter an average of just 42 seconds to claim the bitcoin bounty hidden in a file, after it has been uploaded to social networks. In harder-to-reach places, such as the dark web, the average time increased to less than five minutes, with different media files being tested.
In the past, Australian rights holders took it to the courts to block piracy websites but using new domain names and VPNs, piracy websites remained online. This new piracy-fighting tactic is certainly interesting, but it remains to be seen whether it will catch on or not