Companies collaborate to develop the next generation of solutions for combatting eBook piracy using Bitcoin and the blockchain.  

Erudition Digital Ltd. and Digimarc Corporation (NASDAQ: DMRC) today announced their collaboration to develop a new anti-piracy solution for eBooks.  This new solution combines Digimarc Barcode for Digital Documents and Custos for eBooks products, and leverages Bitcoin and the blockchain to provide a more effective, reader-friendly approach to combatting eBook piracy.

Global eBook piracy is a major challenge for publishers, and many of the anti-piracy solutions in the marketplace suffer from drawbacks. Hard Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions, for example, can often be removed and restrict access, thereby inconveniencing legitimate users. Traditional watermarking doesn’t impact honest users, but is limited because it relies on infringements being detected to be effective.

Based on a patented technology used to protect screener copies of movies, Custos for eBooks delivers better protection without the usability pitfalls of widely used measures. It works by adding imperceptible Bitcoin bounties in eBook files using Digimarc Barcode, which is a proprietary method for imperceptibly carrying data applied to digital documents, currency, print, packaging, audio, labels and other everyday objects.

Bitcoin bounties can be claimed instantly from anywhere in the world by a network of “bounty hunters” using a free extraction tool. When a bounty is claimed, the publisher is immediately alerted and the infringing customer (uploader) is uniquely identified.

“This scheme improves on existing methods of watermarking files and then crawling various places on the internet to detect those files,” said Bill Rosenblatt, President of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies. “Bounty hunters can find files in places which those crawlers can’t access, such as password-protected cyberlocker accounts.”

The Custos approach is revolutionary in that it attacks the economy of piracy by targeting uploaders rather than downloaders, turning downloaders into an early detection network. The result is pirates turn on one another, sowing seeds of distrust amongst their communities. As a result, the Custos system is capable of penetrating hard-to-reach places such as the dark web, peer-to-peer networks and even email.

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

“We’re delighted to be working with Digimarc given their long-standing track record of innovation in this area,” said Ryan Morison, Director at Erudition. “Digimarc Barcode is the perfect delivery mechanism for our offering, as it is extremely difficult to remove and supports widely used eBook file formats.”

“The ability to penetrate hard-to-reach places and provide early detection also makes it a natural complement to anti-piracy services such as Digimarc Guardian that focus on providing rights holders with visibility into, and enforcement against, highly visible forms of digital piracy,” said Devon Weston, Director of Market Development for Digimarc Guardian. “Together, this suite of products represents the next generation in technical measures against eBook piracy.”

Erudition is currently developing a range of value-added tools to enable publishers to take advantage of this new solution.  The first of these is a comprehensive eBook distribution platform called Erudition Direct. Currently undergoing beta testing (with launch anticipated in the fall of 2017), Erudition Direct significantly improves existing methods of eBook distribution and unlocks new possibilities for promoting and selling eBooks directly to a wider audience.

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