Erudition Digital launches new solution using Bitcoin and the blockchain to fight eBook piracy

Tackling eBook piracy is a major challenge for publishers but traditional approaches to protecting content, such as “hard DRM”, have a number of drawbacks for both publishers and their readers. Besides being easily broken and therefore ineffective in many instances, “hard DRM” restricts legitimate use thus inconveniencing and punishing honest customers. It also limits the options publishers have for selling and distributing their eBooks, making them reliant on a few dominant retailers and thereby reducing competition and customer choice.

Erudition, in partnership with Custos Media Technologies, has developed a novel solution to the piracy challenge called Custos for eBooks. Based on a patent pending technology used to protect screener copies of movies, it leverages Bitcoin and the blockchain to protect eBooks without impacting honest customers in any way. This provides publishers with an alternative means of combatting piracy whilst avoiding any of the downsides associated with current, widely used DRM measures.

Custos for eBooks differs from traditional “hard DRM” by embedding imperceptible Bitcoin bounties in widely used, open file formats rather than requiring the use of proprietary formats and viewing applications. These bounties can be claimed instantly from anywhere in the world by a network of “bounty hunters” using a free extraction tool.

“By using Bitcoin bounties, anyone can be a bounty hunter. This not only means that we can detect piracy faster, and deeper in the dark web, but it also sows distrust within tight-knit piracy communities, effectively turning pirates on each other”, says Fred Lutz, COO of Custos. It also serves as a valuable complement to “soft DRM” approaches such as social DRM by providing a more robust means of monitoring and detecting infringement.

“Because we protect eBooks using open formats, readers can access them in any compatible viewing application without restrictions”, says Ryan Morison, Director at Erudition Digital. “This will enable publishers to deliver a more user-friendly experience to eBook readers without being exposed the potential risks of dropping hard DRM.”

After a year in development, the first commercial application of the solution was launched on 7th February 2017 on the direct-to-consumer website of Erudition Digital’s music imprint, Informance. Thereafter it will be available to publishers for applications including distribution of galley copies, bulk distribution and direct-to-consumer sales. The company is also engaging with other distributors and technology providers interested in integrating Custos for eBooks as a value-add to their existing platforms and service offerings.