Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

For effective piracy campaigns bringing full transparency is needed and for the same software giant Microsoft and its collaborators, including China's Alibaba Group and and US-based Carnegie Mellon University, believe that incentivizing people is necessary.

A research paper, released by the Microsoft Research Lab, introduces Argus, a fully transparent incentive system for anti-piracy campaigns that involves the public Ethereum blockchain network. The groundwork of Argus is to formulate the objectives for fully transparent incentive mechanisms, which securely and comprehensively consolidate the different interests of all roles in any Anti-Piracy campaign.

According to the paper, anti-piracy is fundamentally a procedure that relies on collecting data from the open anonymous population.. The paper discusses on how to incentivize credible reporting --- a question at the center of the problem. "Industrial alliances and companies are running anti-piracy incentive campaigns, but their effectiveness is publicly questioned due to the lack of transparency.", says the paper. 

The full transparency of a campaign is necessary to truly incentivize people. It means that every role, e.g., content owner, licensee of the content, or every person in the open population, can understand the mechanism and be assured about its execution without trusting any single role.

Argus' system will protect the identity of the informers but allow the firm to backtrack the source of the pirated content. The anti-piracy system’s goal is to incentivize people in the open population to report the pirated copies to the system. The paper refer to these people as the informers.

In Argus, the incentive model ensures that the total reward of the informer and all his Sybils is less
than the reward he would get without forging the Sybils. In other words, the Argus model disincentivizes Sybil attacks, so the informers’ interest is aligned with the owner’s. In addition, the Argus system model is superior to previous models because of several other properties for better incentives.

The system effectively optimize several cryptographic operations so that the cost for a piracy reporting is reduced to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH-transfer transactions to run on the public Ethereum network, which would otherwise correspond to thousands of transactions. With the security and practicality of Argus, Microsoft research team hopes real-world anti-piracy campaigns will be truly effective by shifting to a fully transparent incentive mechanism.

In the research paper, Microsoft and its collaborators present the design, implementation and evaluation of the Argus system. 

The paper claims that Argus is the first public anti-piracy system which does three things ---
  1. Does not hinge on any “trusted” role; 
  2. Treats every participant fairly (in particular, it is resilient to greed and abuse, and resolves conclusively every foreseeable conflict); and 
  3. Efficient and economically practical to run on a public blockchain (e.g. it achieves an impressive off-chain throughput of 82.6 data-trades per second per machine, and incurs only a negligible on-chain cost equivalent to sending 14 ETH-transfer transactions per report on the public Ethereum blockchain.
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