Anti-piracy using the blockchain

We combine patented blockchain technology with forensic watermarking to pioneer the future of DRM & content security.

  • Robust Watermarking

  • Unique to Each Recipient

  • Embedded Bounties

  • Global Tracking

  • Leak Alerts

  • Pinpoint Leak Source

How it works

1. You’re ready to protect your content

Your new file (video, document, ebook) is ready to be distributed to your recipients.

2. You send the file to the Custos Service

You upload your file to the Custos VOD SaaS service (or make a direct call to Custos’ API from your existing content distribution application). The file is queued for watermarking.

3. You lock the file to a recipient

On the backend, the platform generates unique copies for each reviewer. In each copy, using cutting edge forensic watermarking, we embed a Bitcoin wallet.

4. Your protected file is ready to send

Any one in the world that finds a copy in the wild can extract Bitcoin as their reward, and through the blockchain we are informed whose copy was found somewhere it should not have been.

What happens then?

Each file you protect with Custos contains an imperceptible forensic watermark containing Custos’ patented blockchain tracking technology. Optionally, the file can contain a visible watermark. This may include per-copy information on the authorized recipient, a notice that the file may not be redistributed, and a warning that infringement tracing is in effect.

What makes Custos’ forensic watermarks unique is that they contain a contract for a cryptocurrency reward. Using this mechanism, Custos can track and trace unauthorised redistribution of your file through blockchain technology. The global, distributed nature of Custos’ blockchain technology gives it an unprecedented reach, into even the furthest corners of the dark web.

See what Custos
can do for you.

See what Custos
can do for you.

Distribute videos with confidence.
Protect educational content.
Secure and audit enterprise documents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Forensic watermarking is the process of hiding identifying information in each individual copy of a video file (read our whitepaper about the topic). A good forensic watermark is almost completely imperceptible, impossible to remove without also damaging the host video, and secure – it cannot be faked or modified. In the past, only the largest studios and distributors could afford forensic watermarking. Custos now makes this security technology easy to use and affordable for even the smallest video producer.

Custos provides a session-based forensic video watermark that is specifically designed to be readable by a publicly available extractor tool. Cryptocurrency bounties are embedded in each Custos watermark.

An application called Privateer is used to extract the watermark. Custos’ use of a global network of bounty hunters who voluntarily scan for watermarked content, puts “humans in the loop” who can intelligently reverse attacks to successfully read the watermark to claim a reward.

This poses a major improvement over visible watermarking. If a copy of a movie is found online, it can be traced back to the intended recipient, and this person can be prosecuted, excluded from future distribution, or otherwise sanctioned.

The real power, however, is not as much in the tracking of infringement as in the deterrent effect that this so-called “social Digital Rights Managment (DRM)” has on would-be pirates.

Custos combines patented blockchain technology with forensic watermarking to pioneer the future of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and content security. Clients who wish to protect video, audio, ebooks, or documents can integrate with Custos’ API to register, assign, and monitor media items – with minimal impact on their existing workflow.

Custos’ core technology, that was eventually patented, was the culmination of years of industry and research experience in the watermarking industry, and an early interest in blockchain technology.

Custos’ founders saw that movies, ebooks, and other digital content were still predominantly being distributed using a “20th century” paradigm. This paradigm assumes that the creator has, for the greater part, control over who receives the content, and that unlicensed duplication and distribution is difficult and rare enough to be managed. The cornerstone of this paradigm is intellectual “property”, because physical property has these properties of controlled distribution and costly duplication.

However, in the 21st century, this paradigm has become dangerously broken. Large and expensive digital assets are copied with impunity, and distributed globally. Media creators have little recourse once files are shared on the Internet, because the prolific sharing happens largely anonymously, and often outside jurisdictions where owners can enforce media rights.

Custos was developed at the MIH Media Lab at Stellenbosch University in 2014 as an answer to this problem.

Before Custos there were two approaches to fighting piracy. The first was the widely hated hard DRM that attempts to block people from copying media by restricting their access. Unfortunately all this technology has ever managed to do was to make the viewing experience worse for the user. A motivated pirate will always be able to crack the restrictions. The other approach was forensic watermarking. Although forensic watermarking forms an essential part of our technology, without our blockchain tracking technology you need a team of people looking for your content online for it to be effective. Even then, you cannot reach into the dark web where pirated content is disseminated from, like we can. Neither of these solutions were effective at stopping piracy. Between 20% and 60% of movies were leaked prior to release, which posed an existential problem to smaller producers who didn’t even have access to the incumbent solutions. This is why we decided to target the film market first, although we have started expanding into the ebook, sensitive document and music industries.

Our technology is intended to deter leaks. The fact that it adds tracking technology to each copy is meant to instil a credible threat of detection on any would-be pirate. Decentralised detection is the final part of the puzzle that has been lacking to make social DRM effective. Without decentralised detection, global coverage is not possible. Without global coverage, there is no credible threat of detection.

Our technology is cryptocurrency agnostic. This means that it does not rely on the price of any specific cryptocurrency or token. Our solution remains equally effective through the waxing and waning of the markets.

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