Anti-piracy using the blockchain

Custos combines patented blockchain technology with forensic watermarking to keep media files secure and unshared both online and offline, and to detect content leaks when they happen.

  • Robust Watermarking

  • Unique to Each Recipient

  • Embedded Bounties

  • Global Tracking

  • Leak Alerts

  • Pinpoint Leak Source

Custos’ Content Protection
Technology Stack

Before Custos, if you wanted to use forensic watermarking to protect your content, you had two choices: look for pirated content yourself, or pay a company that specializes in (centralised) pirated content detection to do it. The former is tedious, the latter doesn’t scale. These are the components that make Custos Core the most effective and affordable content protection solution:

Decentralized Leak Detection

Custos decentralizes the search for leaked content to human bounty hunters across the globe, so we can pick up things machines would miss, and you can enjoy 24/7 global, online and offline monitoring – even into the dark web, behind paywalled pirated content, private file sharing groups, and campus networks.

Instant Leak ID

Custos’ forensic watermarking module goes beyond fingerprinting to link specific copies of leaked content. Using our human-powered detection model, we help you plug leaks in your distribution network with precision, offering near instant infringement reports.

Tiered Detection for Tamper-Proof Incrimination

Enjoy unparalleled speed and breadth of detection, incorporating public bounty hunting, trusted third party content detection experts, and internal Custos automated and manual detection. There’s also no chance of false incrimination with our 256 bit watermarks.

Media Agnostic API Integration

Video, documents, eBooks, educational content games, software. The Custos Core API can be integrated with any third-party watermark providers to add cryptocurrency incentives and global leak detection troops to your content distribution workflow. Fire and forget – stress-free!

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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