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Born In Academia, Custos' Novel Blockchain Application Fights Movie Piracy

Blockchain movie piracy

Engelbrecht and van Rooyen co-founded the Media Lab at Stellenbosch University that was specifically created for this type of research....

Engelbrecht was struck with the idea that the blockchain could be used to track ownership in some way (much like does today). His colleague wasn’t far behind.

“I recalled an experience I had several years before, where I purchased an ebook that had my credit card details embedded as a visible footnote in each page, and wondered aloud whether we can’t use bitcoin to impose a similar ‘owner responsibility’ on digital media recipients. We pulled in Fred Lutz, who was then doing his master’s in economics in the Media Lab (and was a huge bitcoin enthusiast), and threw some more ideas around.”

“By that afternoon, we had the invention written up and at our patent office.”....

van Rooyen has since resigned his position as associate professor at Stellenbosch University to spend all of his time with Custos as CEO. Lutz finished his master’s thesis on the economy of digital piracy and joined Custos full-time as COO. Engelbrecht remains at the university and has a part-time involvement in the company.

Custos uses technology that watermarks bitcoin into a piece of media that it tracks in the blockchain to identify infringements. The system uses crowdsourcing to provide a bounty to downloaders who identify pirates. Content creators and distributors can embed an identifying code into each piece of content that they provide to a particular user.

The code embedded in each piece of content can be used to access a deposit in the form of cryptocurrency – a “finder’s fee.” If the content is leaked or shared and a third party gets ahold of the content, they can cash the code in for the finder’s fee.....

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