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South African Blockchain Startup Custos Media to Tackle eBook Piracy

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On September 13, 2017, South African blockchain startup Custos Media announced that it would take part in the new anti-piracy blockchain solution for eBooks. This follows a recent announcement that eBook publisher Erudition and Digimarc will be joining forces to work on a blockchain-based solution for the piracy of eBooks.

The new partnership kicks off the fusion of the infringement detection technology by Custos Media and the digital documents Barcode by Digimarc. The combination of the two forces is set to provide a more powerful and reader-friendly way of dealing with eBook piracy.

It’s not the first time that Custos and Erudition will be working together. Over the past year, they have enjoyed a close working relationship. The South Africa-based startup has been providing technology that allows for the addition of bitcoin deposits to eBooks. Referred to as digital bounties, these deposits have enabled Custos to quickly detect pirated content after the first copy of an eBook has been shared.

eBook piracy has been a major setback for publishers across the globe with existing solutions falling short of providing the needed content protection. A good example is the hard Digital Rights Management (DRM) that at times inconveniences genuine readers by denying them access to their books or making them lose ownership if the platform gets terminated.

Digimarc and Custos Media, however, provide a functional solution. Digimarc’s Barcode allows for a non-intrusive method by placing an invisible watermark on every eBook copy. On the other hand, Custos supplements this amazing technology by quickly finding copies of leaked watermarked eBooks even as pirates continue to share them on the dark web, which is hard to prod from the outside.

For Erudition, settling on the two companies was a no brainer. The patented technology by Custos that relies on superior watermarks and is unique for each type of media combined with Digimarc’s Barcode gave their eBook distribution platform an unrivalled solution for dealing with piracy.

Custos approach is unique because of the hidden bitcoin deposits tied to each eBook copy. If an eBook is solely being controlled and used by the intended recipient, then the deposit stays intact. If, however, the eBook gets circulated within any piracy network, the bounty bitcoin deposits can be claimed from anywhere globally. It takes only seconds for the claimed bounty transaction to be visible on the bitcoin system before the publisher gets notified of the existence of the infringed copy. The embedded bitcoin bounties are unique to each eBook. This, therefore, makes it easy to reveal the identity of the customer making the infringement.

“This scheme improves on existing methods of watermarking files and then crawling various places on the internet to detect those files,” said President of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies and DRM Specialist, Bill Rosenblatt. “Bounty hunters can find these files in places which those crawlers can’t access, such as password-protected cyberlocker accounts.”

This approach by Custos makes it easy to essentially attack the piracy economy by targeting the file uploaders instead of the downloaders. This scheme plants seeds of distrust among the pirates’ community by turning them against each other. Subsequently, the bitcoin bounty hunting system can infiltrate the impenetrable dark web marketplaces, emails, offline sharing and peer to peer networks. Custos’ recent tests on their system using different media types, revealed that it takes an average of 42 seconds for individuals to claim the unique bitcoin bounties linked to each eBook file immediately after an upload on any social network. The dark webs average detection time is under five minutes.

“This is the perfect play of technologies to protect authors and publishers against the worrisome growth in content theft,” said Custos’ CEO, G-J van Rooyen. “By combining Digimarc’s industry leading watermark with Custos for e-books, Erudition has created an exceptionally attractive platform for e-book retail.”

Blockchain Technology

mCoin: An Inclusive Cryptocurrency That Can Be Accessed Without Internet

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The London-based technology company ONEm is launching mCoin, a new cryptocurrency that can be accessed outside the scope of the Internet. The digital currency aims to reach billions of people around the globe through offline channels, such as mobile phones, and is powered by ONEm’s global and scalable platform.

An Offline Cryptocurrency

mCoinONEm‘s mCoin is a digital currency that is based on the original bitcoin blockchain. What makes it unique, however, is that it will allow people with limited or no access to the Internet to take advantage of blockchain services. Users can open SMS virtual wallets where they can store, send or receive mCoins offline using a mobile phone. The cryptocurrency can be traded through SMS messages or USSD codes which is fairly uncomplicated when compared to online trading on peer-to-peer exchanges, according to the company.

Since users will be accessing mCoin offline, they can enjoy an extra layer of security against threats of hacking and malware. In addition, the cryptocurrency will be integrated to existing ONEm social and business applications like Sweb, Market Place, mCatalogue just to name a few, which rely on Internet, SMS or Voice messages. However, the biggest innovation would be the ability of people to mine mCoins offline.

Mining is is the process through which network participants contribute their computing power to verify and process transactions on a cryptocurrency network. Mining is necessary to keep the network secure and operational. For their service, miners are rewarded with new coins for their effort. This is usually done online through specialized mining hardware or in the case of some coins, through CPU’s. mCoin operators plan to roll out ‘pseudo-mining’, which is a proof of work that enables people to earn coins through activities they perform on the ONEm platform.

ONEm’s African Focus

Founded in 2012, ONEm is a technology company that has developed a platform that provides interactive access to information and content through SMS and voice. The company aims to establish its presence in Africa by solving some of the common challenges faced in the continent. These include connecting people who have no access to financial services, providing information sharing services that have previously been out of the reach of many, and improving the user experience when accessing digital services.

Since SMS is a standard feature for nearly all mobile devices, mCoin expects to scale rapidly through a large volume of users and leveraging strategic partnerships. The platform has partnered with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Africa to deliver interactive SMS and Voice services that can allow people to access news, podcasts, and information by simply typing a shortcode. Small enterprises can benefit from a digital currency that allows them to access new markets and an easier way to receive payments.

In addition, users can use mCoin to participate in loyalty and purchasing schemes in the ecosystem without the need for a smartphone, just a simple text or audio message. Interestingly, African governments and local organisations can make use of mCoin’s underlying SMS accessible blockchain technology to provide valuable services for people who may not have access to online services.

Christopher Richardson, the CEO of ONEm states in press release,

“It is exciting to see so many people who share in our vision for an inclusive Cryptocurrency outside of the domain of the Internet. People from all over the world are participating in mCoin Pre ICO and taking advantage of the attractive bonus packages now available as they see tremendous high growth potential of a cryptocurrency that can reach this very big un-tapped market”

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Interpol and VoguePay to Launch Blockchain-based Crime Control Platform in Nigeria

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Online payments provider VoguePay and the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) are set to launch a blockchain-based crime control platform in Nigeria.

Crime Control on the Blockchain

The crime control platform, which will be called interPort, will obtain information and manage stakeholder involvement and crime reporting.

“The partnership with VoguePay will help the agency to increase the safety of Nigerians, and to protect the economy while enabling citizens and businesses to comfortably embrace available technologies to grow their businesses, increase their profits, and create more jobs,” Interpol Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, Olushola K. Subair, stated.

Thanks to its experience in payments security and blockchain implementation, VoguePay will enable Interpol to increase citizen engagement and cooperation with partner networks to curb crime in Nigeria.

“Blockchain technology is the next evolution in identity management and that by leveraging it, Interpol is now better positioned to offer cross-agency data and biometric management,” Michael Simeon, CEO VoguePay, said.

Crime in Nigeria

Criminal activities in Nigeria range from kidnappings and robberies to contract killings and terrorism.

The Nigeria 2017 Crime & Safety Report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) states: “Crime is a risk throughout the country with significant terrorism threats, especially in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram is suspected of or has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist activity in Nigeria.”

For instance, the Lagos State and Federal Capital Territory recorded a total of 58,566 crimes in 2016. With such high crime levels, the partnership between Interpol and VoguePay could be a step in the right direction to make Nigerians feel more assured that perpetrators will be caught and charged for their crimes.

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Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority Issued Warning Against Initial Coin Offerings

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Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority has issued a public warning against initial coin offerings (ICOs) in an attempt to warn Kenyans about the risks involved in investing in newly issued digital tokens.

“It is notified for general information that the CMA has not as of this date, approved any initial coin offering. The ongoing offerings are unregulated and speculative investments with considerable risk to the investor […] ,” the notice reads.

The risks cited by the CMA include a heightened potential for fraud, cross-border distribution risks, information asymmetry, and liquidity risks.

Currently, two Kenya-based cryptocurrency projects that are conducting ICOs include Nurucoin and UwezuCoin. Both, however, have been criticized by members of the local cryptocurrency community and it is unlikely that these projects will raise a notable amount of funds during their token sales.

It is also important to note that the current regulatory environment in Kenya is – for the most part – anti-cryptocurrencies but very much pro-blockchain. This is also reflected in the CMA’s statement, which says:

“CMA is cognisant of the importance of FinTech and the benefits that can be derived from leveraging blockchain technology and is willing to work with interested parties through the already established Sand Box model for purposes of supporting innovative FinTech products in a controlled and safe environment.”

The most prominent African token sale to date has been the SureRemit ICO, which managed raised over $7 million for the non-cash remittance platform. In 2018, several African blockchain startups are expected to launch token sales to fund their operations. Whether the Kenyan financial regulator’s warning will deter Kenyans from investing in these ICOs remains to be seen.

For investors, it is extremely important to conduct thorough research into a blockchain project before investing any funds as the barriers to entry for launching a token sale are extremely low and there are many scammers out there looking to prey on newcomers to the crypto asset investment space.

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