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South African Blockchain Startup Custos Media to Tackle eBook Piracy

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custos media

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

Women in Blockchain: An Interview with Blockchain Association of Kenya’s Roselyn Gicira-Mwangi

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Women in Blockchain

On June 22, 2019, the Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK) elected a new chairperson during its AGM. Bitcoin Africa talked to the newly elected chairperson, Roselyn Gicira-Mwangi, to understand what the association has accomplished so far, what she plans to achieve as chairperson, and about women in blockchain.

BAK Achievements

Blockchain Association of KenyaSince it was registered in 2017 as a non-profit, the Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK) has played a big role in catalysing the largest Kenyan community and network of people working in the blockchain space. According to Gicira-Mwangi, this is one of the achievements that is the “foundation and catalyst of everything that is happening regarding blockchain in Kenya and East Africa.”

BAK has been an inspiration and role model to other blockchain communities and networks in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Furthermore, the association has grown its non-profit brand through the commitment and help of its community and network.

Current Projects

Through the guidance of a two-year strategic plan, BAK is currently working on several projects to promote blockchain awareness, adoption, and to expand the blockchain community.

“We are creating linkages with strategic partners to roll-out educational programmes for the public. The programmes will span from simple understanding and application of blockchain technology to actual courses for developers. We are also positioning the BAK as a platform to highlight all our partners’ activities to make it easy to plug into events whenever is convenient for them,” Roselyn said. “To get there, first we are working to get representatives in the different regions of the country to enable seamless representation for all Kenyans. This will lead up to a Blockchain summit at the end of the year hosted in one of these regions,” Gicira-Mwangi told BitcoinAfrica.io.

The association is reassessing its constitution and charter as it strives to grow its leadership, advisory, and board structure. A membership recruitment process for institutions, corporations, and individuals will follow this reassessment.

To support blockchain adoption, BAK has established working group forums to extract feedback and suggestions on how emerging technologies such as blockchain can drive development in the country at both levels of government.

Women in Blockchain

More than 50 percent of the people that reach out to BAK for a wide range of reasons are women, Gicira-Mwangi stated. As a woman in the blockchain industry, she believes that the diversity of players in any sector is crucial.

“My personal experience with Kenyan women is that they are keeping up with changes in technology and are keen to get a grasp on the future technological advancements and its impact on their lives. Women are also great networkers because they talk to each other about trends and events. Every other day, I get more women who want to be taken through Blockchain, its implications, and benefits,” she added.

Currently, women in Kenya are holding a wide array of positions in blockchain companies. They are trading and investing in cryptocurrencies, and increasing blockchain awareness to the people within their circles.

Future Plans

In anticipation of the rising demand for blockchain developers in the coming years, Roselyn plans to lead BAK in promoting the training of professionals in this line of work. Furthermore, collaborating with other regional blockchain organisations is another item on her to-do list during her term. Such partnerships could be used to promote blockchain awareness, increase blockchain innovation, and implement blockchain projects.

Gicira-Mwangi is passionate about emerging technologies and formerly worked as a programme officer at UN Women East and the Horn of Africa for eight years. Besides heading BAK, she is the director of Azuri Blockchain Consultants, a firm that connects investors with blockchain startups.

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Blockchain Technology

Blockchain Game Gods Unchained Secures New Game Director and Introduces Debit Card Payments

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Blockchain Game Gods Unchained
Image by godsunchained.com

Blockchain card game Gods Unchained has added Magic: The Gathering Arena Game Director Chris Clay to its team and introduced debit card payments. These two decisions aim to drive the game closer to mainstream appeal.

Experience and Achievements

Clay’s experience of more than 20 years in design and game development will be valuable to his new position as game director at Gods Unchained. His task entails prioritising visual designs, new features, and supporting community experience.

In his previous role at MTG Arena, Clay brought on-board three million active players and more than one billion games were played. According to a report by Dot Esports, MTGA – a digital collectible free-to-play card game published by Wizards of the Coast – grossed around $225 million.

Currently, Gods Unchained is the top-selling blockchain game of the year and with Clay’s help, the game could reach greater heights and attract traditional players.

“I believe blockchain represents a new frontier for game developers. Digital asset ownership on the blockchain lets developers support games and their communities in ways we have never seen before in electronic gaming. […] Blockchain is not just for digital currency; it is laying the foundation for a whole new digital economy,” Clay explained.

Game Payments

As an Ethereum-based esports game, Gods Unchained has been allowing its community to purchase booster packs using ether. Users now have an alternative payments option of debit cards. This move could help the game to reach a wider audience by appealing to traditional players.

“To date, blockchain games have provided a niche group of individuals a fun and experimental game ecosystem of NFTs. But now is the time for mainstream adoption. We need these games to show value, and we do not want ‘blockchain’ to sit as just another buzzword. Gods Unchained will become a game that any person can play, regardless of their blockchain familiarity. And the fun of the game will not be predicated on the underlying tech,” stated Gods Unchained co-founder Robbie Ferguson.

In a press release, Gods Unchained announced the rebranding of Fuel Games to Immutable. Immutable is the creator behind Gods Unchained.

Last month, Gods Unchained launched its beta version enabling more players to experience blockchain-based gaming. The game also debuted its gameplay trailer in 2018.

If you are into blockchain gaming, check out our guide to the best blockchain games in 2019.

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Kenya’s Blockchain Taskforce Releases DLT Implementation Strategy for Kenya

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Kenya Blockchain Report

Kenya’s Blockchain and AI Taskforce released its first report to the public since the ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru launched the body in 2018. The report depicts an implementation strategy for the adoption of these two emerging technologies that will steer Kenya to the fourth industrial revolution.

Implementation Strategy

Kenya Blockchain ReportThe report, titled Emerging Technologies for Kenya: Exploration & Analysis, has stipulated an implementation strategy based on blockchain technology and AI that will solve challenges such as financial exclusion, corruption, high public debt, inefficient public service delivery, food insecurity, and high transaction costs.

Furthermore, the report will guide the government in attaining the Big Four Agenda, which encompasses affordable housing, food security, manufacturing, and healthcare.

The Chairman of the taskforce, Bitange Ndemo stated: “I am confident that this report will guide policymakers in their efforts to stimulate an efficient and resilient economy with respect to the digital transformational technologies, especially with the realisation of the Big Four Agenda.”

Some of the implementation strategies are as follows:

  • Digital Asset Framework

The Blockchain and AI Taskforce has proposed a digital asset framework that will guide companies wishing to list a cryptocurrency on an exchange. According to the report, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) is looking into how to regulate initial coin offerings (ICOs) by using the authority’s legal framework and the forthcoming regulatory sandbox.

The digital asset framework is meant to help small and medium-sized enterprises that are unable to raise capital through IPOs to have the alternative of using token sales.

  • Digital Currency

The taskforce had earlier announced its proposal for a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which would facilitate financial inclusion and low-cost transactions.

With 90 percent of Kenyans already using mobile money, credit cards, and bank transfers to make transactions, adding a CBDC to the existing digital economy could be a seamless process.

To introduce a digital currency in Kenya, the taskforce acknowledges that the country first requires a regulatory sandbox and the tokenisation of government fiscal operations.

  • Tokenisation

Another proposed strategy is the tokenisation of the economy which could help to solve unemployment issues. The unemployment rate in Kenya is one of the highest in the world and the taskforce envisions a platform where work is exchanged for tokens to tackle this issue. Service providers will use the platform to build a work marketplace, store data, and manage transactions.

The Ajira Program, an initiative created to enable more Kenyans to work online, will adopt this proposed strategy. Using the Ethereum platform, Ajira will offer inter-person and inter-service settlements and payments. The initial stage of creating the Ajira platform is ongoing. A flagship service called Ajira Machine Learning (AML) is currently running on this platform. The AI-based service links crowd workers to digital tasks.

AML offers human language interfaces in African languages and pays people for teaching the AI to translate these languages.

The Chairman of the blockchain taskforce, Bitange Ndemo, had mentioned in an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io the need to tokenise Kenya’s economy. In addition, he had observed the importance of helping Kenyans to understand this process.

Target Implementation Areas

blockchainSome of the target implementation areas for blockchain and AI include the Ministry of Lands, Huduma Centres where important documents are issued, and the Ministry of Transport.

In the Ministry of Lands, illegally duplicated title deeds are a common issue. With blockchain technology, the land titling process will become transparent and secure.

Moreover, the blockchain will enable Kenya to build an efficient public service delivery system where digitised documents are sharable between various government offices and where Kenyans can trace the payments they make for services.

The Ministry of Transport can build a public transport model based on a sharing economy. This model is then built on a blockchain to ensure that all relevant stakeholders in the transport sector are part-owners and that everyone benefits.

“The Organisation would determine which participants would form part of the networked nodes that would run the validation software as well as the consensus mechanism. Typically, the network of participating nodes would include stakeholders with specific roles and mandates within the ministry and across the transport sector,” the report reads.

The taskforce believes that the proposed strategies and solutions in this report will propel Kenya’s economic development. Additionally, the ICT CS Joe Mucheru illustrates his commitment to have the entire contents of the report executed and to gain the backing of all stakeholders in making these recommendations a reality.

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