The internet has done many a wondrous thing, with the democratisation of information being one, and while people the world over have access to far more than they did previously, it also means that content has been pirated at a much higher rate.
This is especially an issue for smaller independent creators who do not have the backing of a large corporation to protect them.
There are, however, a few tools out there capable of assisting and that’s where a company like Stellenbosch-based Custos Media Technologies plays their part.
Custos uses blockchain and the cloud computing in order to combat online piracy, and we recently spoke with their COO Fred Lutz to find out how they plan to win the fight.
Custos’ media protecting technology is empowered by blockchain, with the digital ledger allowing them to track the original content (films for the most part) that their customers share.
It seems to be working quite effectively too, with Lutz proudly noting that they recently protected their 180 000th piece of content, and have not suffered a single pirated leak to date.
“Deterring leaks is exactly what the technology is intended to do. The fact that we add tracking technology to each copy is meant to instil a credible threat of detection on any would-be pirate. Zero leaks from over 180 000 copies of movies exceeded even our own expectations about how effective the technology would be,” adds Lutz.
Along with citing the power of blockchain, the COO points to Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a key contributor to their success. As Custos’ operation has expanded over the past couple of years, and the demands placed on its technology have increased, AWS’ platform has been able to meet their requirements.
“Working with AWS right from the start, the low-latency AWS platform allows us to scale easily to address the fluctuation in the demand for our services. As customers upload new media files, such as films and eBooks at unpredicted times, we need to scale, on multiple regions at different times, from almost no activity to massive load, so that we can process hundreds and thousands of files for watermarking,” explains Lutz.
“We leverage the various services provided by Amazon, such as EC2, S3, SWF, RDS, Elastic Beanstalk and others, to achieve a high level of scalability, reliability and security – allowing our platform to handle multiple customers easily,” he adds.
Part of the efficacy of the Custos offering is the “bounty” program it has in place, with pirates paid in cryptocurrency to find others infringing on piracy laws and attempting to steal content illegally.
“We have expanded our in-house search capability and our bounty hunter community is growing. For niche content we carefully seed the bounty hunter community as required to ensure effective reach and happy hunters,” notes the COO.
This “sowing of dissent” as Lutz refers to it is yielding great benefit, with word quickly spreading in the piracy community about the fact that the Custos solution is hard at work protecting the original content of others.
“We measure efficacy here as the impact it has on deterring piracy, and in that case our core differentiator, the bounty hunters, would be the most effective. The fact that we were able to reduce leaks from over 60 percent in some markets to effectively zero is a result of this unique value-add,” Lutz points out.
Making it secure
With security core to Custos’ business, and blockchain helping them to deliver an effective solution to market, Lutz does also note that the company needs to ensure its own infrastructure is robust and safely monitored.
When it comes to that element Custos does not turn to the world of crypto, but once again looks at AWS for assistance.
In that regard the AWS cloud infrastructure holds particular advantages with its level of scalability.
“With security at our centre, we also benefit from AWS network architecture, which is built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organisations. An advantage of the AWS cloud is that it allows us to scale and innovate, while maintaining a secure environment. We pay only for the services we use, meaning that we get the compute resources and security we need, but without the upfront expenses, and at a lower cost compared to an on-premises environment,” adds the COO.
Having a service provider like AWS working behind the scenes affords Custos the time and capacity to deal with blockchain and the pirate/bounty community. Added to this, the company’s customers do not have to worry about the crypto element of the Custos offering.
“Our whole mission is to provide solutions to filmmakers and distributors so that they don’t to worry about piracy, ripping DVDs, getting couriers, using file transfer protocols, or anything other than doing what they have a passion for – making films,” concludes Lutz.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]