Microsoft has had a mixed relationship with cryptocurrency. The company has both embraced and kept Bitcoin at arms length, depending on how you view it. However, Microsoft is mostly behind the concept of blockchain technology and is now looking to Ethereum blockchain to fight against digital piracy.

A new Microsoft Research paper shows the company is working on a system known as Argus, which leverages blockchain technology on the Ethereum crypto. Microsoft describes the Argus as the “first public anti-piracy system”.

Microsoft Research collaborated with Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon University on the project. Together, the project team has released an 11-page paper describing the creation, usage, and results for the Argus system.


Argus will operate on a public blockchain, which Microsoft says means people who inform on digital pirates can stay anonymous. Another reason to run the project publicly is to promote transparency.


In the paper, Microsoft explains Argus is “a fully transparent incentive system for anti-piracy campaigns. The groundwork of Argus is to formulate the objectives for fully transparent incentive mechanisms, which securely and comprehensively consolidate the different interests of all roles. These objectives form the core of the Argus design, highlighted by our innovations about a Sybil-proof incentive function, a commit-and-reveal scheme, and an oblivious transfer scheme.

In the implementation, we overcome a set of unavoidable obstacles to ensure security despite full transparency. Moreover, we effectively optimize several cryptographic operations so that the cost for a piracy reporting is reduced to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH-transfer transactions to run on the public Ethereum network, which would otherwise correspond to thousands of transactions. With the security and practicality of Argus, we hope real-world anti-piracy campaigns will be truly effective by shifting to a fully transparent incentive mechanism.”

It is worth noting Microsoft’s continued use of blockchain does not equate to full support of cryptocurrencies, at least not yet. We have previously reported that Microsoft is not willing to take the same jump into Bitcoin adoption as companies like Tesla have.

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