Mediachain: Protect Digital Content With a Bitcoin-Based Metadata Protocol

Mine Labs

, a New York-based blockchain startup has announced the development
of Mediachain, a Bitcoin blockchain-based decentralized metadata
protocol which relies on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) to
protect and ensure the rights to creative digital works.

Since early 2015, emerging blockchain startups have begun to
focus on the development of blockchain-based identity and
authentication systems to assist artists, freelancers and digital
content providers to protect their work from being plagiarised. To
encrypt and store digital rights on the Bitcoin blockchain, most of
these blockchain startups have either encoded an ID into the
Bitcoin blockchain using OP_RETURN or CoinSpark to reference
centrally hosted data or used a custom-built blockchain to attach
metadata directly to transactions.

But there are several challenges in using these two techniques
in encoding metadata onto the Bitcoin blockchain.

For example, the maximum data storage per transaction allowed by
the Bitcoin protocol’s built-in OP_RETURN code is 40 bytes. This
restricted storage makes it difficult to store long strings of
metadata onto the Bitcoin blockchain. Thus, using OP_RETURN to
encrypt metadata onto the Bitcoin blockchain becomes extremely
inefficient and is discouraged by core developers which think that
it contributes to “blockchain bloat.”

The issue with the second technique of building a custom
blockchain is security. Newly established blockchain networks with
a lack of miners and hash power could be vulnerable to 51 percent
attacks. The problem intensifies if the data and the blockchain
becomes large and there is not enough hash power to secure the
protected information.

Pete Dushenski
explains

, “As shorter walls are easier to attack, the city has grown at the
expense of security. To bring this into relevant (Bitcoin) terms,
the size of the city is the Blockchain and the height of its walls
is the network’s hashrate. As such, the larger the Blockchain, the
more hashpower is required to maintain the same level of
security.”

Instead of solely relying on the Bitcoin blockchain’s built-in
features to store metadata, Mine Labs has introduced a new method
of validating data without storing large sums of information onto
the Bitcoin blockchain itself. Mine Labs’ protocol, called
Mediachain, capitalizes on the limitations of existing startups by
using the InterPlanetary File System to store the actual data, but
publishing the data onto the Bitcoin blockchain to authenticate the
information using using time stamps. This allows digital content
providers, artists and freelancers to encrypt rights to their
digital content by making images and other information
interoperable and discoverable in a hybrid decentralized
system.

“Mediachain is a collaborative federated media metadata protocol
that allows parties to make statements about creative works,”
explains Denis Nazarov of Mine Labs.

“The metadata statements are cryptographically signed by the
contributor, timestamped in the Bitcoin blockchain, and stored in
IPFS. The statements can then be looked up via perceptual search
using an instance of the media itself.”

One of the core technologies behind Mediachain, the
InterPlanetary File System is a new hypermedia distribution
protocol developed by the IPFS community and many contributors from
the open source community to enable the creation of completely
distributed applications. The concept of IPFS is actually similar
to the Web in terms of providing a high throughput block storage
model with content-specific cryptographic hyperlinks. The unique
advantage of using the IPFS as a foundation of an application is
that the IPFS provides cryptographic proof or hash to every set of
data stored in the system.

“IPFS, billed as “a new hypermedia distribution protocol,” is a
stack incorporating a lot of the best distributed systems ideas of
the past few years (DHTs, Merkle DAGs, BitTorrent swarms,
self-certifying file systems) to deliver a global, uniformly
addressable namespace that anyone can participate in. A recently
landed new object format patterned after JSON-LD allows us to store
richly structured and interlinked data within this system,”
explained Arkadiy Kukarkin of Mine Labs.

Because the data encoded into the IPFS system is accompanied by
a unique cryptographic hash of its digital content, the actual
links to the content cannot be changed or altered. The Mediachain
publishes the cryptographic hash of the content onto the Bitcoin
blockchain, providing irrefutable and unalterable data that can be
used to verify and authenticate digital content.

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