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

by: Joseph Young

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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