A 7-year legal struggle led this dev to build an unstoppable Ethereum repository


"If you build it strong enough, the law will follow."

This is how Daniel Nagy, the main developer behind the decentralized storage layer of Swarm-ethereum, described his "take-away lesson" after a seven-year legal battle over the hosting of a file-sharing node.

A precursor of the peer-to-peer file sharing service, Bittorrent, Nagy ran a DC node, a technology that is now "perfectly and completely obsolete," according to the developer.

"I had a bit of a legal fight and I won," he told CoinDesk.

In the aftermath of that fight, Nagy – who founded the Hungarian branch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation – joined the Ethereum Foundation, where he was inspired to look deeper into censorship-resistant technology.

In particular, Nagy's experience in the courts began her work on Swarm, a highly anticipated storage layer for ethereum, which focuses on systems architecture and cryptography that preserves privacy.

With Swarm, Nagy is focused on making decentralized storage sufficiently robust that it can not have such legal repercussions – in what it describes as "an arms race" between developers and regulators.

"This is an arms race, and since we can develop stuff and the marginal cost of replication is zero, we will win this arms race, and I think everyone knows it," he told CoinDesk.

An "ethereum" initiative that has been active since the early days of the platform, Swarm tries to provide a blockchain mechanism to download some of its historical data, as well as manage file storage more widely.

With emphasis on "efficiency, speed, confidentiality and security", the decentralized storage-layer is built with the goal of making the cost of attack so inefficient that the legal system is forced to update itself in response.

According to Nagy, this because a fully solid network "can effectively inform the decision-making process, even to the point of how the law is interpreted by judges and order forces".

He told CoinDesk:

"They do not want to enforce unenforceable laws".

Unstoppable storage

Intended to provide a basic infrastructure for a decentralized Internet, Swarm divides information between the computers of different network participants.

To protect this layer from censorship – what Nagy defines as taking information from circulation – decentralization and privacy are vital.

For example, what developers call "redundancy" is the key to how Swarm protects against censorship. This refers to the duplication of critical system components of a system – creating, in effect, a "swarm" of machines.

"If you have more channels of communication, more storage locations, censorship becomes more expensive because you have to find them all and close them all," he told CoinDesk.

Although it is possible to store information transparently on Swarm, much of Nagy's work has focused on ensuring that sensitive information remains private, even if stored on someone else's computer.

To do this, Swarm uses so-called "counter mode" encryption. In the event of a dispute, the protocol shares a small fragment of encrypted data that can verify ownership without revealing other information.

To access the information stored remotely, Swarm uses public and private key pairs.

In this way, participants will host encrypted data blocks on their laptops and, in most jurisdictions, will be able to do so with a plausible degree of denial, which also means that because Swarm nodes do not have the keys to unlock data, they will not be at risk of legal problems.

According to Nagy, this is important because attack-resistant storage is essential for healthy societies.

"Storage is the shared experience of humanity," he told CoinDesk, adding:

"The difference between hunter gatherers and us is only the amount of stored information we have access to." There is no difference between us. "

Future directives

The storage protocol is currently in public alpha, which means that while it is still under development, but today anyone can run a Swarm node.

Going forward, the protocol will also offer incentives in the form of ether (the native cryptocurrency of ethereum) for participants in the Swarm network. This aspect is still under development.

Furthermore, according to Nagy, Swarm encryption was designed to be "as friendly as possible from the contract's point of view", to ensure that developers of the art can seamlessly integrate the technology.

This is because, although it is intended primarily to store intelligent contractual information and other blockchain data in a decentralized manner, Swarm has other more extensive use cases at the horizon.

For example, the project has secured a series of partnerships in the last year, including the launch of Livepeer streaming video and Datafund, a privacy-focused data management protocol.

Nagy is also using Swarm to build a censorship-resistant social media platform called BeeFree, in collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation developer Dimitry Khokhlov. Their goal is to use technology in an attempt to create an alternative to platforms with heavier forms of censorship.

"We have access to a kind of shared knowledge that humanity has accumulated and, if it is censored, this makes us much more stupid than a company," Nagy said.

Storage facilities via Shutterstock

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