Copyright Protection Through Blockchain

Aug 16, 2017 at 12:47 // News
Lana Smiley
Intellectual ownership rights registration through the blockchain - is it of any actual legal force?

Intellectual ownership rights registration through the blockchain - is it of any actual legal force?

There are currently a number of platforms helping protect the intellectual ownership rights to works of art. The issue is as ancient as art itself, as there have always been cases of theft and piracy. The other question is whether those projects are really able to protect authors against piracy or plagiarism by, for example, serving as evidence in court. 

Different countries have different legislation, which does not always pay great attention to copyright protection and does not always acknowledge blockchain-registered copyright as evidence. 

According to Addison Cameron-Huff, Tech Lawyer & Programmer, “The only way to change that is legislative reform, however there's no way to displace the national registries so far.” 

Lack of Awareness, Lack of Trust 

Innovations are always treated with caution, as far as people don’t understand them. We are suspicious of things we do not understand, it is a psychological mechanism aimed at protecting us from possible danger. The problem here is not the solutions themselves, but our way of treating them. 

David Ben Kay

David Ben Kay, an expert working with social enterprises to deepen their impact from Confluence Consulting, University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law stated to 

“Once there is wider acceptance and implementation of the technology, it will no doubt be raised in litigation. We say the law lags behind business. Thus, one can also expect that it will take some time before the law knows how to handle this. I am confident that it will eventually come, but my sense is that we're at best about five years away from that.” 

However, aside from the lack of awareness and understanding, there are some actual problems that blockchain-based solutions are still to solve. While things are quite simple with digital content, as it is published and distributed digitally, physical objects of art are quite a different story. 

Garrisom Breckenridge

Garrison Breckenridge, Founder & Director of Research and Development at Embermine, Inc. stated:

“Physical art such as fashion, paintings, and sculptures presents a unique challenge since it requires the system to interface with the real world in an effective and meaningful way. Bringing the real world into the fold is a challenge for blockchain systems, since they are incredible with data but face significant complexity when integrating real world processes.” 

Despite all the issues, blockchain technology could influence the art and entertainment industry. Companies are aiming to disrupt the industry in 3 ways: 1) proof of rights ownership ( Ascribe); 2) disintermediation of services ( Ujo); 3) and fighting of illegitimate reproductions ( Custos). 

In music specifically, there are Ujo, Resonate, Paperchain, Opus etc. The major player in the television/film space is SingularDTV, a decentralized alternative to Netflix. Among other platforms covering a variety of digital content, it is worth mentioning Decent, Creative Chain, Binded (formerly Blockai) is a leading platform for registering copyright using blockchain. 

According to Garrison Breckenridge, “most of these projects have yet to prove themselves in the market since they are at alpha or beta at best., which records metadata and ownership information for digital creative works, is already in use. Opus and Decent are in beta.” 

An Efficient Way of Tracking Piracy on the Web 

While blockchain’s potential for copyright protection in real-life courts is still quite unclear, blockchain-based copyright protection platforms are definitely a great tool for tracking piracy on the web, which is an especially pressing issue for the authors of electronic content, such as e-books, music, photography, etc. 

G-J van Rooyen

For example, Custos Media Technologies uses blockchain-based technology to register copyright and track illegal use of e-books. Its CEO, G-J van Rooyen, told Coinidol: 

“We use cryptocurrency bounties embedded in digital media to “outsource” the search for pirated content. That allows us to pick up infringements in the hard-to-reach places (like the dark web). 
We detect the source of piracy – e.g. which movie reviewer shared a copy of a screener they reviewed. We help our clients identify and manage the sources of leaks. The presence of our technology is a strong deterrent to leaks happening in the first place. 
Custos technology has 2 functions: to disincentivize illegitimate content leaks, and to track the source of a leak if it happens. In the event of a leak, Custos provides the identity of the pirate to our customer, and it is up to them to decide how to proceed.” 

By the way, when the customer decides to bring a case to court, Custos also provides a critical first puzzle piece to build a case against a pirate. Even if legal authorities do not recognize blockchain-based evidence as evidence, there are few alternatives available to prosecutors to identify the source of a leak. That fact might force them to change their mind with time.   

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