EconomyIntellectual property – knocked off by the internet, protected by blockchain?

Could blockchain be used to protect intellectual property and copyright?
Daniel DobOctober 26, 20186 min

There’s little doubt that the internet was the single most important invention of the 20th century. The distribution of information across the globe at breakneck speeds was unimaginable just decades before its invention. However, while it brought positive impact to society, it also destroyed many traditional businesses as well as made many laws obsolete; amongst others – copyright and intellectual property rights.

Music, content and ideas while easy to distribute, also was easy to be copied (or knocked off), without benefiting the original owners. Fast forward to today, blockchain is hailed as the next generation protocol which is built on the internet. Its capabilities are well documented, and with the introduction of smart contract capabilities, could blockchain be used to protect intellectual property and copyright?


Controlling ownership rights

Distributed ledgers are perfect for controlling ownership rights, since the data stored is immutable, and can be accessed anywhere, anytime. As such, artists and other intellectual property owners can simply file for ownership online by providing basic information – date when the trademark (or copyright) was licensed, when it was applied for, etc. It can be a relatively easy process; even free. This will level the playing field for many inventors who have the ability to invent, but not the deep pockets to file for patents and copyright.

Proving ownership rights just became easy, and transparent – without major administrative expenses, which might include legal fees, litigation costs (if rights are infringed upon), government agencies costs, as well as time cost. What’s more, the information is forever stored in the blockchain, and no one can contest against or lose their ownership papers due to fire or flood.


Improved copyright and ownership enforcement

Most well-known case was Spotify that faced a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Wixen Music Publishing, on December 29 for copyright infringement. Photo by: Megan Rose Dickey/techcrunch

It is also worth noting that ownership without control and enforcement is worth nothing. This is also a MAJOR problem for many intellectual property owners. They often see their rights infringed upon and have to invest in litigation to get paid. Sometimes, even with litigation, they often do not see any returns. It is hoped that in the future, blockchain will not only allow users to decide who has access to the intellectual property, but making sure that the users actually pay for access – all of these enforced on the blockchain, transparently administered.

With this in mind, the data lives on even if the copyright agency disappears. With a standardized worldwide blockchain network used for this purpose, copyright owners throughout the world could easily file copyright infringement complaints in other countries, which can be verified and solved by accessing the data stored on the chain – or perhaps this process can also be completely automated.


Using smart contracts

Smart contracts can be leveraged to create a more effective “intellectual property” compensation system, effectively making lawyers pointless. For instance, when a song is played on a streaming platform, the smart contract enforces the profit share and compensates the artist, producer and promoter accordingly. As such, this technology can reduce friction between copyright-holders and streaming services, thus creating a more streamlined experience.

Based on everything that has been outlined so far, this industry will be “upended” for the better, without a doubt. This might not happen overnight, but there are already numerous start-ups working on such services.

Cover photo by: Burst/shopify

Daniel Dob

Daniel is a digital currency expert, writer, investor and ICO consultant. He writes for several top cryptocurrency publications, and will soon kick-start his entrepreneurial career in fintech, where he hopes to innovate. In his free time, Daniel enjoys travelling and collecting all sorts of thrilling experiences.

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