Copyright law has been a source of legal conflict since well before the rise of the internet. The relatively new presence of blockchain technology could potentially cut the number of copyright conflicts the industry sees on a regular basis.
Benefits of Blockchain technology
The primary principle behind copyright is that data creators have ownership of their own data. It sounds straightforward, but in practice creators commonly cease rights when they upload their content to content-sharing sites like Facebook or YouTube. By disintermediating from these platforms, users can gain back their content rights.
These rights are necessary now more than ever, as videos flagged for copyright on many sites have little room for disputation. Content-sharing companies have created and utilized automized bots to handle and evaluate flag requests. The bots often make erroneous claims. Furthermore, some users successfully flag videos for removal in order to silence criticism or decrease competition. This can throw a wrench in the entertainer’s livelihoods.
Content-sharing platforms have demonstrated little to no improvements in this aspect. Many of the largest content platform companies often lack customer service teams and are difficult to contact, because they cannot handle all of the requests they receive. With blockchain technology protocols, artists can take back their content and overhaul a system that doesn’t support its users in times of need.
How the technology works:
Let’s say that an artist is using SoundCloud to share their music. If an uploaded track violates a copyright, SoundCloud is not aware of it until somebody reports it. Once flagged, SoundCloud investigates and determines if a copyright violation has occurred. If they decide that an infringement has taken place, SoundCloud will take down the song for supposed copyright infringement. By the time the copyright violation is discovered, months, or even years of time can pass.
However, this artist could be alerted the moment he/she uploaded the song if a blockchain registry was in existence. An upload would instantly be compared against the information contained in the blockchain registry. At this point, a match could be found. If this happens, it could immediately be flagged. This would save time, energy, and paperwork. With blockchain’s 2nd generation of digital ledger technology upon us, an artist could use any available auto-executable software called ‘smart contracts.’ This software would allow its network to interact with the data and reach an instantaneous conclusion.
Remixed music is a new trend. Remixing occurs when an artist takes pre-existing content in parts or whole and transforms it into new content. In the music industry, one artist produces a song, but another artist then takes that song and changes it into a new song. In this circumstance, there is a lot of grey area surrounding royalties. The original artist has the right to compensation for their role in the production process of the new song. However, artists often don’t have foresight into licensing decisions. As a result, artists will sometimes produce and release a song before they make a licensing agreement. This creates ambiguity over how much of a royalty the original artist should receive.
Currently, this scenario usually plays out as follows:
- First, somebody produces a song.
- A remixer will then take parts of that song and put into a new song.
- The new remixed song becomes a hit; the artist who produced the remixed song makes millions of dollars off of the song.
- Once this happens, the original artist will sue for a proportionally large sum of money.
- Ultimately, the involved parties settle the lawsuit out of court and the original artist receives a fraction of what they were originally asking.
If preordained licensing rights were commonplace, the music industry could end these civil trials. This would create a breeding ground for creativity where artists could be more at ease, as they would be informed of standardized legal procedures.
Previous attempts at creating a Copyright registry.
The music industry has attempted to create a copyright registry before. They called the project the Global Repertoire Database. Ultimately, the database was abandoned and the project ended with $13.7 million in debt. The first issue that came up was a dispute over control of the database. Another issue is that producing, maintaining, and updating a copyright database is expensive. Many involved parties were also concerned that publishers might eventually self-license songs in order to earn a profit or cover operational costs. Blockchain technology has rendered all of these previous causes for failure irrelevant.
How Blockchain technology could solve Copyright problems.
The Blockchain has proven itself adaptable to a variety of creative implementations. Blockchain technology could provide a convenient meeting point for lawmakers and industry leaders to come together and back a cohesive system. However, right now there is no reputable, standardized copyright system in place for Internet content.
In the United States, only the US Copyright Office has the authority to register copyrights. Furthermore, copyright law is one of the most difficult and subjective the aspects of the law. Judging similarity between musical scores on trial is subjective. As a result, legal proceedings in similar trials often deliver inconsistent results. A better, automated system with terms agreed upon across sectors could reduce the number of infringement occurrences. It could also resolve claims much easier.
As a data-neutral network, there is no cap on the type of information users can store with a blockchain. Its capacity as a decentralized data warehouse is perfect for a company that seeks to marry multiple entertainment avenues into a smoothly functioning content-ecosystem.