23 September 2019CopyrightElena Galletti

Using technology to protect copyright in a new age

Blockchain is one of a handful of recent innovations that seem to be on everyone’s lips as something that could revolutionise the world. Most closely associated with digital currencies such as Bitcoin, it is now used in a wide variety of industries to provide a secure record of activity.

At its most basic, blockchain is a decentralised, distributed ledger for making a secure record of particular kinds of electronic activity. In theory, it’s tamper-proof, since you can’t alter a single record on the blockchain without altering the whole, and each record contains all the information about all previous records.

This has potentially huge implications for how companies and individuals might manage their copyrighted material, how that material might be disseminated, and how royalties may be assessed and paid in the future.

Content matters

One obvious application of blockchain with regard to copyrighted material is for content providers to maintain a record of where the content they supply originated, as well as facilitating royalty accounting when any such content is consumed. In theory, this can help ensure that rights owners have confidence in the fact that they are being appropriately compensated for use of their material, and that their material is being used legitimately.

The downside of this approach is that it is reliant to a large degree on the correct owners providing the correct materials to the platform in the first place. What happens if a copyright owner suspects that its material is being illegally used on the site? Processing takedown notices in a blockchain system may be difficult, and the diffuse nature of the blockchain itself means that the infringing material will likely be replicated across all the nodes in the blockchain.

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