Is Blockchain the Solution to Proper Artist Remuneration?

Protecting Fabric Patterns with Copyright Law
January 22, 2018

Is Blockchain the Solution to Proper Artist Remuneration?

You have probably heard of blockchain by now, whether by stumbling upon a panoply of blog posts explaining what blockchain is and how it is the new Internet, or because a company you’re familiar with has announced its decision to use blockchain technology from now on.

Blockchain technology is often spoken of as a way to revolutionize financial services or the insurance industry, amongst other things, but what about creative industries? Artist remuneration (or lack thereof) is an ongoing topic, regardless of whether we’re talking about the music industry or visual arts. Here are a few ways blockchain could help solve this problem.

Please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding licensing and blockchain, please consult an attorney.

First of all, what is blockchain?

Blockchain is a decentralized public ledger. It is not related to any existing institution, whether financial or governmental. This ledger consists of different blocks in which data is stored. Every time a transaction is recorded into a block, it is added to the chain. This data cannot be altered and is shared within a public network, which means that everything remains public.

How can blockchain help creators get proper remuneration?

1. Internet content on social media platforms

Creators get very little remuneration, if any, from content that is shared online. Think about an Instagram post that gets a significant amount of likes or engagement. While that recognition is rewarding, it does not actually translate into any real money. The same goes for an article shared on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where post sharing is unlimited.

Websites such as Steemit and WildSpark are working on this issue. Both have a system for not only rewarding content creators for their work shared through those platforms, but also the curators who share the content that they find valuable, whether it’s a video, an article or a song.

Considering the amount of online content we are bombarded with on a daily basis, this could be a huge step forward for online content creators.

2. Monitoring copyright infringement

One of the issues constantly faced by creators is copyright infringement and the impossibility to track unauthorized uses. Copytrack has been helping photographers with finding their images on the web and taking the appropriate legal action to get a licensing fee for the image’s use for a few years now, but has decided to pivot to a new blockchain-based platform that will act as a global copyright registry.

This platform is supposed to allow creators to be directly linked to their intellectual property, regardless of the media, which not only means that creators will be able to track online use of their work), but also that users will be able to search the registry for the people who have created works they want to use and pay them a license for that. Kodak is also working on a similar platform for images.

By making monitoring easier, creators could finally with catch up with the amounts in licensing they are missing out on every year because of copyright infringement.

3. Licensing agreements

All the aforementioned applications of blockchain technology are based on the concept of intellectual property licensing, but what I’m referring to here are licensing agreements as a result of business partnerships.

While some licensing agreements are fairly simple, others can be relatively complex and usually always require an important level of monitoring. Blockchain smart contracts could make the whole process a lot easier for both parties.

For instance, data regarding the duration of a licensing agreement, the territory it covers, and all other relevant key points could be registered as distinct blocks. Royalties can be directly and automatically transferred to the licensor once certain requirements are met and can be stopped once the agreement is over. This can not only apply to trademark licensing following collaborations between fashion brands such as Fendi and Fila, but also software licensing between tech companies.

As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding how blockchain can be used for licensing purposes, you may email hello@lawontheruway.com.