Blockchain in media royalties

Written by Tom Synott | August 17, 2018

Intellectual Property

Blockchain is the latest buzzword on everyone’s lips and it’s not hard to see why; the technology has the potential to completely change how we create, secure and transfer intangible property ranging from money and insurance to contracts and IP. We deal with a number of clients in the media sector and of particular interest to them will be the impact of block chain on content rights and royalty management.

So what exactly is blockchain?

The much repeated analogy is of a spreadsheet duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Picture each one of these being able to be regularly updated in a self-sustaining system so the spreadsheet is current and accurate for all users in real-time. That is essentially the basis of blockchain: a digitised, decentralised, public ledger.

How could it apply to media industry?

The concept of this public ledger means that transactions of nearly any type or scale can be conducted on a global basis with no possibility of inaccuracy or fraud in the underlying data involved. It also means accurate tracking of content: at present, once it finds its way on to the web there is an uphill battle for rights’ owners to manage or police it.

Both features could fundamentally revolutionise royalty collection and rights management. They would make for inbuilt copyright tracking and allow for automatic distribution of royalties at pre-agreed rates built into the software. These are so called “smart contracts” –computer code stored in a block chain with a number of pre-agreed variables.

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Smart contracts allow for the automisation of transactions which would previously have required manual input from a variety of sources. It is not hard to see how royalty collection could be vastly simplified by the use of this technology but it is far from the only sector.

Blockchain also presents new revenue streams for content creators who traditionally find it hard to get paid for their work, be in the form of blogs, photos or videos. The level of accurateness to which it can attach would also mean it can be applied to individual pieces of content such as a single news article or a chapter from a book.

Whilst the potential applications of blockchain are exciting, the industry consensus is that it is not quite ready for mass consumption yet and will take a few more years before we see universal adoption. In the meantime, we are able to assist with all aspects of traditional royalty and rights management from negotiation through to drafting and are able to help you navigate this area whether you produce, manage or distribute content.

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