Blockchain in digital rights for music artists

TL;DR: Use case: blockchain in digital rights. Blokur addresses the problem of fair and transparent royalties compensation for musical records. We also hope blockchain digital rights tech eventually helps to solve the confusing matter of derivative works and fair use.

As I have learned from very informative Digital Catapult event on DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) earlier this week, there is an Oxford based company called Blokur that uses blockchain for management and monetization of creative rights. In particular, musical artists.

According to Blokur website it is “building the most accurate source of global music publishing data in the world using blockchain technology and machine learning” and already represents 50k songwriters and 7k publishers. Through providing better data and automatically resolving conflicts in rights it leads to decrease in human intervention required and increase in royalties paid:

blockchain increases music royalties by 4% and reduces human intervention by 75%from Blokur’s website,

Blokur’s combination of machine learning and DLT technology achieves the following:

  1. Reconciles different sources of rights data to a single blockchain state.
  2. Allows music publishers and CMOs to explore their catalogue in the cloud and compare their data with the global consensus view.
  3. Algorithmically resolves data conflicts, reducing human labour and increasing royalties revenue for authors and rights owners.

It is also worth noting that the company addresses derivative works. Accurately capturing rights structure in derivative works as they evolve is very important and Blokur seems to be doing just that. This unlocks additional revenues for the whole food chain.

This reminds me of recent issues with many online media portals such as Youtube. Following European GDPR regulations the portals have started to block the channels of musicians who do covers of popular bands etc. There was also an uproar of users at meme-based communities such as 9gag as popular interpretation of GDPR states that memes effectively become forbidden too.

Now I’m not an expert in digital rights and derivative works but it seems pretty ridiculous if it turns out to be the case that indeed memes and youtube fan covers should be banned.

He's making a list He's checking it twice He's gonna find out who's ... of article 4 of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679Santa is in trouble too

While we are on the topic I have always found the concept of ‘fair use’ confusing. I’ve read Youtube guidance and few articles on it but it remains clear as mud. For example I’m creating some product walkthrough putting it on Youtube and for dramatic effect say I’d like to add a piece of Metallica song in the intro or as background tune. Does it qualify as fair use or not? Is there an automated service that can check my video and tell me for sure so I don’t have to sweat it and wait for Youtube or Metallica publisher to go after me? I don’t want to violate any copyright law but I also don’t want to miss the chance to promote my favourite band and make a better video if it is legally OK to do so. Moreover I’m happy for Metallica to receive a share of ad revenues from my video, or to pay a fair upfront price, if such options were available (which is not the case now). Hats off to Blokur or similar platform once they are able to solve this for all of us. This is going to unlock so much value. If I was running M&A / strategic development at Youtube I’d seriously think about investing and acquiring Blokur or a similar startup, simply to solve that problem.

To summarize, the use case of digital rights tracking and management is a powerful one for blockchain technology. Blokur seems to have a right solution combining DLT with machine learning to tackle this properly.

Taras Filatov
Taras Filatov
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