Blockchain Technology And Copyrights: Frequently Asked Questions On DLT And Ownership


Frequently Asked Questions on Blockchain and Copyrights

With blockchain fast becoming ubiquitous and many entities looking to start placing some of their media, photos and documents on the blockchain, understanding the role of blockchain on copyrights and vice versa has become very important.

To that end, let’s address some of the more salient issues and frequently asked questions relating to blockchain and copyright issues.

Q: What’s the Possibility of Other People Posting Photos Belonging to Me on the Blockchain?

The odds of that happening now are small. But with blockchain’s advancing technology, that can change soon. This is because of data limitations on the blockchain. For now, there’s a limit to the amount of data that one block can take or store.

This makes it really difficult to store images on the blockchain. For now, it can only take text based data. To help you understand, blockchain is currently in its web 1.0 phase –the text only web.

Once the scalability and block size issues plaguing most blockchain platforms are fixed, we might see an increasingly more robust blockchain that will function in a manner similar to web 2.0.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t solutions dedicated to securing your image rights on the blockchain. It’s just that they aren’t as effective. The blockchain projects that are working on perfecting the necessary technology are currently in their early stages at best.

Therefore, even if there’s a record of the image’s owner and its original location of use somewhere on the blockchain, it still doesn’t prevent other people from using it elsewhere without your permission and claiming the rights.

This means that it’s very possible for someone to usurp your art pieces, images and photos, claiming it as theirs and worse still, making some money from the sale of these images.

This is particularly easier when the platform on which they’re displaying the images is lacking in its verification procedures. Worse still, if they beat you to claiming those rights and securing them on the blockchain, it can be difficult to contest that.

This is because, all data and information entered into the blockchain are immutable –they can’t be altered. Then, there’s no one to even contest the claims with. And if you decide to lawyer up, good luck with that as even the lawyers will find it very hard to sue anyone on your behalf.

The best they can do is sue the company, which may then find a way to remove that data from their blockchain. Apart from that’s there’s little or nothing you can do if someone else beats you to claiming your image rights on the blockchain.

Q2: How About Copyright Protection in the Physical World?

While it’s true that the copyrights laws in all countries tend to be different, the reality is that almost all images have automatic copyrights regardless of where their owners are resident.

So, it doesn’t matter where you are, all images, media illustrations and artworks are instantly copyrighted without you having to pay anything for it. These copyrights automatically forbids anyone from using your files without passing on the credit to you.

They cannot under any circumstances appropriate your work to themselves. If that happens, you can sue them for unlawful usage of your files.

This is possible, thanks to an international agreement on copyrights issued at the Berne Convention in 1866. This agreement implies that copyrights extend beyond a geographical territory such as a state, nation or continent.

It doesn’t matter if the image originates from Scotland and is used in South Korea, the same copyrights laws apply to it. So, according to the agreement, as long as a file’s copyright origins are established, that stays true for it in all participating countries, across the world.

Q3: What are the Odds of Having Copyrights Included in the Blockchain?

While this hasn’t happened yet, we foresee a future in which it will become the order of the day.

In fact, once the copyright technology becomes available, you can be sure that governments and institutions everywhere would be the first to get their copyrights on the blockchain. Some governments have started looking into the viability and possibility of this technology as we speak.

Iran for instance, is actively exploring this with the intent of migrating their infrastructure to blockchain by partnering with a blockchain firm. The hope is with the blockchain company’s expertise, they are hoping this can be launched very soon.

Q4: Is it Possible for Industries to Participate in this Opportunity?

There’s currently a race to see who first develops the technology that will make copyrights on the blockchain easy and feasible.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to see industries that deal with copyrights issues first hand jumping in on the possible opportunity and trying to develop projects that will make that a reality. Some of these industries include literature, photography, entertainment and music.

Leading the pack right now is Kodak, one of the leading firms in the photography space. The company has partnered with blockchain firm, Wenn Digital, to utilize their image rights platform.

The goal of this partnership project is for them to be able to accelerate payments for professional images, help photographers and image owners quickly identify image usage contract breaches, and help them retrieve all lost revenues from the unlicensed use of their images.

With this platform therefore, image owners can actually see where and what their images are being used for, and then get appropriate compensation through a simplified legal proceeding.

In the music industry, we’re seeing a fast adoption of blockchain based rights solutions that’s targeted at helping these companies find information about songs and compositions.

Right now, this is distributed across over 5,000 databases. Scouring all these databases for this information is a huge task. So, these companies got together to contribute to establish a universal rights registry called the Open Music Initiative.

With this trustless, decentralized platform, all record labels, streaming services and multimedia management companies can contribute all the necessary copyrights information, thus making it easy for anyone looking for copyright information find it quickly.

This has become increasingly important in the wake of dwindling sales and revenue from live shows and other traditional revenue sources in the entertainment industry.

Q5: Do You Have Copyrights to Your Social Media Posts and Activities

To be candid, this is unclear. In fact, the World Intellectual Property Organization itself, is having a tough time categorizing your posts as worthy of copyrights.

For example, your tweets cannot be copyrighted because of their short form. This is because their short form usually implies a lack of creativity, enough to qualify as original thoughts or ideas.

However, longer tweets, threads, or a collection of posts may qualify for copyrights protection according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. But, you also need to consider the terms of the platforms you’re posting on.

Most social media sites have terms that basically gives them the right to use your content however they please. The good thing though, is they have instituted procedures for helping people reserve their copyrights.

One of these includes pulling down and even penalizing accounts that blatantly rip off your work or posts as theirs, without giving you credit for them. While many of these scenarios are debatable at best, the reality is it’s too confusing right now.

The good news though, is government bodies are actively looking for ways to sort out the copyrights issues brought up by social media. For instance, the EU recently elected to compel companies like Facebook and other news aggregators to pay all news outlets whose articles are shared on their site. This is just one among other steps taken to further deter copyright infringement.

Q6: Are There Any Copyright Exceptions?

Yes, there are, but it’s dependent on both the geographical territory and their copyright laws.

Many countries have a “fair deal” clause where, as long as only small parts of excerpts of a copyrighted work are used for non-profit activities like academics and news items, then there’s no need for copyrights lawsuits.

In the EU for example, users are allowed to use samples of copyrighted works for satire and parodies. Some countries are pretty stiff about this though. For example, New Zealand doesn’t allow the use of copyrighted works for comic purposes.

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