While it may be best-known in the mainstream for its association with Bitcoin, there is huge potential for blockchain technology to be applied to other areas and industries.
One of the most promising applications is to the protection of intellectual property. There are various solutions available to protect IP from being exploited (learn more here), but blockchain changes the landscape completely.
Most authors of artistic creations and other unique works are protected by local IP laws as well as international agreements on copyright that exist between certain nations. The problem is that, when infringement or outright theft of IP takes place, even if the perpetrators are identified it is down to the owners to provide proof that they are the originator of the work.
This is where blockchain tech can be invaluable. Rather than relying on a centralised database to track IP ownership, it offers a decentralised approach to asserting authorial rights and demonstrating ownership in an entirely unambiguous, incorruptible way.
The blockchain is an interconnected, encrypted ledger, with each entry intrinsically linked to every other one. It is therefore impossible to make changes to entries and there is also no way to erase entries once they have been made.
In an IP context, this means that the moment you create a work it can be registered in the blockchain. Then, if you need to show that it belongs to you, not some other claimant, you can refer to this entry and ensure there is no question of your status as the owner.
Integrating blockchain tech with digital content can solve some of the key complications that come with making works available online. At the moment it is almost impossible for IP owners to see how their work is being distributed, or how it is being used by those that have access to it, which makes infringement and unsanctioned adaptation all too easy.
By making sure that works are registered as part of an IP-focused blockchain solution, it becomes possible to keep tabs on all aspects of how content is distributed and used. This applies not only to artistic works like music and images, but also to patented product designs and anything else that falls into the definition of intellectual property in the digital age.
Unifying contracts and licenses
Another challenge IP owners face emerges when they decide to offer their works to others and receive compensation for their efforts. Every consumer will be (or should be) familiar with the license agreements they commit to when installing software on their devices, but even these digital contracts are fairly inflexible in most cases and do not give IP owners as much control as they would like.
There is generally a need for licensing to be handled by a third party, because of the complexities involved with wrangling agreements of this nature.
Introducing blockchain tech to this process could put more power in the hands of creators while allowing them to make it much easier for end users to license their works legitimately. This might counteract some of the fragmentation which is particularly present in the multimedia entertainment market at the moment. It is claimed to encourage piracy, rather than preventing it.
In short, blockchain is a technology that will change the intellectual property game, mostly for the better.