How Blockchain can help creators and artists with royalties and copyrights

4CADIA
4 min readNov 12, 2020

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One of the most controversial aspects of the arts and music industry in modern times is the protection of the artist’s right and the due receipt of profits for the execution or exhibition of his work, the so-called royalty.

Since the popularization of music and file sharing services like Napster, Torrent, eMule and Soulseek, the entertainment industry has been dealing with serious copyright problems. Platforms like Spotify and Deezer have indeed emerged as a way to make music more accessible in a legal way, but these initiatives are not able to fully resolve the royalty problems in this industry.

For example, there are many cases of artists dissatisfied with the way — and the amount — Spotify pays them. Even top artists like Taylor Swift and David Byrne have already taken their music off the platform in protest of the way royalties are distributed.

Not to mention copyright issues before the publication of the work. Several cases of non-credited authors pervade the band’s biographies, taking glaims over films and stories of pieces and books produced in collaboration.

One of the most emblematic cases is the song “Bittersweet Symphony”, by the English band Verve. Despite being the biggest success in the group’s history, the band lost 100% of their royalty rights because of the use of a sample of the Rolling Stones’ song “The Last Time”. Only in 2019 the band managed to get the rights to the song again.

All these problems can be easily remedied with the use of Blockchain, which can correct the obsolete nature of our notions about copyright.

DRM + Blockchain

The basis of the Blockchain revolution within the world of copyright protection is already established: the integration of this new technology with Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. Simply explained, DRM is a set of access control technologies for the use of copyrighted materials. In general, they are cryptography systems that handle the registry of ownership over data objects.

Combining these systems with Blockchain can be an effective method to guarantee authorial integrity and fair payment for the consumption of the work. This can be done through smart contracts, records of property transactions, values, information and assets in a digital way, encrypted and stored within Blockchain systems.

This alternative also allows the creation of an instant catalog of artist identification — as is the case with platforms such as $OUND, Ujo and the Open Music Initiative. In fact, companies and websites like Sony, Warner Music, Spotify and YouTube are already studying how to incorporate Blockchain to cure copyright infringement issues with Blockchain technology.

Small Payments, Large Relieff

In addition, by acting outside the realm of banks and traditional financial institutions, Blockchain may increase the percentage received by artists in the execution of his work.

For example, let’s say an Internet user plays in a song or a video. A smart contract can be programmed to be executed when the execution takes place and credit the creator’s account with the royalties from the exhibition of the video or the execution of the music.

In general, royalties for individual executions can be quite small — sometimes fractions of cents — and this usually poses a problem for traditional banking transactions, as the bank’s fee for allowing the transaction usually exceeds the amount itself. Blockchain removes this “micropayment” problem, instantly creating a fairer and more transparent reward system for content creators.

Creative certification

But how to make sure the payments are going to the right person? Nobody wants to have a story like that of the band Verve, which I told at the beginning of the article.

Anyone who has tried to register a literary work, a song, or has tried to register a patent knows how complex — and expensive — this process can be. Issuing ISBN, barcode and catalographic record in books can cost almost $ 200.00 per book, a prohibitive value for owners of small publishing houses or independent authors.

This problem can be easily remedied by using Blockchain initiatives such as Creary, an intellectual property register at CREA’s blockchain, which issues a temporary imprint in the registration of each work in a decentralized manner. This is an irrefutable and unalterable proof that allows to demonstrate the ownership of any work registered in its platform. Creary also allows authors to indicate the types of licenses with which their work can be used or distributed.

The world may soon become much more open, dynamic and creative with the freedoms and security offered by Blockchain. In fact, there are several real cases that prove that Blockchain is already able to solve the real dilemma that the entertainment industry suffers since the popularization of the Internet, while creating more space for young artists and authors to have chances of success and pollinate the world with their work.

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