Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Blockchain - if it is good enough for a currency, its good enough for royalty systems

The beauty of blockchain technology is that it offers a public ledger of transactions. The ledger cannot be tampered with. The information in the ledger is irrepudiable. It is the actual history of the transaction. No argument.

So we can see why companies are getting in on the act of patenting aspects of the technology in order to control the IP. The Economist has an article about this.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21714395-financial-firms-and-assorted-startups-are-rushing-patent-technology-underlies

You can see that this is very important for the protection of IP. I was involved in the build of a major royalty system back in the 1990s when the internet was beginning to mature, and the organisational complexity of collecting and managing the complex sets of information are enormous. There are so many interested parties, with different agendas.

Thus the fascination of a blockchain technology to provide transparency on music usage and clear up royalty liabilities is attractive, highly complex, and becoming more of a possibility.

Most creative work of humankind can now be expressed in a digital format. Whether music, books, journalism, research, artwork, design, architecture and more. One of the few artistic creative pursuits which cannot be digitised is sculpture. The other is music performance, so much more commercial than digital recordings.

So engineers and scientists and businessmen are thinking through the ledger required to run royalty systems. Imagine each music recording having a digital blockchain piece of code, which can track how many times it is played. That information can be kept in a master ledger, so every 'play' on any device anywhere in the world will be registered. That is revolutionary, in terms of tracking activity.

It is rather like streaming music services, which track each play of a song. Those plays generate royalties and payments. This is very, very different to last century when records were sold and no one knew who listened, or how many times they listened. Now publishers and record companies can have a good chance of knowing exactly how many plays and by whom.

Imagine blockchain technology recording all that information in a nice secure manner. Imagine people having an account associated with their usage of digital creative works. Imagine the originators of creative works being accurately rewarded.

It is a far off dream, yes. But the possibility is there, and it will be rather amusing, depressing, challenging and illuminating to follow the way in which this technology matures. Imagine musicians making good money from recordings again. The world is a' changin'.

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