Copyright is a type of right that regulates relations involving the creation and use of works of art or science. Speaking about this type of right, we imply that the subject of the relations is the copyright holder (not always the author), and the objects are the works of art, research papers and other intellectual property items. Copyright significantly differs from patent right by the fact it does not require registration. Whether the work is published or not, be it recorded on paper or other media, or simply verbally announced, it already has the authorship protected by law. However, copyright cannot always be duly protected because of the flexibility of conditions and a tremendously high speed of data distribution.
What issues exist now?
It is always in the interest of the author to prevent the work from becoming an income source for third parties. However, it is extremely difficult to track illegal data distribution and copyright breach on the Internet since free copying is almost unrestricted. Usually, if an author faces the violation of his rights, it is up to the author to protect them; such a protection simply needs an evidence base. While is it easier to regulate such relations in the material world, today’s Internet environment has almost no tools for monitoring and resolving similar issues. Blockchain can become such a tool enabling authors to confirm their authorship and the fact they were the first to create the intellectual property in question. Credits blockchain is one of such projects. Credits platform will enable its users to apply the system not only for financial transactions, but for the certification of digital objects of art, research papers, releases, SW code and the confirmation of their copyright.
How can blockchain protect the rights of authors?
Blockchain has the functions of a universal storage with the main purpose of validating digital objects using a global public registry. At present, draft services of certification on the basis of blockchain networks are at various development stages. Such services can ensure all types of document certification, registration, storage, notarization etc. Function-wise, it is most often implemented as the possibility to use cryptographic hashes as a permanent and public way to record and store information. This information can always be retrieved using search engines and indexes.
Some technology used in blockchain systems can create a tangible basis for the resolution of civil disputes and legal issues.
In this view, the most important technologies are:
- cryptographic hashes. The hash is used to confirm the existence and the content of any digital object without the actual disclosing of the content. Since any documents can be certified, unique hashes can be created for each individual object of intellectual property.
- timestamping. When timestamping the hash the author certifies he was the first to create the object of intellectual property by showing the exact time of its creation or publishing.
Some blockchain properties enable authors to certify their works being sure that no one will impinge on them in the future, and it is guaranteed that the information about it will be preserved.
- confidentiality. When an object is registered in the blockchain network, all the information about the author remains available upon request. When a record is made, it is not revealed. This is essential when registering not so much the works of art as official documents.
- data inalterability. Once recorded in the registry, data, including the hash and the time stamp, cannot be modified or deleted. This ensures its safety and authenticity.
- decentralization. No censor, moderator or other controlling body is needed. Any content can be certified; content authentication will become much less expensive for the author than a patent or a license: the user is only charged the transaction fee specified in the blockchain rules.
Authors’ rights protection methods of Credits blockchain
The advantages and the technologies above are applicable to Credits blockchain network. Decentralized platform Credits enables to authenticate any digitalized work through a verified transaction. A user who wants to certify his work can initiate a transaction. After uploading of a digitized work in any format or any data about it to the “Comment” field, the transaction that is signed by an electronic digital signature needs to be confirmed. The system will store the user’s file, and the data about it and the transaction will always be available in the hash of the transaction. The size of uploaded files is not limited, which is convenient. To authenticate each individual work, the user simply initiates a new transaction. Thus, a verified and signed transaction is very simple and reliable method to confirm authorship.
Other blockchain-based copyright protection projects
Similar methods are used by some blockchain-based certification services, e.g. Proof of Existence (its name reflects the nature of the process).
The most famous blockchain-based systems involved in copyright include Ascribe and Binded. The first project is a distributed database that contains copyright information. The entire work can be uploaded into the system, and the copyright can be registered. At the same time, the platform allows to trade intellectual property. Binded presents a simple implementation of the proof of ownership; the project was created for photographers. When uploading a picture, a photographer receives a certificate with the uploaded file data.
In the near future other projects on protection of the rights of writers and journalists will come out. For instance, Civil, a service that protects journalists’ stories from tampering and copying.
Copyright in literature and research papers
Blockchain is able to improve the publishing of research papers. The technologies will give blockchain the functions of publishers, including a content quality confirmation tool. Compared to the works of art where it is especially important to make sure that third parties will not be able to benefit from them, in the field of science the originality (precedence), the authenticity and the value of scientific research are of the highest importance. These factors can influence the author’s reputation, which many scientists may value more than a royalty from the article. Credits network transactions resolve the issue of originality (precedence) due to the time stamp on the information about the uploaded text, which is unchangeable and can serve as a proof; this information always remains open.
The problem of plagiarism and quoting can be solved using smart contracts or a decentralized autonomous application that browses through publicly open literature. Blockchain-based systems that ensure fact checking and protect the public from fake new — such as Trive — already exist.
Is there an alternative?
Anyone who in any way deals with content generation on the Internet knows the services that are on the side of the author and protect the author’s content from illegal copying. For photographers it is official image banks, e.g. Flickr, where photoartists can place their works and charge third parties for their use. Shutterstock and Behance defend the rights of photographers, illustrators, and designers, while serving as storages of media files that can be distributed and used with the author’s consent for a specified fee.
Sometimes in case of controversy authors provide their social network page data as evidence. The proof of this kind often works. However, such sites are known to impose specific requirements to content or censor publications, which some authors are not satisfied with.
Potential issues of blockchain copyright protection
There cannot be two identical hashes for the same object, which gives some hope that the work will be copy-protected. However, it is not excluded that minor editing will make the system recognize the work as a new one. In this case the protection against plagiarism becomes essential.
Blockchain itself does not protect against piracy in the field of arts.
The lack of censorship also causes potential issues: the risk of unwanted content distribution grows. At the moment, the mechanisms able to hide (nothing can be fully removed from the network) the content and receive user complaints within the blockchain technology are at the stage of development.
Credits platform provides very effective tools of the confirmation of the authorship of works and objects of intellectual property of any kind. A verified transaction with a digital signature becomes a kind of proof of authorship. Due to data inalterability and openness the authorship can always be proven in case of a dispute about the ownership of intellectual property. Certainly, the prevention of copyright infringement using blockchain still seems unlikely. However, it is believed to be a matter of time, since blockchain is a very flexible system able to adapt to diverse purposes.