New kid on the blockchain

Tech startup Blockai’s novel approach to protection and enforcement promises to “democratise” copyright for artists whose rights have been misappropriated

Individual artists have long been highlighted as the biggest victims of persistent infringement. Like sole inventors who cannot afford to protect or enforce their own patents, struggling artists face the real possibility of not even being able to prove they are the rightful copyright owners.

Nathan Lands, founder and CEO of Blockai, a new technology startup, is promising to change that.

Lands is an entrepreneur who takes up-and-coming technologies and applies them to new areas. Blockai, his latest project, promises to “democratise copyright” by building an ownership platform to help artists manage their rights.

The platform itself is built on blockchain technology, a distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol. Blockai uses blockchain to create a permanent timestamp of content creation, protected from any form of tampering or revision.

The timestamp and content will then be added to the creator’s user profile and Blockai will begin monitoring the web for potential infringement.

In an interview, Lands says that “over time, we imagine Blockai will become the trusted profile for all copyright holders”.

“We will integrate Blockai into every creative tool. So that as soon as you create a copyrightable work you make your claim, it’s then put into your trusted profile and we automatically begin monitoring the web for possible infringements.”

Blockai hopes to place an artist’s entire catalogue in one place, for easy access when defending their rights.

Lands explains: “Blockai combines copyright registry with copyright monitoring, all in a public platform that can really spread virally. As artists use Blockai with Twitter, Instagram and other creative tools, the idea of claiming your copyright will spread as well as our platform.”

Blockai should then go one step further, he says. “In the next few months, we’ll begin helping artists contact copyright infringers and in some cases give them a simple way to pay for a license to legally use the work.”

“We also plan on giving US artists the ability to batch register their copyrighted works with the US Copyright Office.”

With more than 20,000 reported copyright claims since July, Blockai is gaining traction, although it’s still early days.

“We have over one million copyright records unclaimed. Our monitoring feature is still in early beta. We’ve helped a few people find copyright infringements but we don’t have any success stories to share just yet.”

With any new technology come worries over security. Bitcoin in particular has had a troubled past, with high-profile thefts and one European IP Office report recently claiming that cryptocurrencies are being used by infringers. But blockchain is getting a lot of attention, not least in fintech, where startups and banks alike are heralding it as the next step in financial services.

The likes of IBM and Donuts are also investing heavily in blockchain, suggesting that it’s here to stay.

“Any technology can be misused,” says Lands.

“The great thing about Blockai is that if people commit fraud by claiming copyrights on the blockchain, they’ve made a permanent record that can never be erased that proves they committed fraud.”

“Over time we have plans on how to identify fraud and revoke copyright claims.”
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