Intellectual Property on The Blockchain - Trends 2020
With the spread of the Internet, a vast grey area has formed, since digital content is so simple to copy and paste. Although two modern directives (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the EU Copyright Directive) have improved the situation in relation to authorship, there are still very few tools available for automatically tracking copyright infringement.
Plagiarism scandals occur on Blockchain too
It's quite challenging to create something by yourself without copying other products. Some companies take each other's technologies and change them a bit. However, others make a 100% copy of an already existing platform or instrument.
A recent example of this is the conflict between the crypto exchange BitMEX and its fellow exchange Binance. BitMEX blamed Binance for plagiarizing documents. On 2019, September 4, the platform published a sarcastic tweet, saying:
"Congrats on the Testnet Futures launches @binance. Glad to see you enjoyed reading our documentation as much as we enjoyed writing it!"
The tweet included screenshots of Binance's overview of the Auto Deleveraging system for its new futures contracts. The text is word-for-word identical to that of BitMEX. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao reacted to this tweet, owned up to the mistake, and promised to fix it.
The conflict between Binance and BitMEX was not that resonant. However, some Blockchain conflicts can cost companies huge amounts of money. As happened to TRON.
TRON is the $2.8 billion project aiming to put the media and the entertainment sphere on Blockchain. Now it is under fire for its whitepaper, which looks to have plagiarized the whitepapers of two other crypto projects: at least nine pages copy the whitepapers of FileCoin and IPFS. Sometimes the text is written word for word, and sometimes it's carelessly copied. The whitepaper also copies key ideas without citations, including IPFS and BitSwap concepts. Moreover, the TRON team also stole code from their competitors' papers.
There's no crime in using sources for reference, but the TRON team offers no citations for these reproductions in their whitepaper. If they had quoted FileCoin and IPFS, then the company could have avoided such a catastrophe. Although we may expect to see plagiarism and scam projects in the crypto world, seeing this happen to a cryptocurrency that has entered Coin Market Cap's Top 10 is unprecedented.
Currently, people can not always prove the connection between themselves and their creations. However, with blockchain, the author can create this evidence in just 3 clicks for cents and transfer the rights via a token, signing the transaction with their private key. The token contains a timestamped copyright registration, which can serve as proof of authenticity. This is the most straightforward and most evident example of the tokenization of digital assets.
This breakthrough system can make copyright registration easier, more convenient, transparent, and far cheaper. On top of that, another feature of blockchain is that it is impossible to delete the registered work even if it is a matter of censorship.
By making it easier to access copyrighted content legally, blockchain can suppress copyright violations. Moreover, blockchain allows you to create continuously updated metadata that makes it easier to reward copyright holders. This also fits perfectly with the European Directive that every author is entitled to royalties. Authors can benefit from transparency and the ability to track the use of their work that can lead to increased revenue due to a reduction in intermediaries: no third party, just the author and the person who used their work.
Often the media and authors think, what's wrong with my content being used? After all, this means more coverage! But this coverage won't help the media business because it doesn't lead to a media site link. One more thing to mention, copyright also prohibits the processing of other people's works without permission. It often happens that when someone takes your work, they can change the facts beyond recognition and replace them with exactly the opposite.
Just a few examples of what can happen if someone takes your work without permission:
- they can take your text and attach an ethically incorrect illustration.
- they can use a paragraph or a quote out of context and distort the meaning, so the author and the publisher will have to deny any false accusations and deal with any reputational losses.
- they can enter your name, position, or the company name incorrectly.
Presumption of Authorship and the Problems it Brings
The presumption of authorship is a legal concept. It means that the author is the one listed as the author of the work unless the court has established otherwise. To comply with the legal requirements, it is enough to indicate the author's first and last name on an article, the cover of a book, or at the bottom of a site.
All this led to the establishment of a whole industry of ghostwriters – people who write texts instead of a public person and subsequently renounce ownership of the material. This means that the owner can change and reissue the work any way they want.
Blockchain services suffer from the fact that they do not check with authors before uploading, using the presumption of authorship. According to law, this is true. In fact, it creates a huge field for violations. In the absolute majority of the 3-4 generations of blockchain services, that can store metadata and use blockchain apostille as a base, you can upload any text found on the Internet and get a certificate in your name.
For me, as a founder of SharpShark, it was not easy to take a decision to go a difficult path. The peculiarity of SharpShark is that our service checks the content for uniqueness before uploading and does not allow any material that is already available on the Internet. Yes, this has its flaws – authors won't be able to publish their works retroactively. I understand that we can lose some great authors with fantastic material. But this feature will protect other authors with fresh content as much as possible. Symbol in the core, the 4th generation Blockchain technology, suited perfectly for intellectual property.
Keeping Content on Blockchain: Pros and Cons
There are many content projects on blockchain because content is a reliable way to fill the blockchain with transactions. The most popular project remains Steemit, which presented the concept of awards for authors in tokens.
Steemit values unique content: the higher its quality is, the higher the user's reward is. You can earn money by posting and curating (voting and commenting on other users' posts). As everything in life, Steemit has both a good and a bad side.
Good: When there was not yet much content, and it was of high quality, the authors got high rewards. Bad: Good news spreads fast. When other authors heard about the opportunity to get good money quickly, many of them started to use cheap and not unique content that ruined the system. And as a result, the network has fewer readers, fewer rewards, fewer good authors, and less network value.
Firstly, I saw the idea of monitoring violations on Steemit. Thanks to @Anyx, a user (unfairly censored on Steemit now) who developed the bot specializing in monitoring content. Anyx, if you're reading this, we didn't use a single line of your code, and we really want you to join the team!
There were more services inspired by Steemit but none ever reached the same level. For example, civil and po.et. They both offered journalists and authors tokens in return for posting content on their pages. But the problem was that good authors needed good money. The services didn't have enough resources to attract a significant quantity of good authors.
Blockchain as an evidence
Some courts already accept Blockchain as evidence. For the media is a chance to be extra progressivist and take all the headlines in world media, if Blockchain will be used as evidence in a physical court. Moreover, there are already cases of acceptance of blockchain as legitimate evidence. For example, The Law Commission in the UK accepts smart contracts as evidence in court.
“California has its legislation for Blockchain technology. It shows Blockchain as a distributed registry technology that uses a distributed, decentralized, and shared registry. It can be public or private, with access rights management or open, with or without a tokenized crypto economy. Data in the record is protected using cryptography, it is immutable, auditable, and provides total authenticity” – resuming Vladimir Popov, who, with his company Synergis, provides SharpShark with a legal base.
– Between 2021-2025, data from blockchain systems will be used as evidence in all developed judicial systems: both at a national and international level, – says Popov.
In SharpShark we’re creating a use case of interaction between EUCD, DMCA and authorship evidence based on Blockchain. Stay tuned.
Written by Yana Larina, Edited by Sasha Ivanova & Valeriia Panina, proofreaded by Martin Sorohan, illustrations by Alex Kaz, project management by Tatiana Fuf