Bitcoin and Copyright, finally an answer?
With the Pirate Party of Switzerland, we have been involved in the discussions about copyright reform in Switzerland. The debates were open, but basically we were facing two camps:
The rights owners were arguing that new forms of music and movies consumption were harming their industry, we were arguing that they should accept these new forms and innovate to find their new place within the whole scheme. Our arguments included the safeguard of netneutrality, the development of a new culture from the networks based on sharing value.
Discussions were open to the point where some right owners said to us: “ok! I understand peer-to-peer is not going to disappear. Lets say I want to use it? How am I now making money out of it?” We came back with our arguments that they should use this as a new way of exploring the success of their art, develop a new relationship with their fans and make money on thing their audience value such as concerts and merchandising. Many artists did so and are quite successful in doing so.
But in the mean time, luckily their was some development. The “legal “ offer, such as iTunes, spotify or Deezer, explored new ways of providing music. The model is still centralised, but at least it shows that people are willing to pay for certain types of services. On the other hand, this “legal” offer is forced to follow the rules of standard copyright which leads to the fact that if iTunes is making a lot of money, the artist, isn't.
In Switzerland, the situation is even more interesting, as we are a complex but small market with several languages, it is not commercially interesting to develop these “legal” offers.
So we are in a deadlock, the copyright reform commission showed this in its latest report. No single proposition has its chance to have any effect if implemented.
Now Bitcoin. Why Bitcoin? Actually it could be NameCoin or another crypto-currency.
Frostwire announce a month ago that they were integrating the Bitcoin within the Bittorrent protocol. Wow. Simple thing but that will have a huge impact in the debates. For the first time, we can come back to the table and say: “well here you have a way to make money direclty through peer-to-peer”.
Why is it revolutionary? Because Bitcoin follows the same mechanisms as Bittorrent. They fit together without breaking any Internet rules. So an artist, or an right holder, could send a file on the peer-to-peer network with the payment instruction for a donation directly included.
You have to admit that this might encourage some people to change the Bitcoin address to theirs. So you need also a way to secure the fact that the Bitcoin address is actually the legit one.
This is where we go back to Bitcoin or Namecoin. The Blockchain could act as a record of who owns the copyright, with all necessary parameters and link it to the payment address. The Copyright management company would just need to act as third party certifying the record.
In the end how could it look like for the user? Your Bittorrent client, for any file downloaded, could check the file record on the Blockchain to make sure the Bitcoin address is legit and verified. A simple “Donation” button would allow you to transfer Bitcoins.
For the artist, new options are possible. They could externalise all this management, like they do currently, but they could also find middle ways that are impossible today. They could keep control on the Bitcoin wallet or not, or they could take the control of all of it.
The issue for the Right Management industry is that they would act as a Notary... Exciting times for the Notary business...
The crypto-currencies are bringing exciting times ahead. Now that this idea is in the open, hopefully we will see soon a Whitepaper called: “The case for the Blockchain to manage Copyright”.
Of course Copyright as we know it today will still have to change and adapt to the world we are living in.