The rise of over-the-top content has led to a large-scale democratization of entertainment media and content. Viewers are no longer restricted by rigid TV programming schedules; instead, they can just subscribe to their preferred OTT video streaming website or mobile app and binge-watch entire seasons of their favorite shows in one sitting. This unimagined, unparalleled access to entertainment content has revolutionized the way we consume it. It has also given rise to a major concern with regards to content rights management in the digital sphere.
Technology has made it very easy for individuals to pilfer copyrighted content and illicitly share it with others through different channels such as torrents and free online streaming websites. Online piracy is a mega industry today, and has been a major cause of concern amongst content creators large and small for a while. The P2P file sharing website megaupload.com is estimated to have caused film studios and record companies losses in excess of USD 500 million, while Kickass Torrents is estimated to have unlawfully distributed more than USD 1 billion worth of copyrighted material. Efforts to crack down on such illegal content sharing often take time – it took 4 years after the website shutdown for any legal charges to be brought to bear on megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom – by when artists and businesses have already lost out on their hard-earned revenues. Most evade being caught by moving domains and relying on a large network of servers to throw investigators off their scent. Clearly, traditional means of content rights management are not equipped to deal with the challenges of the digital world.
This is exactly where blockchain technology could make a difference. Being a publicly available and unalterable record of decentralized transactions, blockchain could help content businesses manage rights to different types of owned content, ranging from movies and TV shows to videos, music, and audio. It can store users’ right to access a specific content over a secure network of nodes. This information is completely unalterable and can be used to verify whether a particular user is authorized to access that information or not. The media will only be decrypted once the DRM system is able to verify user privileges in the blockchain. This could help in limiting the growing menace of online piracy.
Another aspect of content rights management that blockchain could assist with is that of licensing and attribution. Any infringement claim requires a proof of ownership of the asserted right and its unauthorized usage. Currently, this necessitates a long, arduous trail of paperwork involving registration certificates and chains of title. Blockchain could help do away with these limitations by allowing content authors to register their content on a time-stamped blockchain to solve the challenge of traceable ownership and claim their duly-owned payments. It can also help licensors of the copyrighted material to use blockchain-based smart contracts to enforce certain self-executing rules with their licensees to prevent unauthorized usage of content outside the scope of the agreed terms.
It will not be too big a stretch to say that the world is today largely online. This growing digitization has disrupted entire industries and transformed the way businesses and service providers interact with each other and the end-customer. Blockchain represents a new era of tech-powered digital rights management. While it will not completely solve the threat of online piracy, it will empower businesses with the tools they need to fight back at a more equal footing.