Newsworthy: Blockai Launches Blockchain-Based Content Registry, Raises Half-Million From Investors
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This week, a new service called Blockai launched, on the heels of a fund-raising round that netted $547,000 from initial investors. Blockai, as described in an article on TechCrunch by Anthony Ha, is a blockchain registration service that helps “artists, photographers and other creators register their work so that they can protect it from potential copyright infringement.”
In our post yesterday which posed the question of whether blockchain content registries could ever replace the US Copyright Office, we noted that in recent years, the US Copyright Office only registered around 475,000 works, whereas there are many millions of works copyright-protected works created each year in the US. The TechCrunch article provides an estimate from Blockai’s CEO Nathan Lands, who says he believes no more than 10% of artists register their works with the Copyright Office. If you consider all of the minor works — memes, amateur photos, blog posts, etc. — the percentage may be much lower.
In our post, we discussed how blockchain registries might step in as (at least at first) an adjunct to federal registration, allowing inexpensive, informal (but immutable and secure) registration of works to a blockchain. This appears to be very much on the minds of the folks at Blockai:
CEO Nathan Lands is pitching this as an intermediate step between registering your work with the Library of Congress and doing nothing. Technically, your work is copyrighted as soon as you create the novel, drawing or whatever. However, registration is required if you want to sue someone for infringement… .the goal here is to create proof of creation in a public database (namely, the blockchain) without necessarily dealing with the time and cost of officially registering.
Since Blockai currently holds itself out as a tool for proving ownership of digital content in order to police infringement (as opposed to offering rights management or a monetization platform, although one supposes that may be coming), how does that work? At present, Blockai provides a certificate like the one below demonstrating that the work has been registered:
Lands envisions that content owners will send such a certificate to parties who are using the content without permission, with a demand for removal.
In our experience, it’s actually rather unusual for a party using someone else’s content to refuse to take it down upon notice, unless the party believes they are using the content pursuant to a valid license or — and this is the most common situation — just don’t believe the owner will ever take legal action, so they can just ignore the demand. Having a certificate of registration to a blockchain may provide a bit more bite to the demand.
The ultimate goal, as described by Lands, is similar to that of others starting to operate in this space, although some frame it in terms of attribution whereas others (like Blockai) frame it in terms of intellectual property ownership:
The ideal future system is one where there is a universal database for claiming ownership of creations and for paying royalties, … Making it as simple as possible for people to do the right thing.
That is, if blockchain technology enables the development of a system of persistent, permanent information for each piece of content, it will create a different type of ecosystem in which there are fewer uses of content that lead to disputes, and more uses that lead to compensation to the creators.