The New Networks — Data Privacy and Content Ownership — Reflections from the 2018 Blockchain Summit in Morocco

Former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum said he identified blockchain technology as a way to help artists protect their intellectual property because “a user should be able to own content in a way that rewards the artist. When the blockchain came along, I said, this can happen. And the way it will work is through smart contracts.”

“This feels very rock and roll to me,” Sorum, who now runs communications for Artbit, told a Blockchain Summit panel today on data privacy and content ownership. “Very rebellious.”

Jack Brockway, a photographer and entrepreneur, told summitgoers that we need to identify a way to use blockchain technology to track users who “steal” art.

“People steal art, most of the time through ignorance,” he said. “But can we come up with a concept — an incentive for a deterrent? If you are going to use a photographer’s work, there should be a way to ensure that that photographer will know. And therefore, you will have to pay them for it.”

Sheila Warren, head of the Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies project at the World Economic Forum, said part of the challenge is that deterrence costs money. “You can’t engage in deterrence unless you have the funds to support that effort. … And that’s not something that people tend to want, to fund the protection of your content.”

Warren said society today doesn’t honor the creation of IP. “But blockchain blows up the economic model that currently exists for distribution and monetizes it so that the creator of that content is the power player,” she said.

Valery Vavilov, the CEO of Bitfury, said blockchain technology will put people in charge of their own systems, which will empower societies.

“The main issue is that today, we have systems in the middle, and people around the systems. Systems should work for the people, but now the people are working for the systems,” he said. “We should switch that. We should put the person in the middle, and make the systems work for the people. Once you do that, with this technology, you will empower the people, to own the data, to control the date. This is very important.”

Nicole Shanahan, founder and CEO of ClearAccessIP, an integrated patent management technology, said one way to address these challenges is comprehensive patent reform.

“We live in an environment where the top 1 percent of companies own about 70 percent of the IP. That’s a staggering number,” she said. “The way the government issues patents hasn’t changed much in the past 70 years.”

Antoine Dresch, co-founder of Korelya Capital, said Europe is taking a lead in catalyzing blockchain innovation, in part because the technology will drive positive economic and financial realignment on the continent.

“Europe missed the first wave of the internet, which was entirely led by the United States,” he said. “There is a fundamental misalignment of economic interests in the current business models. And it can be solved with tokenization. I’m absolutely convinced of that.”