Copyrighting protects the physical and tangible manifestation of original ideas.
Specific laws and regulations regarding copyrights vary within jurisdictions, but there are still common characteristics between them.
Copyright in the Digital Age: The Problem
Copyright enforcement faces unique challenges in the digital age. Original ideas can take physical form without being tangible. A great example can be found in the music industry. Today, songs exist purely as digital information, making it easier to be infinitely replicated and shared for free. These unique challenges are a result of new technology. However, technology can also provide solutions for copyright protection and enforcement.
Copyright in the Digital Age: Blockchain Solutions
A person's work should be protected as soon as it is created. Morally, they hold the copyright since it is original content. As creators, people shouldn't have to register anything officially, under international law.
However, if a creator needs to protect his/her rights, proof of creation should be required. This is where copyright registration comes into play.
In one way, the blockchain can be understood as a distributed server for time-stamping transactions. Using computing power to secure the integrity of the network means that anything timestamped into the ledger is tamper-proof.
The blockchain can be used to prove if, or when, something existed. For this purpose, anything can be hashed in the blockchain. There are a number of startups and services already providing notary and blockchain registration services.
The blockchain also represents a potential way to fight and actively combat online piracy. It can be applied as a proactive measure when actions are defensive. There are a few experiments in the marketplace at the moment.
Custos, a South African based startup, is one company trying to solve this hard problem. They have developed a novel piece of technology and received significant interest and finance. Using the Bitcoin blockchain (theoretically any blockchain, like Ethereum's, could be used), the company embeds a bitcoin wallet into a piece of digital media. The wallet comes preloaded with a Bitcoin bounty. Before it's distributed to a client, the copy of the media is embedded with a wallet containing a bounty.
If the rightful owner of the copyright loses control of the digital media, or if it finds its way onto a pirating site, the bounty could then be extracted. Custos acts as a centralised service that is able to receive notifications whenever a coin moves on the blockchain; this is helpful because the original customer could be immediately notified, and can act accordingly.
This is just one company, with one solution. Many things can be accomplished using the blockchain since it is a novel technology with potential implications for copyright registration and protection. The Ethereum blockchain, especially with its complete scripting language, offers unique potential benefits. In addition to hashing material into the chain, complex legal relationships can be expressed using the Ethereum blockchain.