Not long ago, I’d never heard of the Blockchain. Now suddenly it’s being talked about all over the place. Blockchain is the technology behind the Bitcoin currency. It keeps track of who owns what ‘money’ and how much it is worth. This is all recorded permanently in a distributed network around the world.
The Blockchain is a global distributed infrastructure, like the Internet, so it can be used for anything, like the Internet can. Just like the Internet, it has the potential to democratise power. Because it’s distributed, it’s possible for anyone to access it and use it, and build applications for it. One example is peer to peer micro payments for things that otherwise would be too much effort to be worth invoicing. See this thought-provoking video explaining it: Blockchain video
One strength of the Blockchain is recording transactions and ownership These can be Bitcoin transactions or, it turns out, they can be copyright transactions and rights ownership.
The Digital Catapult, parent to the Copyright Hub, is trialling a way of using the block chain infrastructure for particularly complex rights contracts such as those associated with games development. This means an ‘immutable’ record is created of who owns the rights to each contribution to the game, whether big or small and in what proportion. New contributors can easily be added to the contract down the line, as production progresses. One reason the games industry will benefit is because of the large number of individual creators who need to work together, unlike a novel, where it’s usually only one individual author on one side of the transaction, and one company encompassing all the other contributions on the other side of the transaction, and that doesn’t change over time.
The Digital Catapult has published a white paper about these Smart Contracts, and a prototype is in development. Some think the technology is too new and immature to be useful yet, but it’s definitely one to watch, as it looks likely to grow up very quickly.