The big Blockchain & Copyright panel at Midem on Thursday, featuring RightsTech Summit alums Benji Rogers, co-founder of the dotBlockchain Music project, and attorney Sophie Goossens, focused more on metadata and the mechanics of smart contracts than on issues related to copyight per se. But it was a very interesting and useful discussion nonetheless, especially in addressing the incentive problem inherent to persuading organizations that control proprietary data sets to share their data in the interests of the industry as a whole.
The dotBlockchain Music Project (dotBC), an ambitious effort to create an open-source data framework for sound recordings and musical compositions, received a major boost last week with the announcement that four industry partners have signed on to support the initiative: Canadian performing rights organization SOCAN and its rights administration subsidiary MediaNet; publishing royalty administrator Songtrust; independent music distributor CD Baby; and digital rights service FUGA.
The new partners, the first for dotBlockchain, will bring a catalog of more than 65 million recordings into the dotBC ecosystem, and will add another 500,000 new recordings a month, according to the announcement.
According to dotBlockchain co-founder Benji Rogers, the four partners were recruited in part because they represent most of the critical links in the music value chain: PRO, distribution, rights administration, and technology platform. dotBlockchain is also working with music publishers and leading digital service providers on joining the initiative, according to Rogers, but those partners are not yet ready to go public with their participation.
The of the dotBlockchain Project is to create a technical framework for permanently binding data on authorship and ownership of musical compositions to individual sound recordings. That package of sound file and ownership information could then serve as the foundation for others in the music value chain to layer on additional metadata related to their involvement in or uses of the work, such as the date of the recording and the identities of the musicians involved, and the date of and artists involved in any subsequent recordings of the same work.
If all goes according to plan, the system would provide an unbroken chain of data from any use of a work, such as streaming a recording of it, back to the original authors and rights owners, and to anyone due money for use (see the video below for a visual representation of how it’s meant to work).
Getting a real-world catalog of publishing information to work with was key to the next phase in the development of the dotBC ecosystem, Rogers told RightsTech.com.
“The most important when you’re trying to bootstrap something like this is you have to have a base level to start from. We needed actual sound recordings to work with,” Rogers to RightsTech.com.
SOCAN and CD Baby will provide the data on those recordings.
“We can now say, this is where the sound recordings are, and here is the publishing information,” Rogers said. “And now, a DSP can have all of that information for every stream.”
Rogers hopes that ground-up approach will allow dotBlockchain to success where other efforts to create a comprehensive library of ownership data have failed, such as the now-abandoned Global Repertoire Database initiative.
“Every other proposal for how to do this has been database-first. We felt this had to be publishing-first and then you build out from there,” Rogers said.
Rather than building and hosting its own database, in fact, dotBC will use the public blockchain to register information, eliminating questions about ownership of the data and who would have access to it.
“This will give publishers much better visibility into how their works and being used and will put them on much more equal footing with other rights holders.”
With last week’s announcement the dotBlockchain Project officially entered Phase 2 of its three-part development plan, according to Rogers. Phase 1 included open-sourcing its code base and creating “wrapper” codes for binding ownership information to sound files. Phase 2, which Rogers described as a sort of “sandbox” phase, will let interested parties model real-world examples of what a finished dotBC file would look like and to test the robustness of the data chain. It’s scheduled to run through the third quarter of this year.
“I think by the late summer there will be a fair number of real dotBCs in the world,” Rogers said.
Phase 3, currently scheduled to begin by the end of the year, would involve implementing the system in the wild.
At my last look “How the Blockchain & VR Can Change the Music Industry” (Parts 1 & 2) has been read by more than 5,500 people according to my Medium Stats. Since November 24, 2015 we have journeyed together from a rather obscure idea about a new music codec containing a Minimum Viable Data Set that would create a globally distributed database of music rights to an open source architecture and user interface, a Github repository, and a working alpha version of the App. It’s second incarnation sits on my desktop as I type this.
Music Ally’s ‘Blockchain: Music Without the Middlemen?’ event tonight tried to get beyond the hype to understand what blockchain technology really means for musicians and the music industry.
Our panel comprised: Simon Edhouse, MD of one of the world’s first bitcoin music platforms, Bittunes; Maria Forte, an independent consultant who’s worked on everything from EMI’s sampling department to Radiohead’s In Rainbows campaign; Benji Rogers, founder and chief strategy officer at PledgeMusic; Alex Amsel, blockchain consultant and co-founder of Ownage; Mark Douglas, CTO of music-licensing body PPL.
PledgeMusic founder and CEO Benji Rogers did not set out to become the leader of a movement when he posted his now-famous essay last November describing how the blockchain — the technological underpinning of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin — could be used to untangle the notoriously Byzantine world of music licensing and payments.
It was more a thought experiment than a business plan.
But his ideas struck such a chord in the industry that Rogers has been thrust into the unwonted role of leading spokesman for the use of blockchain in the music business.
“I could never have imagined that the article I wrote would have the impact that it has,” Rogers would write a few months later in a follow up post. “In the short time since it came out, I have been overwhelmed by offers to speak publicly, offers of help and even offers to fund ‘what you are building.’ So I need to be clear here before we begin: this is not something that I am building.”
There are many in and around the music industry who would like to try, however.