Blockchain

Sony Has Plans for Blockchain, But How Big?

Sony Corporation, along with Sony Music Japan and Sony Global Education, this week issued an intriguing but rather vague press release announcing the development of “a rights management system for digital content that utilizes blockchain technology.”

According to the release, the new systems “is based on Sony and Sony Global Education’s previously developed system for authenticating, sharing, and rights management of educational data,” that Sony developed last year using IBM’s blockchain platform. The latest version, however, includes additional “features functionality (sic) for processing rights-related information.”

That last part appears to point to a system that could accommodate user-generated, or at least third-party content not created or owned by Sony, as the release kinda, sorta spells out:

Today, advances in technologies for digital content creation allow anyone to broadcast and share content, but the rights management of that content is still carried out conventionally by industry organizations or the creators themselves, necessitating a more efficient way of managing and demonstrating ownership of copyright-related information for written works. This newly-developed system is specialized for managing rights-related information of written works, with features for demonstrating the date and time that electronic data was created, leveraging the properties of blockchains to record verifiable information in a difficult to falsify way, and identifying previously recorded works, allowing participants to share and verify when a piece of electronic data was created and by whom. In addition to the creation of electronic data, booting up this system will automatically verify the rights generation of a piece of written works, which has conventionally proven difficult.

The most intriguing part of the announcement, however, is Sony’s claim that the system, “lends itself to the rights management of various types of digital content including electronic textbooks and other educational content, music, films, VR content, and e-books.”

That suggests Sony could have big plans for the system, and indeed, the release states the company “is contemplating possible uses in a wide range of fields.”

Just how big those plans might be, however, is hard to tell from the announcement. The system is still in prototype, and according to the announcement, plans to commercialize it are still under discussion.

Sony wouldn’t be the first major media company to dabble in blockchain only to let it go, should nothing come of this week’s announcement. Disney developed its Dragonchain private blockchain platform back in 2015 and 2016, only to spin it off as an open-source project under the auspices of a non-profit foundation.

But the Sony release contains additional hints that blockchain is a genuine priority for the Japanese conglomerate.

“Sony Group is also considering innovative ways to make use of blockchain technology for information management and data distribution in a host of different fields,” the release said. “Through the technological development and commercialization of blockchains, including with this new system, Sony will continue exploring the possibilities that blockchain technology holds for Sony Group’s diverse and wide-ranging business domains.”

Earlier this year, Sony applied for two blockchain-related U.S. patents that may contain clues as to what sort of information management and data distribution applications it has in mind.

One filing, 20180218027, describes a new type of crypto-mining hardware that includes additional circuitry to compress the data that goes into a new block before adding it to the chain, reducing the storage requirements of the chain. Further, the blockchain supported by the new hardware would incorporate the compression processing into its proof-of-work consensus mechanism.

“As mentioned, the mining process of a block which shall be added to the distributed ledger includes compressing data of the block,” the filing says. “In some embodiments, the mining process is won by the electronic node which provides the smallest block which is to be added, i.e. the block having the best compression may win.”

Each block could also consist of multiple sub-blocks “wherein a sub-block may include at least one of: transaction data, video data, image data, audio data, document data or the like.”

The other filing, 20180219686, describes a type of distributed ledger maintained in part by a number of “virtual nodes” that could continue to maintain the ledger “when the number of [physical] nodes is small, and consensus may be maintained when some devices go offline.”

Together, the filings could point to some sort of restricted, or perhaps permissioned, blockchain-based, peer-to-peer content distribution platform that could accommodate large data payloads by compressing them before adding the data to the chain.

Whether all of those threads ultimately tie together is unclear at this point. What is clear is that Sony is looking hard at potential blockchain use cases.

 

Sony explores the blockchain for DRM, intellectual property protection tech 

Sony has announced the development of a digital rights management (DRM) platform based on the blockchain. While the blockchain-based solution is being developed with the educational industry in mind — under the umbrella of Sony, Sony Music Entertainment Japan, and Sony Global Education — the tech giant says the system could have “possible uses in a wide range of fields.”

Source: Sony explores the blockchain for DRM, intellectual property protection tech | ZDNet

DotBlockchain Partners With Exactuals In Effort to Clear Up Music’s Data Problem

DotBlockchain has signed a partnership with payments and metadata company Exactuals in order to verify the metadata that it intends to input onto its database, aiming to begin with the most accurate accounting of rights ownership it can muster ahead of a forthcoming launch. Exactuals’ RAI software allows for music companies to input and correct data for song recording metadata, and add additional information where required.

Source: DotBlockchain Partners With Exactuals In Effort to Clear Up Music’s Data Problem

Castbox turns to blockchain to help podcasters get paid

Late last month, Castbox introduced Contentbox, an attempt help podcast hosts and producers make some actual money off their product. It’s been something of an on-going struggle since the dawn of the medium. During a fireside interview at TechCrunch’s event in Hangzhou, China this week, Castbox CEO Renee Wang outlined her company’s plans to offer podcasters a micropayment plan built around blockchain technology.

Source: Castbox turns to blockchain to help podcasters get paid

SEC Chief on ICOs: Come See Us First

Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton on Wednesday offered some of his most definitive comments to date on whether the sort of crypto-tokens offered by many blockchain-based startups to fund initial development of their technology represent securities akin to stocks and bonds, and therefore subject to regulation by the SEC and other government agencies.

“A token, a digital asset, where I give you my money and you go off and make a venture, — you have some company you want to start or something –and in return for me giving you my money you say, I’m going to give you a return, or you can get a return in the secondary market by selling your token to someone, that is a security. And we regulate that,” he said in an interview on CNBC. “We regulate the offering of that security and we regulate the trading of that security.”

Asked whether that meant that, in his view, “most” initial coin offerings (ICOs) being marketed today are in fact securities Clayton replied, “correct.”

Clayton distinguished ICO tokens from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which he said do not fit the legal definition of a security.

“Cryptocurrencies, these are replacements for sovereign currencies — replace the dollar, replace the yen, replace the euro with Bitcoin — these are not securities,” he said.

He was less definitive regarding crypto assets like Ether and Ripple, which can serve multiple functions, saying the determination of their status would be fact and circumstance dependent, but added “We are not going to do any violence to the traditional definition of a security that has worked well for a long time.”

Clayton’s comments hold obvious implications for many startups, including many rights-tech startups, that have issued virtual tokens in connection with their launch and initial capitalization strategy. In most cases, those tokens are offered via self-published “white paper,” which typically includes far less information about the issuer and the risk factors in the offering than in the registration statements companies issuing conventional securities are required to file with the SEC.

Token issuers also generally do not follow SEC rules regarding quarterly and annual financial disclosures.

Most crypto startups have sought to side-step the question of SEC registration by claiming their tokens are functional elements of their platform or application, such as by limiting access to their networks to token holders, or giving token holders a rule in network governance, and are therefore not equivalent to equity ownership in the venture. But many ICOs also carry at least an implicit promise of appreciation in value as network usage increases, which could bring them within Clayton’s definition of a security.

The SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have been wrestling with whether and how to regulate the issuing and trading of crypto assets, and the uncertainty around their status has both roiled markets and led to a mini-gold rush among ICO issuers looking to cash in before regulators come knocking.

The largely unregulated ICO market has produced a high failure rate even by the standards of startup enterprises, as well as instances of outright fraud. According to a tally by Bitcoin.com, 46 percent of ICO crowdsales in 2017 had already failed or vanished by February 2018.

That may start to change.

“If you have an ICO, or a stock, and you want to sell it in a private placement, follow the private placement rules,” Clayton said. “If you want to do an IPO with a token, come see us.”

 

Join RightsTech at the Blockchain Brand Innovation Summit May 11

The RightsTech Project’s Paul Sweeting will be moderating a panel on Empowering Creators to Protect and Monetize Their Content at the CDX Academy Blockchain Brand Innovation Summit on May 11 at Columbia University in New York. Joining Sweeting on the panel will be singer/songwriter, RightsTech veteran and founder of CryptoMedia Hub Tatiana Moroz; founder and CEO of Po.et Jarrod Dicker; and the worldwide director of the Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson, Lucie Greene.

RightsTech Herding CryptoKitties at Digital Entertainment World

When Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin into the world, whoever he, she, or they were set the total number of coins that can ever be released (“mined” in Bitcoin parlance) at 21 million. While individual bitcoins can be sub-divided into an infinite number of smaller units (fractions of bitcoins), the total whole number of units is finite.

CryptoKitties fat cat Mack Flavelle

That inherent scarcity is one of the reasons for the dizzying run-up in the price of bitcoins: At any given time there is a fixed number of bitcoins in the world.

The key to establishing that scarcity is the blockchain, which leverages cryptography to ensure that individual bitcoins (and their subdivisions) are unique, identifiable, unalterable, and un-reproducible. Unlike the internet, where sending a digital file from one computer to another inescapably involves creating a new copy, bitcoins themselves are not really “sent” or transferred over a network so there is no need to create a copy. Instead, the shared ledger that records ownership of bitcoins is updated to reflect the new network address (i.e. owner) of a cryptographically unique asset on the network.

Those properties, of uniqueness and scarcity, are part of what has attracted many artists to blockchain technology. What is unique and scarce can have and hold value, and what has value can be bought and sold, traded and collected, or held as an asset in the expectation of appreciation.

Getting people not steeped in cryptography and accustomed to the infinite reproducibility of digital files on the internet to become familiar and comfortable with the concepts of digital scarcity and uniqueness, however, is a challenge. Without that buy-in from consumers, the blockchain hopes of many in the media and creative industries could be broken.

It was that challenge that Mack Flavelle and his team of developers at AxiomZen set out to tackle. Their solution? Cats.

The team came up with a collection of digital illustrations depicting goggle-eyed, cartoon cats they called CryptoKitties and created an online game allowing people to buy, sell and collect CryptoKitties using Ether. The game also leverages smart contracts to make the kitties “breedable,” based on their unique “DNA,” creating new, unique CryptoKitties.

Why cats? While there are other blockchain-based digital collectibles on the market, most are targeted at limited audiences, such as RarePepes, based on the adopted alt-right mascot Pepe the Frog. Flavelle’s goal was to appeal to a broader market and introduce ordinary consumers to digital collectibels. “Cats are part of the internet,” Flavelle tells RightsTech.  “People are already familiar with the idea of trading cat videos.”

Trading in CryptoKitties has been robust. At one point, it became the dominant application on the Ethereum network, to the annoyance of others trying to use the network.

According to a third-party site that tracks sales of CryptoKitties, some virtual kittens have sold for the equivalent of more than $100,000, based on the then-current value of Ether.

Flavelle, who’s title is Fat Cat, will sit down for one-on-one fireside chat with me on February 6th, as part of the RightsTech track at the Digital Entertainment World conference in Los Angeles.

We’ll discuss the origins of CryptoKitties, what their creators have learned about the market for digital collectibles, what their popularity portends for consumer adoption of blockchain-based applications, and whether CryptoKitties are a fad or will prove to have nine lives.

Click here for information on registering for Digital Entertainment World.

 

The Purr-fect Blockchain Application? Collectible Digital Assets

Many a fortune has been built on the internet, but we all know the internet’s real purpose is to share funny cat videos. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the latest iteration of a digital network — blockchain — is also being overrun with kitties.

Apart from trading Bitcoin, just about the hottest application running on a blockchain at the moment is CryptoKitties, discrete bits of digital art featuring cartoon felines that can be bought, sold, traded and even interbred with other CryptoKitties to create new, “genetically” unique pussycats. By one estimate, traffic in CryptoKitties is currently taking up 13 percent of the Ethereum networks capacity., making the application the single biggest user of that blockchain.

Apart from the internet’s natural affinity for cats the appeal of CryptoKitties lies in their collectibility. Each CryptoKitty cartoon is generated from a unique digital “genome” and is visually distinct. The application then generates a cryptographic hash of the unique image that is then registered to the Ethereum blockchain. The images therefore cannot be reproduced or forged.

Whether CryptoKitties turn out to be a passing fad, or not, they’re helping popularize the concept of blockchain-based collectible digital assets — a notion pioneered by serious-art blockchain registries like Monegraph and Ascribe. Similar efforts include Rare Pepe cards featuring the alt-right’s adopted mascot, Pepe the Frog, and Cryptopunks.

Now, digital collectibles are moving beyond the world of visual arts into music and other media sectors. Earlier this year, artist-management services provider Boogie Shack Music Group teamed with music blockchain developer Tao Network to create a new type of licensed artist merchandise in the form of blockchain-based digital tokens.

Tokens will be offered in limited editions via “initial artist offerings,” with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the artist. The tokens can be exchanged for fiat currency or Bitcoin, but since each token is cryptographically unique they can also be collected, traded, or used as currency within an artist-centric “engagement” economy, according to Tao Network founder and CEO Bryce Weiner.

“You think about a band like The Grateful Dead and there’s a whole ecosystem of collectibles among their fans,” Weiner said. “That’s an ecosystem that could be monetized with digital tokens. As the tokens increase in value it becomes like a new royalty stream for the artist. It’s an example of another right that could be monetized with blockchain.”

Tao and Boogie Shack plan to launch a token exchange to be called AltMarket in early 2018. Artists initially on board for the launch include the estate of the Wu Tang Clan’s  Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Digital Underground, with more expected to be announced soon.

Weiner will be speaking a panel in the RightsTech track at the Digital Entertainment World conference in Los Angeles on February 5-6. For information on how to register for the conference click here.

Art World Looks to Blockchain to Pump Up Online Sales

Global sales of art works amount to roughly $45 billion a year, but in 2016 only $3.75 billion of that — less than 10 percent of the total — was transacted online, according to the Hiscox Online Art Report, making the art and collectibles trade a laggard in the world of e-commerce.

A big part of the reason for the lack of a more robust online marketplace is the high potential for fraud — already a $6 billion a year problem in the art world — when buying artworks sight-unseen except in digital form. Copies and knockoffs can be passed off as originals, “limited” editions can overstep their limits, certificates of authenticity can forged.

Verisart CEO Robert Norton

Several startups have have launched in recent years to tackle that problem, including Verisart, ascribe, and Tagsmart, by providing artists the means to assert their authorship and issue time-stamped, digitally signed certificates of authenticity (COAs) by registering the information on a blockchain. But online sales have yet to scale using that artist-by-artist, piece-meal approach.

Now, Burbank, Calif.-based Verisart is looking to go the wholesale route through a partner certification program and API for online sellers and galleries. Last week, it announced its first such partnership, with online gallery Avant Arte.

Under the deal, Avant Arte will apply Verisart’s certification standards across all its represented artists and sales of limited edition artworks. Each certificate will be optimized for both physical and digital use with a unique QR code, blockchain timestamp and web address.

Speaking at the RightsTech Summit in New York last week, Verisart CEO Robert Norton said, “As online retailers and galleries look to improve certification standards, we’re seeing increasing demand for blockchain enabled certificates and we’re delighted to work with Avant Arte as our first limited edition print partner.”

Added Avant Arte ATO Nico Veenman, “By partnering with Verisart, we’re applying two factor validation of ownership by combining a physical ownership certificate and a digital certificate on the blockchain including immutable and authorized information about the artwork edition.”

Avant Arte is the first company to use the Verisart’s partner API allowing bulk transfer of data and certificate customization.

(Cover image: Wikimedia Commons)

Midem 2017: Blockchain & Copyright

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.

Here’s the full video of the panel:

 

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