San Francisco-based startup Binded on Thursday launched its new, blockchain-based platform to allow artists to register their authorship of their works at the moment of creation. It also announced a $950,000 fundraising round led by Mistletoe, Asahi Shimbun, and Vectr Ventures, bringing its total fundraising to date to $1.5 million.
Formerly known as Blockai, Binded allows artists to upload images to their private “copyright vault,” where it’s given a unique fingerprint identifying them as the author. That information is then saved permanent on the Bitcoin blockchain. The artist then receives a digital certificate with proof of authorship.
Facebook is developing a system to automatically identify copyrighted works posted to its massive social network similar to YouTube’s Content ID system, according to a report in the Financial Times (here’s Billboard’s rewrite of the paywalled FT story).
Word of the move comes just weeks after an op-ed by National Music Publishers Association head David Isrealite appeared in Billboard calling on Facebook to address a growing infringement problem on the network, particularly with respect to user-posted videos featuring cover versions of songs that were never properly licensed from the publisher.
“In a recent snapshot search of 33 of today’s top songs, NMPA identified 887 videos using those songs with over 619 million views, which amounts to an average of nearly 700,000 views per video,” Isrealite wrote. “In reality, the scope of the problem is likely much greater because, due to privacy settings on Facebook, it’s almost impossible to gauge the true scale.”
Up to now, Facebook has generally fallen back on the DMCA safe harbor to deal with copyrighted work posted without a license to its platform, removing infringing material when requested by a rights owner but not actively policing copyrighted content uploaded to its platform. According to Billboard, however, Facebook has begun discussions with the major record companies about licensing content directly, although those talks are apparently in the early stages.
Facebook actually rolled out a tool called Rights Manager last year to help rights owners keep their copyrighted works off the network, but that system was mainly designed to address the problem of video “freebooting,” in which Facebook users take videos from YouTube and other sources and post them to their walls, often generating millions of views without compensation to the rights owner.
According to this week’s published reports, the new system is aimed more at policing music use on the platform, and seems driven at least in part by Facebook’s desire to avoid the sort of sustained, naming-and-shaming campaign the music industry has mounted against YouTube over the so-called value gap.
What’s not clear from the published reports is what Facebook has in mind for what to do about the unlicensed content the new system identifies. But here’s hoping it doesn’t follow YouTube’s example too slavishly.
YouTube’s Content ID essentially offers rights owners a binary choice: take the content down, or leave it up and let YouTube run ads against it on terms set by YouTube. What YouTube doesn’t really offer rights owners is a means to effectively engage with users who are viewing or posting the content.
Facebook has an opportunity to offer rights owners a much richer environment to engage with music fans. If someone has gone to the trouble of covering your song and making a video of it, they’re probably a fan. And when they post it publicly on their Facebook wall you know exactly who they are. Even if the user shares the content only with his or her friends, Facebook knows who they are and it knows a lot about who their friends and other connections are.
More important, Facebook has the means to allow artists to engage directly with those fans and potential fans. Such engagement may have limited appeal to songwriters and publishers, but it could prove to be a boon to recording artists and labels by literally putting a face on their fans.
Even for songwriters and publishers, the type and volume of data Facebook’s new system could potentially yield on how, where, and how often their content is being consumed could be valuable.
In short, Facebook has a chance to bridge the value gap by offering rights owners more choices than simply take-down or hand-me-down monetization.
On December 9th, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office hosted a public meeting organized by the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Taskforce on Developing the Digital Marketplace for Copyrighted Works. The RightsTech Project was pleased to work closely with the department to develop the agenda for the meeting and to help recruit speakers for the panels and roundtable discussions.
The event drew more than 80 attendees from various government agencies and from the copyright and technology policy community, for a discussion of creating standard identifiers and metadata for digital media, interoperability among public and private rights registries, online licensing marketplaces, and the role of government in promoting their development. Shira Perlmutter, chief policy officer and director of international affairs for the PTO delivered introductory remarks. RightsTech Project co-founder Paul Sweeting provided an overview of the current state of the digital licensing market and a preview of the topics for discussion.
Below are videos from the day’s sessions. The agenda for the meeting can be found here, and speaker bios can be found here.
Opening Remarks and Panel Session 1: Unique Identifiers and Metadata
Panel Session 2: Registries and Rights Expression Languages
News publishers would have stronger rights to demand payment from digital giants such as Google and Facebook in exchange for using their content, under proposed European rules that are designed to shore up the collapsing revenues of traditional media companies.
The measures are part of a series of reforms that the European commission plans to put out to consultation in September. They are designed to strengthen the rights of those who create and invest in original content, from authors and musicians to record labels, broadcasters and publishers.
A century ago, the cutting edge in artistic robotics was the player piano. The Supreme Court heard a player-piano case in 1908 and held that the paper rolls “read” by the player pianos weren’t infringing. The rolls, Justice William Day reasoned, “[c]onvey no meaning, then, to the eye of even an expert musician.” Instead, they “form a part of a machine. … They are a mechanical invention made for the sole purpose of performing tunes mechanically upon a musical instrument.” The anthropocentrism is unmistakable. I’ve cataloged many different settings where copyright law finds ways to overlook copying as long as no humans are in the loop.
On the one hand, this makes perfect sense. Copyright is designed to encourage human creativity for human audiences. If a book falls in a forest and no one reads it, does it make an infringement? It seems like the only sensible answer is “No harm, no foul.” On the other hand, there’s something strange about a rule that tells technologists just to turn the robots loose. It encourages uses that don’t have much to do with human aesthetics while discouraging uses that do.
Blockai is supposed to help photographers and artists defend their intellectual property. Now it’s launching a new feature to make that process easier — or at least better-integrated with Twitter.
Previously, Blockai users would go to the startup’s website to upload their work, creating a record in a public database (namely, the blockchain) stating that they’re the creator. However, CEO Nathan Lands said, “We don’t imagine artists are sitting on Blockai all day,” so it’s also trying to integrate with other tools, starting with Twitter.
Kobalt Music Group, the company that’s relentlessly disrupted the music industry since launching at the turn of the Millennium, is still very much based on the principle that its clients – across publishing, label services and neighbouring rights – get to retain their own copyrights.
“Kobalt’s mission has always been to take the music industry into the digital age as a service provider to rights-owners,” Kobalt CEO Ahdritz (pictured) tells MBW. “That’s what we are and what we always have been.”
Kobalt boss Willard Ahdritz has never been shy about proclaiming his company’s model – that of artists and writers holding onto their own copyrights – as the future of the music business.
Now a new film from The Economist delves into the pros and cons of musicians disregarding the traditional label deal – ie. receiving advance money in exchange for a lifelong portion of their royalties.
The music industry has been complaining that YouTube doesn’t do enough to combat piracy. But Google says record labels are making millions from YouTube’s Content ID copyright-flagging system, and that the process is used 50 times more frequently than DMCA takedown notices.
In a report released Wednesday, “How Google Fights Piracy,” the Internet giant says that when music companies find copyrighted material they own on YouTube with Content ID, they choose to monetize more than 95% of those claims by opting to leave the content up on the platform to generate advertising (rather than blocking it). Indeed, 50% of the music industry’s YouTube revenue comes from fan content claimed via Content ID, according to Google.