Law professor says blockchain tech could ‘revolutionize’ copyright offices

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A professor from the Texas A&M University School of Law recently published research exploring blockchain technology use cases in the world of copyright administration. According to their findings, blockchain has the potential to radically alter the way intellectual property is handled both “domestically and internationally.” 

Dr. Peter Yu, the Regents Professor of Law and Communication and Director of the Texas A&M University School of Law’s Center for Law and Intellectual Property, and the paper’s sole author, asserts that blockchain’s immutability makes it a prime candidate for integration with the intellectual property system.

Per the paper:

“On a blockchain, once a transaction has been recorded, it is virtually impossible to alter that record. Should the transaction be wrongly recorded, a new transaction will have to be hashed into the blockchain to provide correction. The immutability feature has therefore made blockchain technology very attractive for registering copyright, storing ownership and licensing records, or completing other similar tasks.”

Dr. Yu continues to explain that, particular to the copyright system, the blockchain ledger can provide a method by which people can determine the status of a particular record, such as whether the copyright has fallen into public domain or become orphaned.

Other benefits, according to the research, include traceability, transparency, and disintermediation.

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Traceability is defined in the paper as the ability to trace the entire lifecycle of a registration on the copyright ledger from its inception. Making that information available to the public via a blockchain explorer or similar method would provide an additional layer of transparency not available through traditional server-based records systems.

The final benefit discussed in Dr. Yu’s paper, disintermediation, involves blockchain’s ability to operate independently of a governing body.

Per the paper, “without dependence on a trusted intermediary – such as a government, a bank, or a clearinghouse – the technology supports global cooperation even in the absence of the participation or support of governments or intergovernmental bodies.”

Dr. Yu speculates that these benefits could lead to an artist/business led copyright system where intellectual property is potentially registered and mediated independently of the state.