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Blockchain and Copyright - Part 1

by Johannes Hoericke

The benefits of Blockchain for publishers with regard to Article 15


Early 2019, the European Parliament passed the “Directive of Copyright and related subject matter in the Digital Single Market” (DSMC) as a result of an immense battle between the press and entertainment lobby and big tech companies such as Google. It would not be an exaggeration to state that this is one of the most controversial directives in the history of the European Union, in particular Art. 17 and Art. 15 of the directive.

Art. 15 (so called “Link-Tax” paragraph) is providing publishers the right to demand a licensing payment from republishers, who use snippets to link journalistic works on their website. Snippets are short links showing the title, a thumbnail picture and a short abstract of an article. From now on, those snippets need to be authorised by the publisher through a license agreement with the website. The intent behind Art. 15 is to generate income for European publishers and moreover secure the pluralism of media and the freedom of the press, which is granted in Art. 10 of the European Charta of Fundamental Rights. However, the consequences could lead to a disadvantage of e. g. small publishers or the visibility of journalistic works in general.  

While big tech companies are creating a massive amount of revenues, journalists complain about insufficient rewards for their work. At this point the Blockchain technology comes in handy. To address this problem tech companies and lawyers recognized the considerable potential for Blockchain in the field of copyright and licensing. Projects such as “ASQ protocol” are generating the possibility for small publisher to release their recent work to any platform used by this protocol. By customizing the rules regarding the amount of re-publications or the price of the content, journalists are free to choose whether their content is visible or not. Without any third parties, journalists get rewarded for their work directly and transparent. It creates an opportunity for journalists to obtain a clear market feedback with rewards tied directly to the value of their content. Also they find themselves in a stronger position towards editorials, who (used to) mandate the price of the journalist’s work or whether it should be published or not. Meanwhile, small businesses benefit by not being dependent on the large media houses either. They can easily conclude license agreements of specific content and rely on the security of Blockchain.

Moreover, on the one hand the society benefits by having a wider access to press content and, on the other hand a functioning copyright to save the cultural development. Additionally, the media pluralism is secured by rewarding the creative for their artistic work and their contribution to society. 

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