Blockai Uses the Blockchain to Fight Copyright Piracy

Summary: Blockai’s new Twitter integration allows users to easily register images.

The internet has been a fantastic venue for visual artists. Otherwise unknown individuals can now reach a mass audience across the globe instantly. Social media allows the public to engage with these artists and share their work across platforms. Yet the internet can also facilitate copyright violations and theft from these artists on a massive scale.

Copyright is a property right. It allows artists to protect their original work from being reproduced or copied without their authorization. Copyright is important for small independent artists and photographers who earn their living through the art they create, because it allows them to control who can reproduce their work — typically through licensing arrangements — and because even small levels of infringement can have a devastating effect on their ability to make a living. (Although see our recent posts on how some artists are finding financial success by making their works freely available through more open licensing.)

However, filing individual copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office can be expensive and time-consuming. As we’ve discussed before, Blockai is a San Francisco based start-up attempting to solve these problems via the blockchain. Their stated goal is to “democratize copyright.” Most recently, Blockai has launched a Twitter integration tool that allows the quick registration of visual works.

So, how does that work? Anyone can sign up for Blockai via twitter, and if they tweet a copy of an image with the hashtag #blockai, Blockai will register the copyright with a timestamp on the bitcoin blockchain. Blockai then sends the user a digital certificate that acts as proof of publication. The blockchain timestamp acts as a permanent record of the exact time the copyright was registered. Blockai also offers an open source proof verification tool to verify the secure timestamp.

We tried the tool and it seems to work quite well. See our tweets here and here and here.

Of course, it is important to remember that digital certificates are not a substitute for actual registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. On the other hand, they should be a useful tool for artists who want to protect their work from would-be infringers. The certificates look much more official than screen shots and can be attached to cease and desist letters and DCMA notices in the hope of avoiding litigation altogether.

Blockai is another example of how blockchain continues to influence the arts.