Blockchain’s record keeping technology, which ensures immutability of data, greater transparency and efficiency, is now coming to the music industry in a copyrights and royalties enforcement context.
ASCAP, the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers; SACEM, the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music; and PRS for Music, a likewise society in a British context, have announced a testing period for blockchain’s use to “create and adopt a shared, decentralized database of musical work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities.”
The three non-profit organizations which ensure copyrights laws are enforced and royalties are paid to artists for any use of their work, are to use Hyperledger, an open sourced private blockchain protocol spearheaded by IBM.
Their aim is to “match, aggregate and qualify existing links in order to confirm correct ownership information and conflicts.” Robert Ashcroft, PRS for Music’s Chief Executive, publicly stated:
“Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are opening up a world of new opportunities for all industries to address long-standing challenges. The digital market requires real-time reporting on behalf of multiple stakeholders across the world. If blockchain can help us achieve this, it will unlock opportunities for developers of new digital applications, increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders.”
This isn’t the first music related blockchain project. Ujo Music, an ethereum based start-up, trialed blockchain’s use with Imogen Heap, now focusing on its application for digital rights management to increase their enforceability, transparency and efficiency.
Nor is this the first time blockchain technology is being used outside of a monetary context. There are blockchain based projects that try to track food supplies, try to prevent fake goods, try to bring the invention to fantasy gaming while some other projects try to bring it to social networking.
The diverse application of this new technology might take some of its early proponents by surprise. Although many blockchain enthusiasts have embraced its use in non-monetary context, some, especially bitcoiners, tend to dismiss private blockchains as just a database.
On the ethereum side, they have embraced its wide use, with many eth based projects focusing on non-monetary applications or more complex financial interactions, such as crowdfunded hedge funds.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether the technology’s use outside of simple value transfer will find a market once the current test pilots go into production as, although many claim it will increase efficiency while reducing costs, actual data is necessarily lacking at this very early stage of blockchain’s invention.