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Using the blockchain to protect creative work


How to make use of the blockchain in a creative agency

April 4, 2017 - The blockchain, bitcoins and all related technology are really nerdy topics. This stuff is not pretty, it is intangible and highly complex to grasp. That could mean there is no place in a creative agency to use any of that.

At second (or third...) glance, however, there is a compelling use-case: one could use the core promise of the blockchain to easily and cheaply protect intellectual property. This core promise is in my understanding: once a timestamped record has been entered into the blockchain, it can never be altered. This can prove something existed in a certain state at a certain point in time.

In case of an agency like Orange Hive, intellectual property mainly consists of sketches, designs and concepts. All of these are delivered to customers as digital files. If we could use the blockchain to create a timestamped entry of the existence of a certain file at a certain time, we would have some level of protection for our intellectual property. Why? Because we can prove we had a certain file before the customer had it.

In the past, this was done by sending sealed letters to oneself, the "poor man's copyright". This method is still popular with some designers, but it is legally questionable and somewhat old-school.

Researching the web, I found The Stampery and their website stamp.io to perform a more modern variant of the poor man's copyright: take a digital document, create a unique hash of it (which is unique to this particular document) and store it in the blockchain (in two blockchains that is, Ethereum and Bitcoin). This proves, you had a certain file at a certain time. The file itself stays with you and you will have to keep it, if you want to prove anything.

The techology is simple, the logic is compelling. We'll see where that goes, whether it is useable in real life and if it is legally binding in any way.

Currently, we are just playing with the technology. Our lawyer takes a look at it. Finally, we will try it out when sending out layouts or concepts. I suspect, it will raise some questions with customers. But questions start conversations, and that is what we want... tbc