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October 15, 2018updated 19 Jul 2022 7:06am

Sony: We Built a Blockchain for Music, Video Rights

The company has found a "more efficient way of managing and demonstrating ownership of copyright-related information for written works" -- using blockchain.

By jonathan chadwick

Sony said today it has developed a blockchain-based rights management system for digital content, that could potentially be used to underpin the rights management of its films, music, and e-books empire.

The tool will be based on a similar system announced last year by Sony and Sony Global Education for authenticating, sharing, and rights management of educational data.

The company offered no technical details on the Sony blockchain.

The company has been busy filing patents pertaining to blockchain technology however, some of which suggest it is looking to build blockchain-supporting hardware.

Sony generated 127.8 billion yen ($870 million) in operating profit on music sales in the last financial year. The company has been shaking up its approach to royalties payments recently, in a surprise act of generosity paying out proceeds from its Spotify shareholding to partner labels and artists this summer.

Sony Blockchain System “Lends Itself ” to VR

Sony didn’t reveal the specific use cases that it had planned, but said the system lends itself to rights management of digital content including e-books, music, films, and VR content, as well educational content such as films and e-textbooks.

“Today, advances in technologies for digital content creation allow anyone to broadcast and share content, Sony said.

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The company added: “But the rights management of that content is still carried out conventionally by industry organisations of the creators themselves, necessitating a more efficient way of managing and demonstrating ownership of copyright-related information for written works.

sony blockchain

The system uses blockchain to record verifiable information in a difficult to falsify way, allowing users to verify when a piece of electronic data was created and by whom.

It also includes features for demonstrating the date and time that electronic data was created – something that Sony said was previously difficult to achieve.

Sony added that it is also considering “innovative ways” to use blockchain for information management and data distribution in a range of different fields.

Blockchain Rights Push

Various startups have been looking at blockchain as a way to store and distribute media content. London-based essenceProtocol, for example, was founded by a musician Phil O’Regan out of frustration with the way artists are compensated.

His startup, essenceProtocol, is an Ethereum-based platform that aims to provide compensation to artists based on the number of times that their content is reproduced by users. The technology intends to disintermediate centralised platforms  – such as Apple Music, Google Play – in a $500 billion digital content industry, by ensuring profits are distributed directly to content creators.

sony blockchain

Infographic credit: Nikolay Syusko

The development of Sony’s own blockchain platform comes as a plethora of blockchain protocols proliferates, many of them functioning fundamentally differently.

Industry expert Nikolay Syusko earlier told Computer Business Review: “It’s time for a blockchain platforms war. Hundreds of projects are working on open-sourced projects, trying to win in a highly-competitive market. What is their goal? To become mainstream blockchain technology for the masses. How we should measure their efficiency? By mass adoption, partners like Microsoft or IKEA and forks.”

As Sony’s plans show, however, many such companies prefer to develop their own systems in-house: “Sony will continue exploring the possibilities that blockchain technology holds for Sony Group’s diverse and wide-ranging business domains”, the company said, adding that it is considering commercialising its new system as a service in the education sector.

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