Copyright and the Blockchain: How to claim Intellectual Property on Steem?

in steem •  last year

So I went to Token Factory and printed 8b tokens of Aguayocoin “Cryptails”, my own personal and arbitrarily controlled digital token. They are however, 100% worthless at this moment, but thinking about these digital assets, I started thinking about creative assets in the blockchain and I decided to share some guidelines on how digital ownership and copyrighting work and how to cover your work.

I also made a nice logo to go with my coin, and I'd like to claim authorship over it, so this is also a practical example. I based the logo on another work with a Creative Commons license, that you can find here.

Logo Cryptails.jpg

To begin, intellectual property works a bit like this:

If someone decides to claim your work as theirs, what EVIDENCE do you have to prove (imagine you are before a judge), that you are indeed the original creator, or legitimate owner of your pieces of work?

The answer to that question is what Copyright is all about. From private institutions to governmental agencies, they are all essentially agents that help you prove that you are indeed the rightful owner to your creation. What happens when you introduce the unalterable ledger of blockchain technologies into the equation?

Let’s look at the advantages of using the Steem Blockchain for rights attribution:

When I publish a short story, it is printed forever in a verifiable and virtually untamperable manner, with attribution to the publishing account, in this case, my account. Came the need to prove my authorship, proving that I own the private keys, and perhaps somehow showing that I was in control of the keys at the time, may be very compelling arguments towards attributing, at least ownership, to me.

Generally no one-source will be enough if things really go down for worse, but a log in the blockchain, plus a more traditional method such as registering it in Safe Creative or with your local Copyright Authority, will certainly give you a very strong case for right ownership. Remember that at some point the information will have to link to who you really are. By definition, absolute anonymity and attribution are incompatible.

However, if you were to rely purely on the blockchain, a whole lot of new possibilities open. For example, if you ever wished to transfer the rights of a work hosted in the blockchain, would it be enough to make a second publication declaring such transference, to legitimize the transference?

What is interesting about this simple scenario, that would have been unthinkable of in meatspace, is that the nature of Blockchain Technologies make it so that such a proof would be very hard to fake or tamper. Essentially it would be a traditional contract, facilitated by Steem. One that instead of requiring a wall of legalese, can be written and read by anyone, at any time. Token transferences and memos could also be incorporated to form a double-backed transference for high-profile IP.

This also means, however, that as long as the works have been properly registered you don’t need to worry about adding any logos or markers to your work. If anyone steals it, those won’t really do much, as they are easy to delete or even flat out ignore. Instead, a properly presented job is more likely to be taken as-is, making for easier automatic detection.

The system isn’t perfect, however, and there are a few disadvantages:

Using an account to hold monetary and intellectual value should be done very carefully. While one would be taking advantage of the technology available, it would also mean that the Private Keys to the account become even more valuable than they were before, which makes them juicier targets. Furthermore, Posting Keys also gain value if you are using posts to handle your copyright claims. Furthermore, if the world ends and Steem fails, you’re out of luck and at risk of losing rights to your work. Having a traditional method of registration alleviates this risk.

Without further ado, here is what you need to do to license your work:"

If you are thinking about Copyright vs. Creative Commons, the answer you are looking for is: Creative Commons. Even if you want to retain the rights to everything about your work, the Creative Commons license will allow you to do so too. Copyright nowadays is useful only in very specific scenarios and it is very likely that if you were such a case, you wouldn’t be in doubt.

You can select among many Creative Commons licenses. To know which one to choose, turn around the table and ask yourself, what do I NOT WANT people to do with my work.

If you are okay with everything, “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International” will do. This one essentially means “Do anything you want with my work, but make sure you mention me as a source.”.

Perhaps you are okay with derivative works (like fanfiction), but not okay with people charging for those. There is a license for that. Perhaps you want to keep all of your rights, but still enjoy the flexibility of Creative Commons as a license, you can do that too.

Perhaps you are a pure anarchist and don’t care what happens with your work once it’s out there, then you are looking for “CC0”. This means your work is part of the public domain of humanity, and can be used freely without any sort of recognition to you.

How to use the license:

By this point you are ready to start “using” the license you have selected (in your head or on the website). All you need to do is append a small line “somewhere” in the work you are trying to claim. Imagine it like a signature. A line at the end of the post works. You can also make a post stating what license covers your work unless otherwise explicitly stated. See bottom of this post for two examples.

Any of these actions is enough. Logos, code or more legalese online don’t do anything, and may even hurt your rights claim. Keep it simple and clear, and try to keep a back-up registration method regardless of what main method you use. The Blockchain may be enough some day, but for now, paper and traditional online services are still important in this field.

If you'd prefer to use a logo, then remember that the logo by itself is enough, they are made precisely so that they can be read without any text accompanying them.

That's pretty much anything you need to do. Any further methods of verification can be used as "backup", but in general, if you feel like you could prove to a judge that you are the author of something, that is enough registration!

I hope you learned something today and if you have any questions regarding copyright, please leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer them

Thank you and I’ll see you next time! Don't forget to follow me for more, I also write fiction, and if you fancy a writer yourself, I'm running a horror short-story contest. Check it out!

Source for Cryptails logo base cat: "Freepik"

P.S. The following lines are examples and legitimate declarations at the same time. Normally you would only use one, and generally you shouldn’t need to use them at all if you use something like the second one.

Text and images in this post are licensed by Joshua P. Aguayo, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, unless otherwise stated.
Any written work published by this account is licensed by Joshua P. Aguayo, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, unless otherwise explicitly stated.
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Copyright is a pain in the ass whe you are reviewing creations.


Yeah, perhaps having a registry backed in a Blockchain would help eliminate guesswork? Perhaps regulations and laws would get in the way.