Startup puts intellectual property on the blockchain

| by Bradley Cooper
Startup puts intellectual property on the blockchain

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The blockchain isn't just for bitcoin or big banks anymore. Today, it's being used in various industries — for instance, as a mechanism to reward artists for their work or as an alternative marketplace for energy distribution.

One area where the blockchain is gaining a foothold is in intellectual property, where it's being used mainly as a way to ensure that artists and musicians receive recognition and compensation for their work, no matter where it might pop up on the internet.

Ascribe is one provider of such services. The company focuses on using the blockchain to create an immutable of catalog intellectual property ownership, and is working to develop other blockchain uses, as well.

One such project is the Interplanetary Database, a platform for the management of personal data, reputation and privacy, along with secure attribution, metadata, licensing and links to media files.

Blockchain Tech News spoke with Carly Sheridan, head of content and communications at ascribe, about the company's work on blockchain projects.

Q: What is your primary contribution to the blockchain tech market?

A: We started in summer 2013 with the idea of putting intellectual property, specifically digital art, on the blockchain with a project that became ascribe. We asked the question: How can creators of any digital IP get compensated? Why not own digital art the way you own physical art? 

As soon as we went live with ascribe, we saw that the bitcoin blockchain didn‘t scale. It could only process two transactions per second and it was becoming quite expensive.

At the same time, no other blockchain technology offered the performance required and gave us the flexibility to do what we wanted. We realized that if we were to build the ownership layer for the internet, we needed a special type of blockchain.

Being a startup, we chose to focus on IP attribution and hoped someone else would solve scalability, but by the summer of 2015 more and more people were raising flags on the scalability of the bitcoin blockchain.

So we asked a different question this time: What if you started with a storage mechanism that was already designed for scale? This is exactly the technology of distributed databases. So then we asked, how can we blockchain-ify distributed databases?

We drew on our experience in shipping blockchain products to define three specific benefits of blockchain: decentralization; immutability; and the ability to issue and transfer assets. And thus, BigchainDB was born.

Ultimately, we rebranded as BigchainDB as a testament to our commitment to focus on the technology. While the art market moves infamously slowly, tech moves incredibly fast. Our focus went from IP and digital art to a broader number of use cases with the same underlying goal of using decentralization to help build new methods and systems.

We are founding caretakers of IPDB, a global decentralized database for the planet, and we were also one of the driving forces behind Coala IP, a blockchain-ready, community driven protocol for attribution and licensing of intellectual property.

Q: Where do you see the blockchain market going in the near future?

A: The internet transformed our lives by decentralizing the access and flow of information and now we are in the next phase with blockchain. Blockchain technology has the ability to affect the world and have similar, if not greater, impact than the internet because it allows for the digitization of value.

Blockchain technology will insinuate itself in all facets of society as an underlying pipe on how our society runs, It will make it faster, more efficient, just better for everybody. 

Q: Are we starting to reach the tipping point of widescale acceptance and use of blockchain technology?

A: Blockchain is definitely a buzzword and that means that there are a lot of opportunistic people and a lot of naysayers. [But] blockchain technology has the ability to affect our lives in a similar, if not greater, fashion than the internet has had, and that is mainly because it allows for the digitization of value. It has the potential to change how our society runs, making it faster and more efficient for everybody.

There are huge consortiums happening across virtually every sector focusing on how this technology can better their industry. While there may be friction happening on some levels right now, I would say that it’s rooted in the fact that we are still very much in the discovery and experimental stages.

I don’t see it as a question of if but rather when. Maybe at some point the word "blockchain" will disappear and we will be talking about "decentralized" technologies for the benefit of society.

Topics: Blockchain, Software

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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